Solutions for Flying Fat People

I heard a discussion on a radio show [warning! – not size positive, could be very triggering] about a Delta airlines flight during which a thin woman had her seat encroached upon by a large passenger.  Delta refused to throw the large passenger off and eventually someone else volunteered to take a later flight and give the woman his seat.  The ensuing debate on the radio show was about whether the large passenger should have been asked to de-plane (according to this report he never was), and what is fair in the circumstances.

I understand the airlines’ position that they are selling space and so they feel that if you take up more space than you purchased you should pay more than others.  At the very least, if the airline wants to charge more for people who take up more than one seat, then that policy must be applied across the board – so if people’s shoulders are too broad or their legs are too long, then they’ll need to buy another seat as well. I do not, however, think that this is the only solution that we can come up with.

I’ll also say that I don’t know how much of a problem this really is – it might be one of those things that is used to stigmatize fat people even though it rarely comes up in real life.  (Which is not to say that it doesn’t cause a ton of stress for fat people worrying about it – just that it may be that people rarely complain.) I was flying recently and got into a conversation with the flight attendant about seat belt extenders.  She told me that they only carry 3 on the plane and that she’s never run out on a flight so it doesn’t seem like there are that many people flying who are of a size to encroach on the seat next to them (which is not to say that more fat people wouldn’t fly if it was so stressful.) I’m thinking that passengers with bad body odor, or too much perfume, or cheap cologne, or screaming kids, or who just won’t stop talking to us even though we’re reading a book and listening to our iPods while humming and pretending to sleep, probably cause far more discomfort than fat people on planes. I don’t love touching strangers either, but the public transportation system in New York City seems to be built around this concept so it’s not like it’s unheard of to be in close proximity to your seat mate in a public transportation situation.

Regardless, I think the main issue is that the whole thing is subjective.  You don’t know the situation until you get on the plane. You may be able to fly easily on the first leg of your trip, only to be told by a flight attendant that you are too fat for the second leg. Plane seats are different sizes, seat belts are different lengths.  It’s difficult to decide who actually “fits in a seat”.  A weight limit doesn’t work – I’m ginormous but my fat happens to go forward rather than sideways so I fit in a seat without encroaching on the seat next to me.  Hip and thigh measurements don’t really work for the same reason.  If they had a discreet seat that you could sit in at the airport like the thing that they use to test carry-on luggage that might work (and should also be used on the broad shouldered and long-legged) but you still wouldn’t know until you got to the airport.

So in the event that this is an actual problem and not another overblown piece of the Obesity Epi-panic, allow me to suggest some solutions:

“Sit Next to a Fatty” Option

If you are cool with sitting next to a passenger of size, you check a box when making your reservation.  Maybe they would get a small discount on your seat (although I think that the airline should absorb this cost since it’s their fault that they failed to plan for the fact that their passengers come in different sizes)

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Middle Seat

Especially considering that there are only three seat belt extenders it seems that, just on a couple of rows, we could remove the middle seat.  These could be given to passengers of size.  Or if they want to change they could charge 1.5 times the price of a regular ticket for these seats.  If they don’t sell out to fatties, broad shouldered and long-legged people, the airline could offer them as an upgrade at check in.

Row o’ Fatties

Stick all the fatties in the same rows.  We’ll snuggle.

Two Seats -Seriously

Airlines ask fat people to purchase two seats if they don’t fit into one.  But then they make it difficult if not impossible to do so.  I personally know people who’ve had to spend hours on hold to get the tickets purchased (because you can’t buy two tickets under the same name) only to be told on the plane that they had to give up their extra seat because the airline “needed” it, or to have their seats be non-adjacent.  If this is really such a huge problem then they should make the solution that they propose easy for us. And if the flight is not full, the money that we pay for a second ticket should be refunded.

First Class Fatties

This one will be controversial, but since the airlines fail to be able to accommodate passengers of size in coach, they could  offer a discount to fatties who want to fly first class.

