Family Questions Why Airplane Left Without Teen

By Liz Collin, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities family is asking an airline what happened after Southwest plane took off without a teenager who didn’t fit in his seat.

Timothy White and his twin brother were supposed to fly from Chicago to Minneapolis on Thursday night.

Their aunt, Angela White Smith, had made the plans months ago for them to fly into Minnesota.

“The plan was that, although they were going to miss their Thanksgiving dinner at home, that we were going to go out for a special dinner Friday night,” Smith said.

Their trip started about 5:30 in Chicago Thursday night.

“We get to the airport a couple hours early,” Will White said.

The next thing, Smith knew she got a call from her nephews.

“I get a call at 7:51. Their flight was supposed to take off at 7:55,” Smith recalled.

An agent told White he was spilling into the next seat and he’d have to buy another ticket to be able to fly.

“I thought that’s amazing. There’s only 60 people on this flight and I have to buy another ticket,” Tim White said.

From Minneapolis, his aunt agreed to pay for it. The agent told Smith she couldn’t do that because they couldn’t take credit card numbers over the phone.

“To tell me to call an 800 number when we’re two minutes away from a flight taking off. It’s not a solution,” Smith said.

Since they couldn’t pay, the plane took off without the twins.

Their aunt ended up buying them bus tickets. They got into Minneapolis at six Friday morning.

Southwest policy says if a plane isn’t full and a customer is too big for one seat they do need to buy a second ticket, but they’ll get a refund for it later.

If the plane is full you’re not going to get your money back. In this case, agents at the gate are not able to take credit cards over the phone.

Southwest said they regret what happened and they will refund the Whites for all of their plane fare.

  • Meee

    All I can say is….unbelievable…

  • Jeanne Weiske

    What I find hard to swallow is any teen that’s that heavy. Someone’s failing that kid badly.

  • Tony

    It’s also illegal in many states to charge a credit card over the phone without written permission with a scan of the card and its owners drivers license.

    Otherwise the cardholder could turn around and deny they ever bought those tickets. Or in case it was a stolen card.

    • Frank

      As someone who works for Citibank I can let you know that it’s not illegal in any state to take credit cards over the phone without it being physically present. It’s actually a federal conversation not state as all banks and credit companies are regulated. The code on the back of the visa or mastercard is used to prove rightful access to the card. The real question with this situation isn’t the fee or process, both of which Southwest should review, but the size of the teen. If he was too big for a seat that is a much bigger problem

  • Big John

    Unbelievable? I am a very large person, and that’s my issue and problem, not the airlines, nor the person sitting next to me. Southwest clearly has a policy for large people – buy a 2nd seat, which they did not do when they made the reservations. Unfortunate situation? Yes. However, that’s their policy, and they need to follow it consistently, or the next idiot parent will end up sueing them.

    • Sissy

      Maybe so, but when there are only 60 people booked on a flight why did they insist on making him purchase another seat? That’s just ridiculous. Not very good PR for Southwest. Sometimes you can and should bend the rules.

    • Tc Radiodj

      I am not sure how they could be “sued” for anything.. Its a privilage to fly not a right. Your on private property. So sadly, if a person needs to buy 2 seats because they use 2 of them…. So be it..

  • Doug

    Southwest did nothing wrong in this case. The kid was too fat plain and simple. As per taking CC #’s over the phone that is Southwest’s policy, deal with it. It’s rather sad that this is a news story unless you are trying to focus on how obesity is affecting America, not how America should adjust for obesity. Thumbs down.

  • Laurie Montanye

    They are reported as “teens”… that be “13” to “19” and that creates a wide range of vulnerability of the “teens”…

  • g8bbgg

    About time the airlines did something about passengers who “overfill” their seat and hang into the next seat. I have sat next to a person who’s fat came over the armrest into my seat a few inches. The seat is small enough without having to share it. You might say I am selfish but I PAID for the seat I should be able to use it the way I see fit and I do not want a stranger’s body pressed against mine for several seconds let alone several hour! In blunt terms if you can afford to eat that much you can afford two seats!

    • MAJ

      I rode from Mpls-Orlando next to a man that ate way toooooo much food. He could not put his tray down. I had the inside seat. I did complain to the Airlines and got a Voucher. SW Airlines should not change their policy.

  • Laurie Montanye

    Also, would you like to share your already too small seat with someone that needs theirs and half of yours too? As the saying goes, you play you pay…

  • Jilly

    Jeanne Weiske,who the hell are you to judge?? Do you know them personally? Does the teen have health issues attributed to the weight?? Check yourself before you judge others….

