"I think Southwest probably did the right thing here, and I'm pretty sure they'll make it right with the displaced passenger, who clearly has a very legitimate gripe," he said. "I'd probably be hopping mad if it happened to me, although when I fly standby I realize I'm taking my chances."
But not everybody is so forgiving of Southwest.
"This is crazy. The gate agent obviously made a bad judgment call," said John DiScala, a travel blogger known as Johnny Jet. "Did they ever think how embarrassing it is for someone to be taken off the plane? Other passengers might have thought she was a terrorist. The agent should've made the 14-year-old wait for the next plane. After all, she was late."
"The first thing the agent should have done was to seek volunteers and offer monetary compensation or credit to be used on future Southwest flights," he added. "Then it would've been a win-win situation."
Regardless, Hobica said this is symptomatic of a larger problem -- so to speak.
"The solution for obese passengers is for airlines to install at least one row of extra-wide seats in economy class -- in a two-by-two configuration rather than the normal three-by-three -- that would be made available in advance to 'passengers of size,'" he said. "Airlines already sell extra-legroom seats, but while passengers aren't getting much taller year by year, they sure are getting wider."
At least one U.S. airline does just that. Spirit Airlines sells two rows of "Big Front" seats at the front of their plane for anywhere from $25 to $75 extra. While they are only an inch wider, the seats -- set two-by-two -- have large armrests and more room for overflow.
Hobica added that in Canada, airlines can't make passengers pay for two seats if they're extra wide.
"Whether or not we treat obesity as a medical or mental condition, facts are facts ... there are a lot of wide people," Hobica said. Adding extra-wide seat -- sold at a premium -- "protects not just the dignity of the clinically obese or someone who's spent too much time in the gym, but also those passengers who are sometimes forced to share half their seat with them."