This is just off the top of my head, I’m sure that there are other solutions.  I do know that the solution is not to tell fat people that they need to change their bodies – not just because nobody can prove that it’s possible for the majority of people, but also because weddings, family reunions, and vacations are happening now, not 50 pounds from now and we should not be in the business of telling other people what their bodies need to look like.

The bottom line is that (just like in healthcare) we need to start being fatties and airlines against a problem, not airlines against fat people.

Published in: on August 18, 2011 at 6:40 am  Comments (43)  

43 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I have spent the last 12 years flying internationally, and it has NEVER been an issue for me, and the only time I needed a belt extender was when I was pregnant. I’ve sat next to people bigger than myself, people who stank, people who farted the whole time, people who tilted their seats so far back I could do dental work, people who had really bad plane manners, kids who kicked the back of my seat for 9 hours straight, people who glared at me when my kids cried from the air pressure making their ears hurt, (and people who were sympathetic and tried to help out…and who had to deal with my kid puking down the back of the seat once!), people who used up the entire overhead bin because they refused to check the luggage and actually took MY stuff out so theirs could fit…you name it, I’ve experienced it and probably done it myself.

    The fact is that flying is an uncomfortable and cramped undertaking with a bunch of strangers who are equally as uncomfortable and cramped and don’t have a problem encroaching on your 24 cubic inches to make themselves more at ease. Even in first class it’s difficult to be comfortable for a lot of people. You’re going to be touching a stranger, even if you’re a little tiny twig because that’s just the way it is on a cramped airplane, so you may as well get used to it.

    And the larger fact is that airlines have made their seats smaller, packing in more people to deal with rising costs…so there’s no way they’ll get rid of the middle seat. The middle seat is actually good for families with small kids because the little ones can stretch out. BTW, those of us who serve overseas, like we did for the last decade, have no qualms about flying back once a year for a stateside visit with our kids, and I personally do everything I can to keep mine quiet, including spending long periods of time in the tiny, disgusting bathrooms if my kid has lost the plot. We also always ask for the bulkhead seats so we’ll have more room, and the kids won’t kick anyone in front of them, but guess what! People always want the bulkhead seats because they want the extra leg room to feel like they’re getting first class treatment at cattle class prices, and they always go first. I can’t make my kids stop crying if they’re feeling unwell, but you as a passenger CAN control how you react. It’s not the same thing at ALL to compare it to someone whose girth is impeding on your seat, who has their iPod up too loudly, or many of the other things you mentioned.

    Some airlines will charge you an extra fee if you’re over a certain weight, and it may surprise you to know that I agree with it. They will charge if you have extra heavy bags or one too many, and no one squawks about discrimination then. Weight is weight, and if you’re really, really heavy and want to fly, then you have to be prepared for more discomfort (and possibly costs) than others. It is not the norm, and it’s your own responsibility to let the airline know it might be an issue. It sucks, but there it is, so you deal. Seat prices are based on a constantly changing average amount of costs, and that includes passenger size. However, it doesn’t mean that companies have a right to call you out in front of the entire terminal and demand you get on a scale at the gate or just deny you the right to your seat. And in reality, such cases are really, really rare but when they do crop up, they tend to get a LOT of media coverage which completely skews the issue.

    • They will never charge passengers by body weight for one simple reason: Men would have a cow, especially if the extra-charge zone starts at 200 pounds. A lot of successful businessmen who are frequent flyers are tall, musclebound dudes who easily exceed that, and if they complain that they should not be punished for slamming it in the gym, the airlines will listen to them.

  2. It is difficult for me to leave a negative comment here, as I have never had a negative reaction to your opinions in the past. But I think a couple of your ideas here are way off the mark, reinforcing the social stigma against fat people. “Sit next to a fatty?” Fat people should pay for a portion of a non-fat person’s ticket because that person so selflessly and charitably volunteered to sit next to us social rejects. “Row of fatties?” We’re going to revert to physically segregating people because of their appearance? Forcing fat people to a separate area so others don’t have to be bothered by possibly touching us is shaming and stigmatizing.

