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Fat War Wages On in the Skies

The debate about treatment of overweight passengers has flared once again -- ever since movie director and actor Kevin Smith was thrown off a Southwest Airlines flight over the weekend because he was -- in his words -- "too fat to fly."

Southwest later apologized and gave him a refund, but Smith is still talking about it, releasing on his Webcast Wednesday more vitriol aimed at the airline.

Although he claims he was able to fit within the required 17 inches of the two arm rests of his seat, he says he was told he "needed more than one seat to complete his flight" and was taken off the plane.

In his Webcast, Smith says, "The employees can make the decision that you're too fat to fly, or that you need more than one seat to fly Southwest Airlines."

According to a Southwest statement on its Web site, the airline says it tries to convey the "sensitive" message with "discretion."

But Smith says passengers shouldn't have to be put through that treatment.

"Folks don't do it to yourself," he told his Webcast viewers. "Just think twice before you choose a carrier, choose someone who doesn't come up to you and tell you you're fat."

"The Early Show" reached out to Southwest Airlines, but they did not return our calls.

Golda Poretsky, a blogger and activist on weight issues, said on "The Early Show" she hasn't been asked not to fly, but she says it's happened to her friends.

"It's a fear I have when I fly," she said.

"Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith who interviewed Poretsky while sitting in standard 17-inch airline-sized seats, pointed out they don't seem comfortable for anyone.

"I'm 6'2", 225 (pounds), and I don't really fit in a seat like this," Smith said.

"Early Show" weather anchor and features reporter Dave Price said he's been on both sides of the equation with flying, saying that he was morbidly obese for a long part of his adult life.

"Keep this in mind," he said, "Do we have laws if you're too tall to fly? ... Do we have rules if you're too buxom to fly? If you've worked out too much and you have a thin waist and a big top? There's a stigma that's taking place here and for a lot of people who are challenged like this."

Poretsky, who said she isn't comfortable in airline seats, said she can make it through a flight. However, she said the overarching point is that no one is comfortable in airline seats -- no matter their weight or size.

Price agreed, saying "We pack more seats into coach than ever before. We've eliminated leg room. We have rows of seats right up at the exit at this point. No one has made a stink about that. My point is that it is uncomfortable for many people to fly."

Poretsky said the incident with Smith wasn't fair "on any level."

She said, "They were not adhering to their own policy which says if the arm rests are down, you're okay to fly. And according to Kevin Smith, he had his arm rests down. But I think, also, it's just an unfair policy we see again and again that it's a subjective determination."

To Poretsky, it's a matter of making scapegoats out of heavy people.

She said, "It's not fair to pick one group and say that you're reason that everyone's uncomfortable, when the reality is we're all uncomfortable."

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