- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 27, 2002

Southwest Airlines has decided to profile the wide bodies among us, assuming the wide body is not from the Middle East.

It is still not nice to profile anyone from the Middle East, wide body or not, even if the body is decorated with dynamite.

This person is obligated to receive a big smile from a ticket agent and a pillow and blanket from a flight attendant.

Welcome to the new world order after September 11.

Southwest used to practice a charming kind of informality at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, luring the large and small alike from around the region with its spirit, humor and low fares.

But now Southwest has turned on the fatso-alert light in the cabin and is looking to impose a surcharge on those who can't resist a second and third helping of mashed potatoes.

Fly the svelte skies of Southwest.

This is discriminatory, no matter how Southwest's spin doctors explain it. In the past week, they have been working extra hard to put a smiley face on it. They say it is about safety and the comfort level of other passengers. They say whatever they say, with a scale in one hand and a measuring tape in the other, the instruments of the fat police.

Southwest's dance with an old company policy comes at an especially curious time, in a post-September 11 America. It is an America that pretended to have an epiphany in the weeks after the attack, but is now at one with its old silliness.

You can tell by the blue-haired grandmother from Minnesota who is undergoing a body-cavity search at the airport. You can tell by the re-emergence of Phil Donahue, a pitiful sort who is coming to MSNBC next month, no doubt in an attempt to understand why they hate us so. You also can tell by the weasel words coming out of official Washington.

The clarity is gone, along with the dead of September 11, and now we are down to resolving the crisis of America's ever-expanding waistline. At least one airline is prepared to stand tall, be brave and do what it takes to control the bloat in the skies.

Firearms in the cockpit? No way. A steel door between the cockpit and cabin? We're getting there one door at a time, the task to be completed one of these years, eventually, whenever. But the obese and the large? Hide the food. Round them up. We can take care of them. Pay up, buster.

No, this is not the work of a serious people. This is the work of an obtuse people.

Flying is hardly easy under the best conditions. The U.S. carriers, not just Southwest, apparently live in the world of make-believe, of Munchkins, judging by the width of their seats.

The only people who fit into these seats are midgets, dwarfs and jockeys. Hard as it is to believe, this small detail remains beyond the intellectual capacity of airline executives. It is not unfair to note this, however, if you are determined to point fingers, as Southwest is.

It is funny how it works with profiling.

Robert S. Mueller III, FBI director, nearly breaks down in tears at the notion of ethnic profiling. Many of the gasbags on Capitol Hill can relate. Why, it would be a terrible thing if America's security apparatuses used a modicum of common sense.

Instead, America remains ever responsive to the terroristic proclivities of the blue-haired grandmother from Minnesota. She is armed with a sewing pin and a hearing aid and is considered extremely dangerous.

Hands up, Grandma. Do not make any sudden movements or you're toast.

Hi, Richard Reid. So pleased to make your acquaintance. Step right through. Love your fuse-adorned shoes.

This is the post-September 11 world, and it just has become a more difficult place for the super-fries contingent. They are on Southwest's hit list, and they are so easy to profile.

If only to be seen as fair, perhaps Southwest should weigh and measure the blue-haired grandmother from Minnesota as well. Weighing passengers at random might ease the insult.

Of course, if random weighing worked like random security checks, the 98-pound weakling would be required to step on the scales while the pleasantly plumped would be served a five-course meal.

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