    • Hi Rosie,

      I’m so sorry that I upset you, and I completely understand your points. These were meant to be tongue in cheek and funny, not completely serious suggestions but of course humor doesn’t always transfer over the internet.

      ~Ragen

      • It’s okay, Ragen. I guess the humor went over my head. But I know you have nothing but complete respect for size diversity & acceptance! :)

    • actually, i also didn’t like the “row” suggestion for the same reason – i feel like physical segregation usually has some negative result down the line, even if it’s just that people miss out on valuable interactions and experiences with new people. Plus, it’s possible that fat parents would have to sit apart from their young kids, and i know for little kids, plane rides can be scary enough, especially if they’re prone to pressure earaches.

  3. Why is it that I get a 20kg (for example) luggage allowance, while fat people don’t need to pay extra for their weight? If I weigh 30kg less than someone else, I should be entitled to have my suitcase 30kg heavier. But no, then I need to pay more.

    Your luggage weight allowance should be worked out with a formula allowing you more if you weigh less. It’s only fair.

    • Because people are not baggage, they come in every shape and size naturally and I can’t decide not to pack part of me to make some arbitrary weight limit. Besides, per the airline’s policy I fit in a seat which is the amount of space I purchased so it should not matter how much I weigh while doing it.. Also, I think that you’d get a lot of push back from muscular people, pregnant women etc. who had to pay extra because they assume that such a policy is nothing more than trying to punish and shame fat people.

      ~Ragen

      • Another thing to consider is that luggage weight restrictions aren’t just about how much the plane weighs — it’s about the other airline employees on the ground who have to handle all the baggage. More (or heavier) luggage means more employees have to be staffed to wrangle it, which means more cost in labor for the airline. The labor costs for oversized passengers aren’t comparable to those for oversized luggage.

    • Your luggage weight allowance should be worked out with a formula allowing you more if you weigh less. It’s only fair.

      Is it also then only fair if I might weigh more but if my luggage falls substantially under the weight allowance?

      Ultimately, I agree with Ragen that people are not baggage, but if this would work at all, it would have to work both ways.

  4. The no fatties policies are actually probably costing the airlines some revenue — like Ragen, most of my fat faces forward not sideways. Mostly in the stomach area.

    But even though I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t take up more than one seat, and I know I wouldn’t need a seatbelt extender unless the belts on planes are much, much smaller than those found in cars… there mere idea that someone can potentially humiliate me in front of hundreds of strangers in an airport by refusing to let me board (or escorting me off) because I’m “too fat”… the mere idea makes me sick to my stomach from nerves.

    So we drive everywhere we go. Pinball convention in Chicago that my husband was invited to speak at last year? Lots of gas stations, a few grocery stores, two hotels, two zoos, some restaurants and fast food places, a couple of museums and one state park made money off of us. Probably more than the airline would have made had we chosen to fly, even if we were asked to buy a second seat. And if we manage to save up enough for another ‘vacation’ this year, this time to see family in Arizona and California, it will again be a similar assortment of businesses making money off of us rather than an airline.

    Travelling without humiliation, priceless! heh

    • The seatbelts on airplanes are MUCH, MUCH shorter than those in cars. It’s ridiculous!

  5. I just travel with my 2 year old. He doesn’t care if Mama encroaches in his seat. In fact, it helps him sleep better on the plane! ;o)

    • Agreed. This is what I loved about traveling with my daughter on my first time in a plane ever. I could take half her seat and she still had plenty of room! Plus, she was a great sleeper during the first part of the flight. The second flight, not so much so then I had to worry about not the fat thing but the nursing thing and again, it was my first time on a plane, flying internationally, and flying alone with my daughter because her dad was already in Korea. The next two times I flew I was a little worried but fortunately, I didn’t run into any issues. Whew! And the last time I flew I not only weighed 300 lbs, I was 30 weeks pregnant! Still was able to use the seatbelt without an extension but it was starting to get tight. :D Still, I think I worried more about flying at almost 30 weeks pregnancy and figuring out what I was going to do once I got to the US than I worried about being kicked off the plane.

