After a year of being holed in due to COVID-19, I took a much-needed and well-deserved writer’s retreat to the Florida Keys last week. Ah yes! Sun, salmon, mimosas, and solitude—while chatting with other fellow scribes from across the country. I’m a journalist and writer in nirvana!

Anyway, during my trek through a crowded and hectic Newark Liberty International airport to my departure gate, I noticed a morbidly obese woman waiting anxiously at the gate. She seemed nervous, and a bit peeved as she struggled to secure her onboard carry-on luggage. As I watched the woman, I was reminded of a feature article I wrote several years ago for a national business magazine. A prominent regional entrepreneur in the metro area was booted off a Southwest Airlines flight for basically being too fat to fly. The carrier told her she had to purchase a second ticket for the seat next to hers. Even though the seat’s armrest was down and her seatbelt was secure around her waist, she had to pay up or get off per the carrier’s rules and regulations. After some heated discussion with the flight attendants, the angry woman was escorted off the flight. She sued and shared her story with the magazine and me to publish, which, of course, we did.

After several months and an outpouring of support and similar stories of woe from other big-boned passengers, the courts favored the airline. From what I remember, the court decision had something to do with the airline’s legal right to refuse service to passengers that don’t approve of their direct requests, regardless of whether or not you agree with it. As an act of goodwill, the woman did receive an offer for a free travel voucher from the carrier. I don’t know if she accepted it.

As we boarded the flight to Key West, I was behind the woman and continued to watch her struggle up the platform and enter the cabin. I tacitly said to myself, “Are they going to ask her to pay for two seats because of her size?” As we entered the cabin, to my surprise, she almost immediately plopped herself down in an extra-wide and single-row seat in the first-class section of the plane. Potential problem solved! On the other hand, I continued to the back and coach section of the aircraft and quietly took my place in a very narrow and uncomfortable seat located directly over the wing of the plane!!

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