    • liz

      Less that one percent of all obesity is caused by physical problems. It is the responsibility of anyone purchasing anything to be informed of what they are purchasing even airline tickets. Airline policies are available on their websites. as well as Email and phone numbers for clarification. Also, discussions of airline policies changing in regards to many things including overweight travelers have been in the media frequently in the past 5-6 years. Further, it is obvious that this child is more than just a “few pounds” overweight. As unfortunate as this situation was, in this day of easy access to information it is one’s own fault and responsibility for problems that may arise as a result of their choice not to inform themselves.

  • Joe H

    Its sad that this kid is already that big that young. Maybe instead of wasting time and resources focusing on SW policy, the family should redirect the time and effort to getting this obviously obese teen the exercise and help he needs to live a long life not plagued with health problems.

  • Jilly

    This family is not disputing having to pay for an extra seat. The aunt tried. One would assume the airline knew well before 4 minutes from takeoff another seat would need to be purchased and why would you have someone call an 800 number that would be of no service? The airline also knows the plane is not full, so why make someone pay for something that will be refunded?
    All these comments on the too big teen are ridiculous, I’m sure none of you are perfect…..

  • getridofem

    I had to put up with one of these “super fat” passengers a number of years ago and it was the most terrible flight I have ever been on–he raised the arm between us so he could sit and then took 1/2 of my seat and I had to sit next to the window between him and it—no consideration for anyone but himself—if I had to do over again I would have had him removed—-

  • Sue

    this stuff happens daily, why is this on a news site as one of the top stories? must be a slow news day. Also, i’m with the airline here.

  • Token Gimp

    That’s what happens with large bureaucratic businesses. No one can make a decision, or all the decisions are made for you. Sort of like the Government. Does anyone think bigger is better? One the other hand how many people would want to get stuck between two big folks?.

  • Tc Radiodj

    Yes it is totally LEGAL in every state to take credit cards over the phone. There are no state or federal laws that say otherwise. While its not in your best interest to give cards over the phone, and some companies may have internal rules not to take them due to fraud. Now as far as the spill over, that is sad that kids are that big to take up 2 seats. Thats pretty large to do that…..I would have to say its time for a excersize program and diet.

  • Dagney Taggert

    I’m 5’4″, 135 lbs and I’m barely comfortable in those airline seats! I don’t think a person necessarily has to be “obese” to be too big for 1 seat.

    For those of you whining about having to endure a too big person next to you – shut up and get over yourselves. So you were uncomfortable for a few hours – whoopty doo! You lived. If that’s all you’ve got to complain about, be thankful.

    • g8bbgg

      Then let the big person pay for part of my seat. I paid for it, it is mine to use or share with who Iwant to. It is not a comfort issue it is a issue of a fat person showing no respecct for others. With what you weigh you must flow into another seat as well. I am 5-9 and weigh 140 lbs and am comffy in the seat with ourt someone’s fat in my seat! I will get over my self the day the fatties own up and diet, hint hint ms 135

  • JenessaW

    wow you guys are ridiculous. I’m a member of this family and the problem we had a problem with the customer service of the airline. to call my mom FOUR minutes before the departure of the plane when my cousins had been there for two hours!! then to kick him off the plane, on thanksgiving, his first flight, with no other flights out at all!! THATS the problem. so what my cousin is kinda big…WHO CARES!? get over yourself… it was the fact that Southwest airlines was rude and didn’t offer a solution to somebody thats been a loyal customer to them for years!! thats the frickin problem. so dont judge anyone until you know the whole story….

  • cla

    Wow, did anyone stop to consider how the boys felt? I hope I never have to sit next to any of “you” people on a plane. Newsflash, I know I”m fat, I still can buckle my seat belt without using an extender and I try to stay in my seat and not spill into yours. It is a miserable way to fly. I’d actually be glad to pay for another seat so I didn’t have to sit next to a rude person

  • Kat

    I once had to return home on a flight where I was in the middle seat. The person to my left was a person “spilled” over to my seat. The person to my right was a father to what seemed to be a long one year old whos legs “spilled” into my lap. I did not whine or complain that my personal space was being invaded. In fact, I lifted the arm rest so the child could have more leg room and be more comfortable (which led to her falling asleep with her legs in my lap). I also asked the person to my left if they would feel more comfortable if I lifted the arm rest. He was very grateful that I was concerned about his comfort level. He respectfully declined the raised arm lift. I feel sorry for those who are so rude because you paid for a space and demand every freaking inch of it! You are being rude to those around you when you complain to a flight attendent that you aren’t getting your money’s worth.
    The owners of Southwest realy needs to evaluate its policy of purchaing another seat even if the plane is half empty! I don’t care if they get a refund later, the plane was half empty. I take up two or more seats, to stretch out, when the flight that I am on is empty and I don’t have to pay for those seats so why should those people have to pay for an extra seat before they get on the plane when those at the gate know the plane is half empty?

