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Southwest Airlines Sued Over 'Customers of Size' Policy

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on May 07, 2012 9:40 AM

Kenlie Tiggeman, one of the many individuals who have been told they were too fat to fly on Southwest Airlines, has filed a lawsuit against the company. Last May, a gate agent asked her weight and clothing size, demanding that she buy a second seat before being allowed on the plane.

The "too fat to fly" lawsuit alleges that Southwest employees "did not follow their company policy and chose to discriminate, humiliate and harass" Tiggeman. She also asserts that the airline takes "discriminatory actions ... toward obese customers."

Tiggeman is not actually asking for damages. Instead, she's asking the court to order Southwest to clarify its Customers of Size Policy, reports ABC News. She's been on two flights since the incident, and had no problem.

She also says she comfortably fits in a single seat with the armrests down. Company policy only requires passengers to buy a second seat if they "encroach upon any part of the neighboring seat(s)." Knowing this, she says she offered to demonstrate for the gate agent, but MSNBC reports she was denied.

Kenlie Tiggeman simply wants Southwest's policy "to be less open to interpretation by their employees at the ticket counter and at the gate."

But because she filed her "too fat to fly" lawsuit without representation, it's difficult to determine whether she will be successful. The cause of action is not known. However, discrimination based on body size is generally not prohibited by federal or state laws. Still, there may be a breach of contract claim, as she bought a seat and was never affirmatively told she would need a second seat in order to use it.

Notwithstanding these uncertainties, Kenlie Tiggeman will likely get what she wants out of her "too fat to fly" lawsuit. She's bringing attention to Southwest's Customers of Size Policy, which arguably could be better publicized and enforced. If for the public relation's aspect only, the company may be inclined to make changes.

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