For many fatties air travel is one of our least favorite things to do – second only to going to the doctor. Why is this? Because we never know what to expect. We never know how we will be treated. So even if the trip is uneventful, you spend the whole time waiting for a fat-phobic employee of the airline to come up and ruin your day.
Soooooo many stories out there about fatties being treated badly by airlines – pulled off of flights, unexpectedly asked to purchase a 2nd seat, buying a 2nd seat only to find the airline has assigned those 2 seats in separate rows, etc.
One of the most frustrating things is the unpredictability. It is clear that, like the acceptable size of carry-on luggage, the acceptable size of the ass getting onboard is strictly up to the people at the gate. Have you ever seen anyone force a passenger to stuff their huge piece of carry-on into the little “your luggage must fit in this” box? I haven’t. Why don’t they have an airplane seat at the gate, with a sign that says “your ass must fit in this”? To me, if there is no set standard or if the standard is not uniformly enforced – it’s discrimination. And as NAAFA will tell you – discrimination is wrong. Period.
And I love that the airlines will all tell you it’s about safety – not about money. Right. So when 2 fat people traveling on Southwest are forced to buy an extra seat each, instead of allowing them to share 1 extra seat between them – it’s not about the money. Southwest will tell you that it’s because they can’t guaranty you 3 seats together – but they let the fatties preboard – so WTF.
Then you get into the issue of people who spill over seats in other ways – people with broad shoulders; people who put their seats back (so you spend the flight with your nose in their hair product); people with children; etc.
And speaking of safety – what about people who are allowed to hold their young child? Excuse me? You can’t do that in a car —- because (duh) it’s NOT SAFE. And you and your child have to be very wee for you both to fit exclusively in your seat area.
How do I handle it? Well, a lot of times, my husband and I upgrade to first class (from accumulated miles) — and here’s an interesting tidbit. The seatbelts in first class are shorter than those in coach! I can sometimes get away without an extender in coach, never in first class. I guess fatties are not supposed to be in first class. And even in first class – there is not enough room for me to properly use my tray table. Nice.
If we can’t upgrade, I get an extra seat. This is when the fun begins. The online systems are not set up for you to easily purchase that extra seat – because they want a name to go with that seat, and they don’t want the same name for two seats. When you check in, you go through the same thing about – who is this extra seat for (I usually tell them it’s for my other butt cheek). Then you go through security, and get to explain to them that the extra seat is for your other butt cheek. And again when you board. So once you get the seat (that the airline is so adamant you need), you have to justify to them why you got that extra seat – over and over again.
So usually by the time I get on the plane. I’m already not happy with the world in general. But now I get to deal with other people impinging on my space –the space I had to pay double for! I think if you want to put your seat back – you should have to pay for the seat behind you – because when you put your seat back, there is no way you are not making the person behind you uncomfortable (which I believe is why folks don’t want to sit next to us fatties – so how come, they are okay with someone’s hair gel in their nose, but not okay with my softnesses touching them? It’s a mystery). The kid behind me starts kicking the seat. The flight attendants keep running the cart into my arm because the aisles are so narrow. Oh and even though we put up the armrests – they still stick out and make it really uncomfortable if you really do spread over into that other seat. So even though I have done as requested by the airlines (for safety reasons, mind you) – the airline still cannot deliver a comfortable trip to me.
Maybe the airlines should just admit to EVERYBODY that they will get you where you are going (on time or not) but that it will not necessarily be comfortable. That way, if you don’t like sitting next to a fatty – YOU can buy the extra seat – since YOU are the one afraid of being touched (despite the fact that fat is not catching, you know) – and then YOU can explain that the second seat is because you are a fat-phobe, and you can’t risk contact with “us”.
Now, the airlines are making all kind of nasty noises about weighing passengers, charging a “fat tax” on tickets, etc. To understand why this is so very inappropriate, I urge you to check out (and join) Association for Air Passengers Rights (AAPR) at flyfriendlyskies.com. They are great fat-allies. As AAPRS explainted at the 2009 NAAFA Convention, airlines count on there being an average weight for each seat – so while you may be above average, they aren’t giving credits to those who are under the average, and they aren’t giving you a credit when you carry less weight in luggage. It’s all about the money and it’s all about an attitude that they can discriminate against the fatties and get away with it.
I personally try to avoid using Southwest Airlines – because I feel they are the most egregious when it comes to fat discrimination. HOWEVER, they are also the only airline that if you buy a second seat and they are not fully booked on that flight, you can get the cost of that second seat back; so I can totally understand why some people prefer to fly with them. Granted, it is a major hassle to get that refund (funny, they can’t just credit it back to your credit card when you get off the plane, and funny, they can’t tell if the plane is going to be full – even right before the flight). You have to hang onto your documentation, you need to get the paperwork from Southwest right there at the airport (and funny, they never seem to have it handy! — don’t let them skate, they made you buy that extra seat – you make them give you the paperwork). But at least, you have the chance of getting your money back from them.
And I encourage you to keep apprised of the current rulings concerning air travel. I had a Southwest attendant tell me that I couldn’t sit in the exit row if I needed a seat extender – that it was an FAA ruling. NOT. The FAA leaves it up to the airline to determine who should be sitting in the exit rows – and did you know, they are supposed to make sure that if you wear glasses, that you can see well enough without them to read the instructions (ever see anyone check on that?); and the FAA warns that many small women are not strong enough to handle the exit doors. I know if I needed an exit door open – I’d want a BIG strong person there operating them. How about you?
And if it’s really all more than you want to deal with – may I recommend train travel? Perfect if you’re not in a hurry to get there; and (so far) much more fat friendly.