  • Mark from MNtaxwaste

    I laughed so hard watching this Aunt portray her nephew as a victim. If she really cared for him she would have noticed how obese he was and would have done something about that. It’s all about the money in her eyes, as long as she gets some money because of her mental pain and etc she will be happy. She should be ashamed of herself, and talk about the elephant in the room and his problem. I know what its like to be fat, not big boned, but fat. 20 years ago I was 375lbs now I’m 235lbs, I lost it because people who cared about me made me look at myself as who I really was, a porker. Not someone with a handicap problem. Shame on the Aunt and his parents.

  • Dagney Taggert

    I think, if you ask the airlines, you’re not actually paying for a “seat” on an airplane, you’re paying for admission onto the plane, period. Your ticket doesn’t guarantee you any certain amount of space. So those of you whining “I PAID for my seat…!” No, you really didn’t. You’ll have to find another excuse to be petulant.

    • grbbgg

      Did you miss qyote your weight is it 285? Soulds like the FAT person I sat next to on the bus the other ight on my way home from work. Get over your blubber Ms Tubby. Even if you can not respect your self try to respect others for a change. Yes the money is for the eat not the space or all seats, First and Coach would be the same price.

      • Lambog

        You obviously have issues with those who are overweight and I assume this stems from another one of your underlying issues with others who are different from you. Just wait, one day karma will get ‘cha and when it does, don’t be too surprised. I have found nothing good happens with those who complain, but lots of good things happen to those who accept others for who they are. How do you live with yourself steaming with so much anger all the time??

  • d

    spill into his seat?? wow. its ok to have a so called alternative lifestyle but it not ok to be fat?? Society is going to hell

  • timothee white

    most if you people are wrong it was about how bad we was treated how we was turned around from the flight 4 mins before, but u dont see that all u see in a fat kid that cant fit into a seat, and people feel sorry for him, and its not like that, i dont feel sorry 4 me and you people should not too, i’m happy with myself i love being big, and i would like to say thanks for everyone that takes my side for this, and everyone alse you need help you cant see that the seat was not the problem, we had no problem paying for another seat thats nothing, its the fact that they told us 4 mins before the flight took off, we had been there for 2 hours and no one said anything before, its about how the guy that worked there treated us, is about how we had to find something last min to get here, its the fact that me and my brother, and mother had no thanksgiving this year, so while you was having fun with your family we was sitting in a airport while you was eating with your family we was getting turned around, while you was sleep me and my brother was on a bus. the story is deeper then just a fat kid not fitting into a seat, its about how we missed everything with our family, and everyone neeeds to be with there family on thanksgiving and we was not, and if u want to know what really happend at the airport ask me any questions, or you want to let me know how you feel this is my email (they spelled my name wrong)

    • Mark from MNtaxwaste

      You play the victim well son, but that does not help your case, and please tack some kind of English course.

      • Kat

        You should also TAKE some English courses Mark. Double check your spelling before you post, otherwise you will end up looking like a moron. Oops, too late!

      • JW

        Mark. I’m wondering what makes you think you have the right to disrespect someone else? I mean were you abused as a child or something. Or do you like looking like a jerk? I didn’t know that there was a guy named Mark out in the world that could talk to somebody any kind of way he felt was right because he thinks he’s better than somebody else…
        Mmmm and for somebody talking about my cousin taking some English courses, you sure need to re-read what you wrote…idiot.

  • jilly

    Timothee, you ROCK!!! Screw all of em who have issues with large, fat overweight people. Bet ya they were the playground bully’s. All these people see is fat kid no other issues. Their holier than thou attitudes will get em in the end……

  • T

    So since the family is a ‘loyal’ Southwest customer, how is it that nobody was aware or the airline’s policy to purchase a second seat? How does the blame fall on the airline when you failed to come to the flight prepared? What if the flight was full and there wasn’t an extra seat to sell? After all of that, why should the airline delay an airplane because of your unpreparedness? Those questions seem more important than why did the airplane leave without him.

    • JW

      We never had this problem before. Yes we fly Southwest often. We are LOYAL customers! If you listened/read the story you would know that it was their first flight! We tried to buy another seat but the gate attendant didn’t give us the opportunity because he was a jerk and decided to tell a new flier that he couldn’t stay on the plane, even if it wasn’t full. We were angry because of the lack of customer service, respect and help from the airline. We weren’t asking for them to delay the flight. They were at the gate for TWO HOURS, and yet nobody thought to tell him then. Southwest was wrong, they know that, if you don’t then maybe you’re just a little to slow to understand. By the way, there are such things as stupid questions and you just proved that.
      Have a great day!

      • T

        Your story proves there are stupid questions and irresponsible people.

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