04/25/2013 04:35 EDT

Matthew Harper Allegedly Kicked Off Southwest Airlines Flight For His Weight


A Southwest Airlines passenger has claimed that the airline's attitude towards his weight left him feeling "like a criminal" and humiliated him during his flight.

Matthew Harper alleges he was kicked off of his Sunday flight from Chicago to Denver due to his weight. The 340-pound man from Texas was boarding the plane with his brother when a Southwest official told him the flight was overbooked and asked him to leave the plane, according to New York Daily News.

Harper says that wasn't the case because both he and his brother were able to sit down with an empty seat between them. The 34 year old says he was removed from the plane in front of all the other passengers and was asked if he knew about the airline's policy on overweight passengers.

Harper said he was aware of the policy, to which the official threatened he could be thrown off the plane. Southwest Airlines' "customer of size policy" insists fliers who "encroach upon any part of the neighboring seat(s)" buy a second seat in advance so the airline can "avoid asking customers to relinquish their seats for an unplanned accommodation," according to the airline's website.

Harper was allowed to return to his seat but only after a half-hour delay. He told KDVR , a Fox News station in Denver, that he had never been treated in such a manner due to his weight.

"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," said Harper.

Southwest has since apologized for the incident and offered Harper $100 in compensation. He reportedly turned down the offer and is pursuing legal action instead, notes the Daily Mail.

“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.”

Harper says he's flown with Southwest Airlines many times since his job takes him to many places to work on electrical projects. He says this is the first time he's been singled out for his weight, despite being 100 pounds heavier in the past, notes Traveler Today.

Last year, Southwest Airlines found itself in trouble over a similar incident after they allegedly suggested that Kenlie Tiggeman, a New Orleans woman was too fat to fly and would need two seats because she couldn't fit in the plane's 17-inch (42.5 cm) wide seats. Tiggeman has since sued the airline for their policy.

"It doesn't matter how far I have come. I have a long way to go, but no one sees that. All they see is my exterior -- someone who is fat," Tiggeman told MSNBC back in 2012.

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