  6. Last three times I’ve flown: 1) a couple of 16 year olds and their daughter (!!) sat next to me. The girl was filthy and threw her cookies at me and then kicked and screamed the entire flight. The parents refused to do anything, so the flight attendant actually came and grabbed the daughter and carried her to the back of the plane and soothed her. At least I got free drinks (and a buzz). 2) I sat between my brother and an old man who must have thought that my seat was his seat. His elbow was practically in my lap. Not to mention, my brother and I both have huge shoulders. I spent almost the entire flight leaning slightly forward so I wasn’t wedged in between the encroaching old man and my sleeping brother. 3) See #2 (return flight).

    Everyone has different bodies. My brother and I are broad chested and shouldered and our upper bodies are always uncomfortable during flights, but we have short legs so plenty of leg room!

    You know how airlines have those bag measurers that you stick your bag in to make sure that it will fit into the overhead compartment? They should have a people measurer to make sure everyone fits in the seats before boarding. Bet you every passenger would have something hanging over, whether it’s shoulders, arms, hips, long legs, or *gasp* fat.

    Bottom line is fat people are the last frontier of discrimination. It’s still perfectly OK – nay, acceptable and encouraged – to discriminate against larger bodies.

    • At least fat squishes! LOL I’ve been on planes with big guys like you… very broad shoulders pushing against my head, long legs/knees encroaching on my leg space… but the worst was for a poor little guy stuck between me and a big guy. We were all three hot and miserable. SO glad to get off of that flight!

  7. You forgot noisy/aggressive drunk people and losers who try to smoke in the bathroom in your list of airline annoyances. :) If someone’s size really is an issue in trying to seat them comfortably, the airlines should make the same kind of accommodations they make to anyone else. They allow people with mobility issues to board first, my 6-foot-8-inch brother-in-law always gets his need for leg room accommodated, and people with large bodies shouldn’t be any different.

    • Just as a quick note… they allow some people with mobility issues to board first. I’ve been told time and again that unless I require an assistive device to make it down the (relatively broad and level) boarding tunnel, I don’t qualify for priority seating on the (narrow, sometimes vibrating due to engines on) plane.

      I totally agree about the noisy/aggressive drunk people, though. A recent experience with them this summer merited the only complain letter I have ever submitted directly to an airline.

  8. I travel with my own seat extender, which you can buy online, so that I don’t have to ask for one and risk it being taken. I know the airlines do not carry many. Also, most (not all) airplanes have moveable or removable arm rests in the aisle seats, so I usually sit there, where my ample hips can spill over a bit into the aisle, and not encroach on the person next to me. It is only a couple of inches, so it is not like my body is in the way of the aisle, and my hips do not get hit with the drink carts or anything. Plus, if I have to get up to use the restroom, I don’t have to squeeze by/climb over anyone. I have never had a problem.

    • Informationally for people who are reading through this in 2013, it is no longer legal to use your own airline seatbelt extender. The FAA has ruled the maintanance of these “personal extenders” cannot be assured, and therefore, they cannot be used on commercial flights. *sigh*

  9. I kinda love the Row O’ Fatties idea. Especially since I’ve wound up in such a configuration before by luck, and it was actually AWESOME. Four hours of armrest jokes. :)

  10. The problem that I have with the solutions that suggest fat people pay more is that they still seem to be based around punishing fat people for their fat (or tall people as you suggest, for their tallness, etc) which still basically says “thin is better and if your’e fat then you’re shit out of luck”. We shouldn’t be paying for space- we should be paying for travel. Paying to get from point A to point B. I get that it’s all about the profits- but sometimes human rights just have to trump money. There is no way that i should have to pay more to go to, say, my grandmother’s funeral than my thin brother just by virtue of being born different than him.

    • Hi Heather,

      I understand what you are saying and I really struggle with this. I do see the business perspective that they are selling a specific amount of space on a plane, not just a trip from one place to another. If it was just a trip from one place to another then they couldn’t charge more for first class or for seats with more leg room and people could lay across three seats if they wanted to. I do think that if the policy is not applied across the board (to people with broad shoulders and long legs etc) then it is nothing more than a punitive measure against fat people and that’s absolutely wrong. I also see issues with the shared space – people are set up to overlap when there is only one arm-rest and two arms.

