Low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines is being celebrated by "passengers of size" on TikTok after they discovered they can request complimentary seats – one or two, depending on needs – to accommodate their girth.
Customers whose bodies "encroach" past the armrest are entitled to an extra seat, according to Southwest's inclusion policy. They are currently one of the few, if not the only, airlines to offer free seats to larger passengers.
Southwest provided its policy to Fox Business which said that passengers of size "have the option of purchasing just one seat and then discussing your seating needs with the Customer Service Agent at the departure gate. If it’s determined that a second (or third) seat is needed, you’ll be accommodated with a complimentary additional seat."
The flight team will then try to effort to make the seating arrangements, potentially moving other passengers around for the "unplanned accommodation."
Wide angle, interior of cabin of Southwest Airlines jet aircraft during boarding procedures, Oakland, California, January 5, 2020. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
Alternatively, customers can purchase extra seats in advance and then contact Southwest "for a refund of the cost of additional seating after travel."
The policy states, "Customers who encroach upon any part of the neighboring seat(s) may proactively purchase the needed number of seats prior to travel to ensure the additional seat(s) is available… The purchase of additional seats serves as a notification of a special seating need and allows us to adequately plan for the number of occupied seats onboard."
"It also helps us ensure we can accommodate all Customers on the flight for which they purchased a ticket and avoid asking Customers to relinquish their seats for unplanned accommodation. Most importantly, it ensures that all Customers onboard have access to safe and comfortable seating. You may contact us for a refund of the cost of additional seating after travel," the policy continues.
A plus-size travel expert and TikToker, Jae'lynn Chaney, told Fox News Digital it was an important move to include people in the "super fat" category.
"Super fat is how we identify," Chaney, business owner of Jae Bae Productions, said. "There's a spectrum of fatness. And as a super fat individual, you start needing different accommodations … I just felt really happy that there was something like this for people."
Jae’lynn Chaney is a plus-size traveling expert and Southwest Airlines customer. (Jae’lynn Chaney)
"I hope to see more airlines implement customer-of-size policies. The Southwest customer size policy helps many travelers offset the disproportionate costs that we incur because of needing extra room. And so, it's not just about physical accessibility. It's also about financial accessibility."
TikTokers who have recently discovered the policy have amassed hundreds of thousands of views on the platform showing themselves walking up to Southwest Airlines employees and successfully nailing down their extra seat(s) on Southwest flights free of charge.
A self-described "Fat Solo Traveler" posted a video on TikTok that went viral, obtaining nearly 1,000,000 views since October, showing how she got a complimentary seat.
Kimmy (@kimmystyled) went up to the airline booth and said, "Hello, I'm hoping to use your customer of size policy today."
The Southwest employee then handed Kimmy another ticket at no cost for her extra seat.
"Southwest is the only airline that allows you a second seat at no extra cost even if the flight is fully booked… I've done this a dozen times and never had an issue or been denied," she said.
Kimmy also said that she is allowed to "preboard" with the accommodation.
"Enter the aircraft, get your seatbelt extender and grab your seat! I place the ticket in the seat next to me… If anyone tries to sit in it I kindly let them know I have two seats booked. To be honest, I almost never get approached because no one wants to sit in the middle seat next to a fat person on a plane," she said.
Kimmy said she "applaud[s]" Southwest for making public transportation "accessible and comfortable for all."
Another TikToker, Chey G, posted that she previously did not travel as often because of the discomfort she experienced on flights.
(Photo by Annette Riedl/picture alliance via Getty Images)
"Up until last year, I wasn't traveling much. But when I did it was always SO UNCOMFORTABLE squeezing myself into the seatbelts and squishing next to the person next to me… ANYWAYS… you're entitled to comfort. You do not need to force yourself to fit into things. Traveling should be fun and comfortable. For reference, I'm a size 24-26 and 300 pounds."
Caroline (@justmeandmymirror), a travel influencer with nearly 200K followers, called the policy "amazing."
"Southwest was the comfiest flying experience I've had in my life," she said. Caroline was given two extra seats and disclosed that she was a size 20. She also said that she was able to preboard with the accommodation.