Oh god, what to do... United was my favorite airline until now. I have racked up a bunch of frequent flyer miles with them, and just last weekend I got a free upgrade to first class on a United flight from Chicago, just because I put myself on standby for an early flight and they sold out all the economy seats but still had room in first! It was totally awesome.
But now United is going to start charging fat people for two tickets. Granted, I don't personally meet the criteria for being required to buy an extra seat according to this article, but now I feel like I ought to stop patronizing them. Even if I didn't feel some obligation to express solidarity with my fellow fatties, I'm also a little worried that I might get hassled at the gate. As Kate Harding points out in the post linked to above, how are they going to decide whether a person meets the criteria or not? Probably by authorizing the gate agents to visually size people up and decide whether someone looks too fat or not. Even if I never got forced to buy an extra ticket or miss my flight because of being fat, I would be absolutely outraged if I got pulled aside and grilled about whether I use a seatbelt extender (I don't, as it happens) or if I can lower the armrest (I can, and I always do if there's someone in the seat next to me, but it sure isn't comfortable), or worse -- if they made me sit in a seat in front of everyone at the gate and prove it. Even the thought that from now on the United gate agents will be looking me over and thinking about such things makes me feel angry and uncomfortable.
Of course Southwest had this same brilliant idea a while back, and it caused a little stir which has since (apparently) dissipated. There were some widely publicized cases of people being harrassed at the gate, Southwest got some bad PR, and then I imagine they asked the gate agents to back off a little bit even though they kept their discriminatory policy on the books. At least I haven't heard much about it since. I've flown on Southwest since then -- maybe that makes me a hypocrite, but they're so cheap and convenient that I just couldn't help myself. United, on the other hand, isn't particularly unique. I probably could avoid United without too much inconvenience or paying more for flights -- though I do have those frequent flyer miles, which are probably enough for a flight at this point... dilemma...
Well, anyway, I guess I'll have to think about it a little more. In the mean time, I'll daydream about a time when all this airline bullshit will be largely irrelevant (at least for domestic travel), thanks to this.