      It’s definitely a difficult issue.

      ~Ragen

      • Hi All,

        The airlines say that legally, they are selling you a trip, not space. This is why they can double-book a flight. If they were selling space, once you buy your ticket no one else can buy that same space, but selling your space many times over is a fundamental part of the business model, so they do say that it is a trip.

        I don’t know why this hasn’t been the argument in legal battles. The other one that I think would work is that it is gender discrimination to ask fat people (ie folks fat in the hips, who tend to be female) to buy two tickets when they don’t ask people who are wide in the shoulders (more likely to be men) to buy two.

        Deb

        • Thanks Deb, I’d not heard that argument from airlines before – I agree that it seems odd that it’s not brought up in legal battles since they seem to be arguing out of both sides of their mouth based on what’s convenient. The gender angle is also an interesting one. As usual you are completely brilliant and on top of things, thank you so much!

          ~Ragen

      • I was going to make the same point as Deb. And I agree with many of the others: my seat is *frequently* encroached on by broad shoulders (including my husband’s), but I’ve never been encroached on by someone’s fat.

        (I’m an inbetweenie, and while coach seats aren’t comfortable, I generally fit into them.)

      • I’m tickled by Deb’s reply noting that “selling passages, not space” is legally precedented as well as historically (think passenger ships and trains) – I’ve often thought that was the pivotal question in flying-while-fat issues.

        Charging more for first class is a matter of charging for passages with extra perks, rather than for more space per se – extra space has, historically, often been one of those perks (ships and trains again), but the key word there is extra. Or maybe the key point isn’t explicit, that the extra is guaranteed rather than chance – if I’m on a flight that’s not fully booked, and have the good fortune to be next to empty seats, the flight attendants don’t forbid me making use of that come-by-chance extra space.

        Sunflower

  11. Unrelated: HAVE YOU SEEN THIS?!? http://www.amazon.com/Maggie-Goes-Diet-Paul-Kramer/dp/0981974554/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1313707136&sr=8-1

  12. My hips are wide enough that the armrest always travels upward, so when the person next to me puts hir arm down on it, it can be extremely uncomfortable. You can pay extra for a seat with more leg room, why not more butt room?

  13. This is one of the things I’ve struggled with in my desire to stop this “I’ll live my life when I lose 50 pounds” mentality. I travel by plane several times a year. I know it’s going to be something I have to deal with so I do what I can to alleviate the anxiety before I even head to the airport.

    1. I carry my own seat-belt extender. It’s awesome. I don’t have to worry about sideways glances from fellow passengers when I ask a flight attendant for one. I carry the FAA safety certification card in case it’s ever questioned and mine has my name engraved under the buckle in case they ever think I’m stealing it.

    2. I try to fly AirTran when I can. I purchase my regular coach class ticket, but they allow business class upgrades as low as $49 per flight when you check in if the seats are available. It’s a bit of a gamble, but worth it to not worry about encroaching on my seatmate.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think that there is a cut & dry easy way to solve the issue. My main complaint is that there is no seeming rhyme or reason to the size that I’m allotted on a plane. I’ve been on big planes with small seats where I have to use my extender. I’ve been on small planes with larger seats where I didn’t have to use the extender. And, of course, it works vice versa.

    • My main complaint is that there is no seeming rhyme or reason to the size that I’m allotted on a plane.

      This is my main complaint as well. I have wide hips that sometimes have trouble fitting into plane seats (either with or without pressing into my neighbor’s space, which basically places us on butt-to-butt terms) and sometimes don’t. And there seems to be no easy way to determine ahead of time exactly how much seat space I’ll have.

      In contrast, when I fly with my dog, I can always easily find the under-seat dimensions that her carrier must adhere to.

