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Image: A Southwest Airlines, Boeing 737-500
Chris O'meara  /  AP file
Southwest Airlines is the same carrier that made headlines earlier this year for booting filmmaker Kevin Smith off a flight because he was deemed too large.
TODAY contributor
updated 7/26/2010 12:50:49 PM ET 2010-07-26T16:50:49

It’s irritating enough to get bumped from a flight. If you are already seated on that flight, having to walk off the plane adds a little indignity.

But to be told to leave a plane because a too-large passenger needs two seats? It turned into a seeing-red, head-scratching moment for one frequent flier.

A female sales rep (who requested anonymity in interviews) revealed her strange tale to the Sacramento Bee, relating how she was asked to vacate her seat aboard a Southwest Airlines flight shortly before the plane was set to leave Las Vegas for Sacramento last week.

The woman, a petite 5-foot-4, 110 pounds, said she was flying standby when agents sold her the last seat available on the plane. She had already stowed her bags and was settling into her seat when an attendant told her she had to leave immediately.

When she was told her seat was needed because a late-arriving passenger’s girth was too wide for just one, she had some questions.

“It didn’t seem right that I should leave to accommodate someone who had only paid for one seat,” the woman told the Sacramento Bee. But she was even more upset because, she said, airline staff acted rudely and inconsiderately when she asked for a further explanation.

Southwest regrets how the situation was handled, according to airline spokeswoman Marilee McInnis. “We know that this was awkward and we should have handled it better,” she told the Sacramento Bee.

While saying the airline plans to apologize to the bumped passenger, McInnis said Southwest staff may have acted more swiftly than usual in booting her because the overweight passenger in question was only 14 and they were trying to spare the teen embarrassment. 

Southwest Airlines has been kicking up controversy about weighty issues lately — earlier this year, renowned “Clerks" director/actor Kevin Smith was bumped from a Southwest flight because he was too big to fit into one seat.

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