No, this isn’t going to be a post about tall people signing up for a couple of credit cards and getting a companion pass. Instead, I want to direct your attention to the Southwest Airlines “Customer of Size” policy (I’ve bolded the important part):
Customers who encroach upon any part of the neighboring seat(s) may proactively purchase the needed number of seats prior to travel in order to ensure the additional seat(s) is available. The armrest is considered to be the definitive boundary between seats; width between the armrests measures 17 inches. The purchase of additional seats serves as a notification to Southwest of a special seating need, and allows us to adequately plan for the number of seats that will be occupied on the aircraft. In turn, this helps 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. Most importantly, it ensures that all Customers onboard have access to safe and comfortable seating. You may contact us for a refund of the cost of additional seating after travel. Customers of size who prefer not to purchase an additional seat in advance have the option of purchasing just one seat and then discussing their seating needs with the Customer Service Agent at their departure gate. If it is determined that a second (or third) seat is needed, they will be accommodated with a complimentary additional seat(s).
So to recap: you pay for two seats but you can get a refund on one after the fact. This policy was obviously written for the morbidly obese. Southwest seems to punch above its weight when it comes to bad publicity vis-a-vis overweight customers–see for example here, here, and the incident with director Kevin Smith here.
But read it carefully: whatever prompted the policy, it doesn’t say you have to be overweight to get a free extra seat. The sole requirement for free space is, “customers who encroach upon any part of the neighboring seat”. If you define “seat” to include leg room–which is reasonable, because you’re paying for the leg room with the seat–then it sure looks to me like tall people qualify for a free seat. As for the “customers of size” language–tall people have size too, yes?
I am neither a lawyer nor tall, however, so I will not be pursuing this matter further. I thought it worth tossing out there to see what you all think. Am I out of bounds in interpreting the policy like this?