      • It’s a little bit of a hassle, but seatguru is a great site to look at for getting seat dimensions. You have to find out what type of plane you are flying on from the website where you buy the ticket and then look it up. I’ve found it very handy. Sometimes I pay a few extra dollars for a different flight just to get the extra inch in my seat.
        http://www.seatguru.com/

  14. “I don’t love touching strangers but the public transportation system in New York City seems to be built around this concept so it’s not like it’s unheard of to be in close proximity to your seat mate in a public transportation situation.”

    And how. I think Louis CK said this one best: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r1CZTLk-Gk

    The relevant portion starts at the 2:00 mark.

  15. The seat problem is my least favorite part of flying. I don’t take up 2 seats, but I might use 5-10% of my neighbor’s space. Awkward.

  16. im a big guy, 6’5″ 350+, i know when i fly im probably gonna have to buy an extra seat, and i accept it, the only thing i dont agree with is, the last time a flew was with my wife who is normal weight, and only 5’1″ and my 5 year old toothpick son, and i was forced to buy an extra seat, even though we all sat together, in one row, and he sat next to me, and i brought that up, but was told even though he is 5 he is a customer and i was possibly going to encroach on his space, that i didnt agree with at all, i could understand if iwas next to a stranger, but not my son and wife.

  17. Having to lift people for my job for twenty years I can tell you that no people are not baggage. People are not to be treated as baggage. They are human beings who deserve dignity no matter how large or small. I have worked with people up to 650 lbs alone who were bed bound. My 140 pound body is breaking down after twenty years like it had been working as a baggage handler but my mind and heart knows these people are human beings and deserve dignity. It was disturbing to other passengers when we were told we were over the weight limit and the little lady who volunteered to get off weight around 120. There are certain laws of physics that cannot be ignored when flying. Alliyah would have been upset too but the bottom line was there was too much weight for her plane to stay in the air. There have been times I would have rather sat next to a person with a belt extender rather than the person who plunked down next to me. Even if a person is under 200 pounds they can still take up a lot of space by being rude. At least people with belt extenders are usually aware they are taking up more space already and they try to be polite.
    A fair cutoff would be 250-300. Most horse back rides are not trying to be rude when they impose a weight limit for the safety of the horses. They dont usually ask someone to prove it unless it is really clear they are not being honest and lying about their weight.

    • I absolutely agree with you that people are not baggage and I appreciate the work that you’ve done over your lifetime to help people of many sizes.

      The problem with a weight cut off is that it doesn’t have anything to do with the idea that I’m buying an amount of space. I’m almost 300 pounds but because of the shape of my body I fit in an airplane seat without overlapping. Meanwhile, as you mentioned, I’ve sat by thin men with very broad shoulders who absolutely encroached on my space and seemed to be very entitled about doing it.

      The idea of the plane carrying too much weight is quite separate from fat bodies taking up space, and the safety of horses is very different from riding in planes so I don’t want to confuse things that are totally separate, I do think that the airlines need to come up with solutions for the reality that passengers come in different shapes and sizes.

      ~Ragen

      • Thanks for separating weight from space, because they’re two separate issues. While airlines talk about safety concerns, none of the measures they actually put in place address safety or the weight capacity of the plane. Requiring someone to buy an extra seat (which they may or may not get) because of the width of their body has nothing to do with their weight.

        Noah has apparently seen it happen where the plane was over the weight limit. I don’t doubt that, but I’ve never either experienced it or heard from anyone other than him who has, and none of the airlines’ policies for fat customers actually address it. Making me pay for an extra seat on the other side of the plane and then putting another person in it doesn’t actually reduce the overall weight of the plane.

        A muscular guy a foot taller than I am may well weigh more than I do, but take up less space horizontally (assuming he’s not sitting with his legs wide apart like a jerk). If my presence on the plane is a safety hazard because my weight is more than some “seat limit”, so is his.

        If airlines were to say, “Look, we can’t have an average passenger weight any higher than X in order for the plane to fly safely,” and then required an extra seat purchase for passengers whose weight is or is close to 2X, that would be reasonable (assuming the seat stays empty and they’re refunded if the flight isn’t full).

