Too fat to fly Southwest Airlines? Can you be too fat to fly in Canada?

In the last few days, I have been deeply disturbed by the horrible treatment of Kevin Smith and Natali by Southwest Airlines. You can hear more details in Kevin’s two detailed podcasts,

Go Fuck Yourself, Southwest Airlines – In which, surely, our hero is Too Fat To Fly.” and

Thinicism – In which Natali tells her story.

Note: To be absolutely clear, since both Kevin and Natali can put their seats’ handles down, they are definitely NOT “too fat to fly”.

As I kept thinking how shitty Kevin and Natali had been treated, I knew I had to do something more. So, this past Friday (Feb 19) when I dropped my better half to the airport for her to have some fun in Vancouver, I took the opportunity to ask the nice WestJet check-in lady about their “person of size” policy. You see, I know WestJet modelled itself after Southwest Airlines, I was expecting the worst.

Well, to my surprise, the lady mentioned something called “one-person-one-fare” (more on this later) in response. My initial thought was: Cool, one person (regardless of size) pays one fare only, thats nice.

Upon further research, I found that in Canada, we have Canadian Transportation Agency helping consumers. From their website,

If you have a dispute related to federally-regulated modes of transportation, the Canadian Transportation Agency may be able to help. The Agency can bring you and the transportation operator together informally, help you to understand each other’s needs and interests, and find a solution that works for both.

If you think the above words are just some toothless idle BS, then you will be quite wrong. In fact, WestJetAir Canada, and Air Canada Jazz, weren’t nice “willingly”!

The “one-person-one-fare” policy was an order from Canadian Transportation Agency! And WestJetAir Canada, and Air Canada Jazz appealed the decision all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada and lost (both the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the airlines’ application). Here is an excerpt,

In February 2008, Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet sought leave to appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal.

In May 2008, the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed the airlines’ application.

In August 2008, the airlines applied to the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to appeal the Federal Court of Appeal’s Decision to dismiss their application.

On November 20, 2008, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet’s application for leave to appeal. The Agency’s January 2008 Decision stands.

See reports from CBC News and

I am not a lawyer, but for persons functionally disabled by obesity, the “one-person-one-fare” policy applies. So you will only need to pay one fare.

And for other persons of size, I strongly suspect if you can put the seat handles down, you will be OK. You see, with the “one-person-one-fare” policy in effect for over a year, I seriously doubt any Canadian airlines’ flight crews will make any fuzz for people flying within Canada. They know they are in the losing end of this argument.

Well, the WestJet check-in crew member was quick to tell me about “one-person-one-fare” policy, so I think they are all well-trained by now.

Please share your thoughts flying within Canada (or US).

Note: I am in the process of gathering research materials and planning to write a business case about this mess.

Feb 27, 2012 Update: Thanks to a reader’s insightful comment and most importantly the case and decision reference for Canada’s “one-person-one-fare policy”, I have now included the case links here for reference,

* Canadian Transportation Agency decides in favour of one-person-one-fare policy – OTTAWA – January 10, 2008

* Decision No. 6-AT-A-2008 – January 10, 2008



6 Responses to Too fat to fly Southwest Airlines? Can you be too fat to fly in Canada?

  1. hevangel says:

    Those who are functionally disabled by obesity bear most responsibility of their fatness due to their irresponsible life style. Why would other people has to subsidize his misdeed?

  2. kempton says:

    Horace my friend,

    Have you read _ANY_ of the linked news articles? Or listen to any one of the two postcasts? Or you just shoot from your hip?

    I hate to put it this way but I know you are “educated” and can take blunt comments. Did you just scan the blog entry (or just the title) and then leave a critical comment of these people (some have medical conditions or genetically predisposed to heavier body type)?

    I have provided lots of materials in this blog entry and I will encourage you to read a few of these research materials and listen to the podcasts first before you comment.

    If you were doing a scientific experience on some exotic metals or materials, you won’t dare to start burning things until you know what they are make off right?

  3. hevangel says:

    Actually, I did read the “one-person-one-fare policy” link trying to understanding what is it about.

    I have been following the “fly guy flying” issue for a while after suffer from squeeze between two fat guys in a very unpleasant flight.

    Those obesity medical conditions are totally BS. If those fatties have self control on how much they eat and exercise, they won’t be so out of proportion. If they couldn’t lose some weight, may I suggest them move to Ethiopia and guarantee it will work.

  4. kempton says:

    Quote from the article,

    “The Calgary lawyer — who suffers from a medical condition that triggers obesity — says she was laughed at, rammed by food carts and humiliated after her hips overflowed into the lap of the male passenger seated next to her.

    McKay-Panos is relieved that beginning next year she won’t have to relive the experience. […]

    “Now I know I can fly with dignity,” said McKay-Panos, 51, who was born with a hormonal disorder.”

    Horace, I hope you and your loved ones will be healthy for your whole life. But if one day you or your loved one get sick, you will then truly know what it feels to be treated in such a shitty manner by disrespectful person like you.

    Horace, Show some respect to others less fortunate than you when you are good and well. We never know how our own fortune may change from things totally out of our control.

  5. im2obese4u says:

    The Canadian case, “Estate of Norman v. Air Canada, Jazz Air LP”, Canadian Transportation Agency Decision No. 6-AT-A-2008, provides for the imposition of a “one person, one fare” policy on Canadian airlines and American airlines (and other nations’ airlines) operating in Canadian territory and airspace. The ruling is more broadly intended to vindicate the rights of all disabled persons, not only those of obese persons.

    The ruling is an example of the greater progressivity of Canadian law over American law. It much more accurately cognizes and recognizes the consequences of obesity as to social and personal functioning.

    The accomodation is not, as your article refers to, a “free” or “extra” seat. The ruling imposes a legal requirement for airlines to provide appropriate accomodation to obese persons as to the provision of travel services. Where the airline must provide a seat adjacent to the one occupied by the obese traveller, that that is the accomodation required is the airline’s problem–and not the obese person’s problem.

  6. kempton says:

    Thanks for your insightful comment and most importantly the case and decision reference. I have now included links here for reference,

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