February 15th, 2010
04:08 PM ET

Afternoon Buzz: Too fat to fly?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/SHOWBIZ/02/15/kevin.smith.southwest/t1larg.jpg caption="Kevin Smith has battled his weight for years and took to Twitter to talk about being kicked off a flight." width=416 height=234]

Ella Perlis
AC360° Associate Producer

Today, a NATO airstrike against suspected insurgents in southern Afghanistan killed five civilians, and over the weekend two U.S. rockets killed 12 Afghan civilians. The attacks are part of a major NATO offensive targeting Taliban fighters in the city of Marjah in Helmand Province, a region that is considered a safe haven for the Taliban. It is also a major producer of poppies, which fuel the drug trade.

Military officials say Operation Moshtarak is the largest offensive since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001; it is the first major initiative since President Obama announced he was sending 30,000 more troops to the region. Some 3,000 U.S. Marines are taking part in the operation in Marjah. Troops from Afghanistan, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, and the United Kingdom are also part of the roughly 15,000-strong mission. They expect to battle up to 1,000 Taliban fighters in Marjah. By midday today, at least six large gun battles were being fought across the city.

Tonight we’ll dig deeper on the mission and the strategy in Afghanistan. Experts say winning this latest battle is critical to victory in Afghanistan. But civilian casualties are a sensitive issue and run the risk of eroding support for the NATO-led mission. Do you think these casualties are avoidable? Are they an unfortunate reality in cracking down on the Taliban? What does the operation mean politically for President Obama? We’ll look for answers tonight on 360.

We’ll also take a close look at a subject that’s become a flashpoint in the body mass index wars. Over the weekend, actor/director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy) was removed from a Southwest Air flight for not fitting “comfortably” in his seat. The euphemism means Southwest determined he was “too fat to fly” on its plane. Smith has reacted to the incident with barbed tweets aimed at the airline’s policy. Southwest responded, "If a customer cannot comfortably lower the armrest and infringes on a portion of another seat, a customer seated adjacent would be very uncomfortable and a timely exit from the aircraft in the event of an emergency might be compromised...”

When I wrote about this issue last spring, many of you spoke out in defense of airlines that enforce size restrictions for passengers. Is that discrimination? Should there be wider, possibly more expensive seating options to accommodate fliers of all sizes? We’re going to hear from both sides of the debate tonight, and we want to know what you think too.

What else are you following today? Let us know and see you at 10 p.m. ET!

Filed under: Ella Perlis • The Buzz
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Venessa Jackson

    Please advice the director of the Center of Obesity according to her spoken words airlines or people should not have to subsidize the life style choices of those who habitually eat. She spoke from the position of a person that can economically afford to live in an area where grocery stores are made available. Therefore, she has the option to purchase healthy food, so that she can stay so thin. Not all individuals are afforded that advantage as a matter of fact in West Oakland there are know grocery stores. So maybe instead being so uppity and rude towards people she can help place grocery stores in low income neighborhoods.

    February 16, 2010 at 12:22 am |
  2. Jenifer, Florida

    With the economic troubles the airlines have been facing in the recent years, don't you think it would behoove them to accommodate everyone who wants to fly?
    I've flown with people who have a cold, coughing and sneezing; should they be removed from a flight to prevent the healthy fliers from getting sick? I've flown with parents with small children who cry incessantly or fidget loudly throughout the flight; should they be banned from flying due to noise pollution or irritating "He won't quit kicking the back of my seat syndrome"?
    If you are going to speak about one's life choices and how they affect other passengers, then be sure to include the "His body odor is so bad it's burning my nose hairs" and the "What did she do, take a bath in that perfume?"
    Discrimination is discrimination.

    February 16, 2010 at 12:19 am |
  3. Erin

    I completely agree that obese people should have to pay for an extra seat. The lady on the show seemed to feel as though there should be special accomadations for obese people just like handicapped people have. Obese people handicapped themselves by neglecting their health! Why should airlines or anyone else have people bend over backwards to accompdate their problem when they refuse to do anything about the problem themselves?

    February 16, 2010 at 12:06 am |
  4. Denise Spann

    First you should know that everybody did not get fat from eating and i am one of them i eat like a bird and i do have a medical problem which is thyroids I went from 125 to 320 in a matter of 6-8 weeks and i have been trying to get it off for years . There for I should not have to pay for 2 seats an please inform that lady on your show that all people do not have to eat to gain weight. I'm 220 now and I still have to get an extension for my sesat and I'm 5 feet with no lap, so its not funny the way she address fat people on your show.if it wasn't for your insurance companys maybe some of us would be smaller now, so if you want to know if some of us have gripes we do so keep her small minded opinion to her self.By the way the seats are so small now only skinny can sit comfortable.