        I would want to see the math to know they weren’t pulling a weight out of thin air, and I think it would be unreasonable to charge extra for a passenger who is X+5lbs, since there will be plenty of passengers weighing X-5 or X-20 who make the average work out. I don’t know whether an appropriate cut-off would be 2X or 1.5X or what, but airlines manage to get planes off the ground on a regular basis without crashing due to too many people or too many people packing their rock collection, so presumably they can figure it out.

        Also, if you’re traveling as a group, the average should be applied across the group. (Let’s say you need an average weight of under 250 lbs. If two 260-lb adults travel with a 60-lb child, there should be no reason for them as a group to have to buy any extra seats.)

  18. This is about money and nothing more. A few people complain and the airlines think “lets find a way to charge more.” That is really all it is about. If they could figure out how to get away with charging more for crying children with no public outrage they would. For the most part everyone hates to see children cry on a plane even if it drives us all crazy, but nobody really cares if fat people get charged more. Remember almost everyone thinks all fat people choose to be fat.

  19. My mom was here recently and this topic came up. She works for southwest. She kept saying, “It is a safety issue, not just for other passengers but for the overweight person themselves.” I kept asking her to explain further. How is it a safety issue? She couldn’t answer. She just kept repeating that it was but could give me no further information on HOW it was.

  20. I have to say, reading the comments section made, me for once, not regret reading them or hate the internet. I just read another article about this topic before reading this one and a lot of the comments there were rude, inconsiderate, hateful, and hurtful and the only reply I could think of for some was “yeah, separate but equal, that always worked before.” So thanks everyone, it was uniquely nice to read respectful and courteous comments.
    I have never been on a plane, I am absolutely terrified of them, but I can’t imagine that I would actually fit in the seats. Beside my fear of flying though, I am fairly freaked out by the prospect of the humiliation that could come with trying to fly well being my size. I feel like it is very much a shaming process, even if that was not the intent, it is very much how it is played out. why not have a couple extra seats, for a more expensive price, on a plane that you can buy a head of time if you know that that’s a problem, or have the seat belt extenders available to just go get instead of having to alert everyone around you that you need one by asking the flight attendant. I feel that it boils down to the fact that it’s okay to humiliate fat people so no one is really trying to make it different.

  21. My husband and I are taking an Alaska cruise this summer and it will be my first flight. I am terrified!! We are both ” persons of size” and I have agonized over if we will have a problem! I have researched our flight seat size and bought first class for the bigger seats. I will fit fine, but I am afraid he will fit tight. It says that the seat is 21 inches wide. We found a seat that measures the same and he could set, but it was tight. Will they make him leave the plane? Or will they say we have to have three seats in coach? Or will they say he is too large to fly? When I booked our flight I told the lady at delta my fear and she said he would fit no problem. I guess I am looking for reassurance that everything will be ok!!!! Help me please!!! Thanks!!!!

    • I’ve just gotten back from flying, and my size-to-seat issues sound similar. I fit in my seat, but it was quite tight. On a couple of legs of the flight, there were a couple of people who were also larger, but differently proportioned (i.e., I carry a lot of bulk in my shoulders and my hips; some carried more in their waists).

      In determining “fit,” the airline I flew (Delta) was looking for 2 things: one, that the passenger was able to secure their seat belt properly (with an airline-provided extender was fine); two, that the aisle armrest was able to be lowered. As I was flying next to strangers, I personally wanted the other armrest(s) down as well — but as a matter of creating some personal space between me and the passenger next to me. There was at least one time where a larger passenger was in an aisle seat with what appeared to be a partner (husband/boyfriend/etc.) next to her. Though they put the aisle armrest down, the armrest between them was left up for most of the flight (including landing), and this was checked on but not commented on by the flight crew.

      I’m not sure if my flight experience was representative, but that’s what it was. Also, as I’m remembering… in the first class seats I saw on my Delta planes, the seats were not right next to each other. There was a console for drink holders and whatnot between them — not huge, but enough to give a few extra inches for clearance.


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