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Southwest Airlines Removes Passenger From Plane For Being Too Fat

Travelers Today       By    Katie McFadden

Updated: Apr 24, 2013 06:04 PM EDT

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A Southwest Airlines passenger claims he was kicked off of a flight just because he was too fat.

Matthew Harper, of Kyle, Texas, says he was treated like a criminal like a flight from Chicago to Denver on April 21. A few minutes after boarding, a Southwest official told Harper that he had to get off of the flight, KDVR reports.

Harper was with his brother when he was taken off the plane in front of passengers who were trying to board the overbooked flight.

He says the official then asked if he knew about Southwest's policy for overweight passengers. "I said yes ma'am I do, and she said 'I just want to explain what I can and can't do. I can yank you off this plane right now.'"

Harper was eventually let back on the plane but the flight had to be delayed for 30 minutes.

"I'm 34 years old, and I've never been humiliated like this in my life. I mean, when I got back on the plane, only thing I could do was put my head down," Harper said.

Harper says that the company that he works for uses Southwest to fly him and other employees around the country. He often flies with the airlines but he never had to deal with this situation.

"I used to weigh 430 pounds, I've lost 100 pounds and when I was 430, I never had this issue."

According to Southwest's "Customer of Size" policy, a larger passenger is encouraged to pay for an extra seat "to ensure we can accommodate all Customers on the flight/aircraft for which they purchased a ticket and avoid asking Customers to relinquish their seats for an unplanned accommodation."

According to the airline, passengers should buy an extra seat if they can't fir between the armrests, which are typically 17 inches across.

Harper said he knew about the apology, but he believes he was singled out unfairly.

"What made it worse was there was two guys on there that was bigger than me, and they didn't get pulled off the plane," Harper said.

Southwest gave an apology for the incident.

"We sincerely regret Mr. Harper's unhappiness over his experience," said Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz.  "We have personally called Mr. Harper to offer him our apologies and better understand his concerns.  It's important to clarify that he did travel as scheduled-we did not deny him boarding.  Our Employee informed him of our policy, and he proceeded to travel as scheduled."

After the entire incident, Harper said that no one even sat between him, so he still had a free seat, despite the airline saying it was overbooked.

Harper said he complained to the airline and was offered $100 compensation, but he rejected the money. He's now seeking legal advice.

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