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Southwest apologizes to man for humiliation

February 15, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Southwest Airlines has apologized to a passenger who weighs nearly 400 pounds. The man said he was humiliated when a flight attendant asked if he'd bought two seats.

At 385 pounds, Steven Christin is not a small man, but he believes he did not deserve the humiliation he says suffered as he boarded a Southwest Seattle-bound flight on February 4.

"The flight attendant stepped up in the front of me, and there were passengers behind me, just loudly (said), 'Did you purchase two seats?'" he said.

When Christin said he had not, he was told his size might be offensive to other passengers, and in the future would need to buy an additional seat.

Still, he was allowed to board the plane.

"I was mortified," Christin said. "I just went in and got in my seat and just sat there silent."

But one man who did not remain so silent was actor and director Kevin Smith. A year ago this month, Smith was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight because the airline determined he was too fat for one seat. He Tweeted about the incident to his 1.6 million followers, which made national headlines.

As for the latest incident, Southwest Airlines released this statement: "We were founded on the Golden Rule, and we know our employees try each and every day to treat others the way they want to be treated. We deeply regret and apologize that we did not succeed in our interactions with Mr. Christin."

Southwest Airlines customer-of-size policy requires passengers to buy a second seat if they cannot fit safely or comfortably into one or lower the armrest.

Christen said he was able to sit and put down the armrest.

"I made sure of that because he made it a point to tell me the armrest had to be down for me to sit in the seat," he said.

Some passengers say they agree with Southwest's policy for larger customers.

"I've seen someone be uncomfortable before because someone was sitting next to them that was too big, and she was almost sitting on the edge of her seat," said Debbie Good.

Christin says the incident could have been handled differently.

"I think their flight attendants need some re-training. I think there is a more tactful way of talking to somebody," Christin said.

As for future air travel, Christin says he won't be buying a ticket from Southwest again.