Justin Lalputan, Staff Writer

Obesity is a problem that many Americans face today. However, the other day, I heard a story about famed director Kevin Smith, who is widely known for his role as Silent Bob in the Clerks films, being removed from a Southwest Airlines flight because he was too fat to fit into a seat.

At first this astounded me; I never knew someone could actually be kicked off a flight due to body size. So I did more research on the story and learned that he was not ejected due only to his weight, but also because the flight was at capacity, he didn’t have the option to purchase an additional seat.

I researched the matter further and discovered that this is not only a common problem for airlines, but also for movie theaters. It seems that larger airline passengers and moviegoers alike are sometimes required to buy an extra seat to accomodate their size. My first reaction was that this was ridiculous. How can someone be discriminated against just because of their size? On top of that, I’ve also read that, in some cases, people cannot help being obese, but that is another story entirely. Then I started to think about having to sit next to a person on an airplane who was too large for one seat. That would not only be uncomfortable for the person sitting in the next seat over, but it would also probably be cramped for the large person, thus inconveniencing two passengers. Is the best answer really to make the large person purchase another seat?

In my opinion, the answer is yes. Not to sound heartless or to offend anyone, but a lot of the time, people wind up obese through their own actions. Therefore, people should live with the consequences of their actions and have to pay for an additional ticket. Naturally, there are some who share my opinion. But when others hear this, they start doing what I initially did and cry discrimination against fat people. This is not a case of discrimination. One thing that definitely needs to be taken into account is the number of people that this problem actually inconveniences. I know a lot of people who are “big” but who are still able to fit comfortably into airline seating. My father, for example, is somewhat overweight. But even he can fit just fine on an airline, so the actual number of people that this impacts is quite small.

The question is raised, what decides whether or not a customer needs to buy an extra seat? Southwest Airlines, the same airline that ejected Smith, has an established policy. They require that a passenger fit both comfortably and safely into a seat, which means that he must be able to put both armrests down and buckle his seatbelt. If one cannot comply with these conditions, he must buy an extra seat. I think this is a reasonable policy.

However, when airline employees request that someone purchase an extra seat, they should be nice about it. Body size is a sensitive subject for many people, and it only adds additional stress when it causes someone to be singled out. So, yes, I think that people who are too big for just one seat should be required to buy a second one, but the handling of this situation shouldn’t be inhumane. Regardless of size, everyone has feelings. And if enough people get angry, airlines — besieged as they already are — could have an even larger problem on their hands.