    February 16, 2010 at 12:05 am |
  5. John

    There is no reason that I should subsidize a person that needs two seats when I buy my ticket. He needs to get on a plane with extra seats available or wait for another flight!

    Next time he needs to realize that he is responsible for his own problems and stop complaining about being so out of control that he has to de-plane.

    February 15, 2010 at 11:58 pm |
  6. Beverly

    Fat or skinny Southwest Air can forget about my money!

    February 15, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
  7. Joseph D. Luteran

    Airlines have traditionally discriminated against big people. They used to weigh and measure their employees once a month.

    The seats on a 737 are small even for an average sized person.

    Southwest doesn't pay their people enough so consequently their is little brain power for their management team. They may know how to make $$$$$, but that's about it.

    I won't fly Southwest...

    February 15, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
  8. Les

    I have been next to a heavy person on a flight and it was very uncomfortable. I had to lean to the side of the plane to give him more room. I felt sorry for him and didn't say anything. I don't think its fair to others for a heavy person not to buy 2 seats. Maybe we should pay by weight just like baggage and have some larger seats.

    February 15, 2010 at 11:33 pm |
  9. jane

    Yes, fatter people (don't know who is going to define what "fat" is) should pay more and should have larger seats. If you have ever sat next to someone bulging into your (very limited) space on an airplane, you will know this.

    But more importantly, both smokers and heavier people should pay more for health insurance. There should be readily available nutritional information and NUTRITIONAL food at a reasonable cost in all neighborhoods, but there is no reason why people who stay healthy and work at it should bear the financial burden of paying for those who do not.

    February 15, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
  10. Gram

    I take exception to the statement of the over wiehgt people make a choice to eat a bad diet, THAT IS NOT TRUE IN ALL CASES. What about those that have tumors or gland problems that spent thousand a year to keep under control. And airlines need to make money, look at what there CEO and board make?
    I have personally set by a skinny person that controled have of my seat with their arms and newspapers and kept me in a knot. Aslo by those so tall that their legs had to be out in the asile so should they be kicked off, what about those that are to short to see over the seat what about the crying children or the handicap or elderly that slow up the boarding GET Real people there is a lot more to live then all this make it happen for all. I have flown with South West many many times, you must realize you are flying on a bargain store airlines not the top of the line air lines.

    February 15, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
  11. Rich Jones

    Have you looked into airlines refiting planes with small seat for more profit?

    February 15, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
  12. If you need an extention belt you need 2 seats

    I fly every week and my feelings on this are; if someone has to have a seat belt extension they need to purchase 2 seats. Almost everyone on a plane that sees a fat person getting on is hoping they do not set next to them. It's not fair to the individual that has to set next to them that has to give up part of their seat to accomodiate them.

    From the airline prespective it takes more fuel to fly a overweight person so they sould pay their part.

    February 15, 2010 at 10:51 pm |
  13. Kathy

    I recently was seated next to a passenger "too fat for his seat". It was the most miserable flight. I was left with 2/3 of my seat and no options as the flight was totally booked. Maybe they should measure passengers as they do their luggage. If they can't fit, they need to purchase another seat. I for one would like my seat for myself

    February 15, 2010 at 10:48 pm |
  14. Alex

    Should the airlines have larger seats to accommodate a small percentage of obese passengers? Should those of us who are not obese be required to subsidize the cost of those larger seats? For a start, we are already subsidizing overweight passengers since more weight means more fuel and that means more cost per ticket.

    Are those of of normal weight being discriminated against because we are forced to subsidize a few morbidly obese passengers? We all pay the same ticket price, and I believe my budget and my personal space on an aircraft is important as well.

    February 15, 2010 at 10:33 pm |
  15. Georgia Kruusi

    A couple years ago I flew to and from Australia, coach, I am not "overweight" neither was the person next to me, but he spread his legs out and planted his arms on the arm rest and I was squeezed into my 17 inches for 22 hours...so what's the difference...at least a heavy person might have been soft when I fell asleep and accidently touched them!

