Warm Spirit CEO and co-founder, Nadine Thompson, recently fileda racial discrimination lawsuit in New Hampshire Federal Courtagainst Southwest Airlines, after the airlines requested thatThompson purchase a second airline ticket because of her size.
On July 9, 2003 Thompson was seated aboard aSouthwest flight to Chicago, out of Manchester Airport, with herseatbelt fastened and the armrest down when she was approached by aSouthwest employee and given the ultimatum to purchase another seator depart the airplane.
Thompson explained to the airline employeethat there was no one sitting next to her; therefore, she could nothave been encroaching on anyone else’s space.
Upon Thompson’s departure from the airplanethree more Southwest officials and two Rockingham County sheriff’sdeputies met her on the runway.
Thompson is a frequent flier with Southwest asCEO of Warm Spirits Inc. and had never been asked to purchase asecond ticket before this incident said Keesha Abraham, PR andCommunications Manager for Warm Spirit Inc.
Therefore, the lack of consistency inenforcing company policy is a sign of discrimination according toAbraham.
“It was also discrimination because ofthe way she was asked to buy a second ticket. When she[Thompson] purchased her ticket, there was a manager at the counterwho said nothing about buying a second ticket,” saidAbraham. “It was not until she was already seated withher seatbelt fastened, when someone from the airline approachedher.”
In a brief statement, a spokesperson forSouthwest said Thompson was asked to purchase the second seat dueto safety issues and airline policies.
On June 26, Southwest Airlines began enforcinga “customer of size” policy that required a passenger topurchase a second ticket if they spilled over into their neighbor’sseat. But there were no height or weight guidelines foremployees to follow; therefore, the determining factors were leftto the discretion of Southwest employees.
“I know that is not the case atall. We do not tolerate any discrimination in any shape,form, or fashion,” said Southwest spokesperson Ed Stewart in astatement. “Being a Black man myself I can totally speakfrom experience,” Stewart said. “We do notdiscriminate against Black people. That’s been my experience forthe 14 years I’ve been here.”
This is not the first time passengers havefiled complaints against Southwest Airlines for unfair enforcementof their “customer of size” policy.
On June 24, Andrea Kysar and her brotherMartin McLaughlin filed a complaint in New Mexico State Courtstating that Southwest violated an agreement to provide service byapplying the policy to them.
On a round trip from Albuquerque toIndianapolis, a customer service representative for Southwestassured Kysar that she would not have to purchase addition seatsfor her and her brother, McLaughlin.
On the return flight, Kysar and her familywere not permitted to board without buying additional seats as partof the “customer of size” policy and were forced to takea bus back to New Mexico.
“We sell seats, and if you consume morethan one seat, you have to buy more than one seat,” statedBeth Harbin, a Southwest spokesperson.
Continental Airlines also has policies thatforce larger passengers to purchase two tickets.
“If the passenger cannot fit in thestandard coach-class seat, if the extending seatbelt does notfasten over the passenger, or if the armrest cannot be raised thenthe passenger must purchase another ticket,” said an employeeof Continental.
American Airline requires a customer topurchase a second seat if the passenger “protrudes extensivelyinto an adjacent seat.”
Northwest Airlines also enforces the”customer of size” policy but will allow the customer tobuy an additional seat for the same price as the firstpurchased.
Delta and United to not force larger customersto purchase a second seat, but instead asks the passenger to moveto another seat where they can sit alone.
Check out Warm Spirit products at www.warmspirit.com