    February 15, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
  16. Cheryl

    I was an International f/a and Purser for 39 years. I was shocked when the airlines brought the tiny regional jets online. These airplanes are not suitable for mass transportation. They have problems taking off and landing in bad weather. They need to return to regular Jets or get out of the business. The Airlines have reduced the passenger alotment of space because of the tiny planes they use and every passenger is bound to have some discomfort and thus be targeted.
    It is not Kevin that has issues. We have always respected and accomodated passengers that are obese, overweight or handicapped and never asked anyone to deplane.
    The Airlines have taken advantage of customers since 911 and they are now abusive Southwest is ridiculous even to the 2 women that were kicked off last summer. Their attire was appropriate The procedure the used is only for airline employees.

    February 15, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
  17. alice

    first u should know that i to am overweight. i can't blame the airline for asking a passenger to pay for an extra seat. because that fact is the person may me using two seats anyway. Now if u have ever been on a nyc subway and some extra large person tries to fit in a spot that only a run way model can fit... u would understand the frustration of sitting down with someone elses thigh and hips on top of yours. Then the arms just feel like someone is trying to choke you. So you end up getting up if you can and give up your space. Then some other poor guy tries to squeaze in and the extra large person looks at them as if he was crazy. Only other option is that we start making bigger seats.

    February 15, 2010 at 9:39 pm |
  18. Mary

    I definitely agree that overweight people should have to go through some extra steps to fly on a plane. the seats have to be small to accommodate for alot of passengers so airlines can actually make money. They shouldn't be allowed to take up two seats on a plane. If an extremely overweight person cannot even fit in an airplane seat, they should be the ones who are inconvenienced, not other passengers or the airlines. obese people should realize that the world doesn't have to change to cater to their eating habits.

    February 15, 2010 at 9:31 pm |
  19. Annie Kate

    The airlines needs to have larger seats so they can comfortably accommodate persons of all sizes. What the airlines are doing now is discrimination against the larger person, even though the policy is understandable when the need for the comfort of the average sized person and the comfort of the obese person are considered.

    If the larger person has to buy 2 seats they might as well get a first class ticket but that doesn't guarantee the person can fit into those seats either because they are not significantly larger than the coach seats. If the airline had different seat sizes they could charge according to the seat size and it could be done at the time of ticket purchase rather than humiliating the larger person in front of the other passengers.

    Looking forward to the show tonight.

    February 15, 2010 at 8:57 pm |
  20. A. Smith, Oregon

    f a double chair or double seater is forced into a single seat with a unfortunate passenger sitting in the seat directly next to that person, they are DEFINITELY squeezed into 3/4 of their own seat at best.

    I suspect most of the folks reading this article and blog have very little if any experience with a double chair or double seater individual. They cannot sit in a single chair, so TWO chairs are pushed together to support both 'butt-cheeks'!

    Shoehorning a double seater into a single passenger airline seat that is in the cheap seats is definitely going to greatly inconvenience the passengers that are sitting next to the grossly obese individual. The grossly obese individual should have gotten a business or first class seat where they would have had more room to expand upon.

    For a family member, having part of your child laying across your legs or body is one thing, but to have the leg, arm or butt-cheek of a grossly obese stranger laying across your legs or body for 3 or more hours is expecting too much from a vast majority of airline passengers.

    February 15, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
  21. Claudia Carroll

    One of the tragedies of having to wage these types of "police action" wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc), is the unintended deaths of civilians. During the last "real war," (military to military), WWII; this was an acceptable loss in order to gain the greater advantage: the defeat and surrender of the Nazis. Now our militaries (U.S. and allies, even those within a beseiged country), are having to battle militants who wear no uniform, carry no flag, who advocate the take over of their own country), hide behind skirts, veils, and in homes of the innocent, and willingly kill the innocent in their own, ours, and any country in their misguided pursuits. My heart breaks for these twelve who died, and the young girl (of another story), scarred (and left unmarriageable) by a Nato phospherous bomb, but equally for those in our own military (and those of Nato) who die trying to free this country from its godless oppression. I wish there were another way to defeat the Taliban and give Afghanistan (and Iran) back to the people. Alas, there is no better way.

    February 15, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
  22. Cindy

    Anytime in war there is bound to be civilian casualties unfortunately. I don't see any way around there not being any. I do hope that they are kept to a minimum and that the Afghan people don't get upset and want the push to destroy the Taliban to stop.

    For Obama this new push will cost him some voters as the left really want him to leave Afghan now and he isn't. By him ratcheting up the war instead of ending it it's going to make some of them really mad.

    So is Cooper live tonight from LA or do we get a sub?


    February 15, 2010 at 5:58 pm |