Just when you thought flying couldn’t get any more humiliating and uncomfortable for a fatty, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) drops a new one on us.  They are now saying that people who need seatbelt extenders on planes should only use the ones supplied by the airline.


They claim that they are concerned for everyone’s safety.  Okay, that’s fair, isn’t it?

The FAA is worried that your personal seatbelt extender is not FAA Certified.  But Bill Fabrey (Amplestuff) points out that the seatbelt extenders he has been selling for over fifteen years are made by the same manufacturer that the airlines use and are, indeed, FAA Certified.  Whew, what a relief, right?

But, says the FAA, is your personal seatbelt extender well maintained? Because you know, us fatties, we don’t care enough about our own fat asses to not use a seatbelt extender that is frayed or stretched out.

Excuse me, but balls.  As I’ve said before, fatties want to keep their own fat asses safe just as much as other people want to keep own asses safe.

So here is a sample of an airline seatbelt safety checklist, indicating your restraint should be replaced or repaired:


WEBBING:     Frayed, torn, creased or crushed; Severe fading or discoloring

HARDWARE:  Hooks or end fittings checked for excess wear; bent, inoperable springs or latches; corrosion or rust; Buckle inoperational; connector at improper angle; buckle shows excess wear or deformity; Connector is not operational with buckle; connector shows excess wear or bending; corrosion or rust

STITCHES:  Broken or missing stitches; Severe fading or discoloring; Inconsistent stitch pattern may indicate rewebbing by an unqualified company, and may be illegal or unsafe

TSO TAGS:  TSO tags are missing or illegible; Age of TSO tag is 10 years or more

AmSafe, a major provider of airline seatbelts and extenders, recommends seatbelts/extender assemblies undergo a yearly inspection, offers the following checklist:


 1.1        Insert connector into buckle. Connector engages.

1.2        Release connector by lifting the buckle cover. Connector releases. The buckle cover should return to the closed position.

1.3        Repeat step 1.1 and 1.2 four times The connector engages and the buckle cover returns to the closed position

1.4        Adjust webbing in the buckle by pulling on the free end of webbing.  Webbing must adjust and should not exhibit excessive web fray or any cuts.

1.5        Repeat step 1.4 four times Webbing must adjust and should not exhibit excessive web fray or any cuts.

 This is not rocket science, folks.  Seems the average person can determine if their own extender meets the above criteria, and a flight attendant could quickly verify the same – all you are checking is (i) does it look okay; and (ii) does it work.

Also, the airlines still encourage the use of personal child restraint systems (CRS) for small children and infants.  WTF?

All child restraint systems must bear the following two required labels:


 1.         This restraint system conforms to all applicable federal motor vehicle safety conditions.

2.         This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft. (in red lettering) (NOTE: Labels that indicate U.S. or Foreign Government approval or show the seat was manufactured under the standards of the United Nations are also valid.)

In addition to the standard CRS mentioned above, children between 22 to 44 pounds and 40 inches or less may use an Aircraft Safety Device (ACSD) for added security. Currently the AmSafe CARES Restraint is the only approved ACSD and must bear a label that reads:


If the concern is that people may be using extenders that are not FAA certified, why not just require appropriate tags (as they do with CRS or ACSD)?

Now, I’m not the kind of person who is embarrassed about asking for a seatbelt extender; but some people find it very embarrassing.  My experience, generally, is the flight attendant slips you the extender like you are participating in the delivery of some illicit goods – very hush-hush.  However, some people have reported having flight attendants shouting to find out who needed the extender.  Small wonder, many fatties prefer to carry their own extender.

And what happens if the airline doesn’t have enough seatbelt extenders on the plane?  One of two things:  Everyone will get to wait while the airline obtains more seatbelt extenders, or the person or persons who can’t buckle up will have to leave the plane.  Yeah, that wouldn’t be humiliating.

Since I have never ever heard of and couldn’t find anything about someone being injured because a personal seatbelt extender did not work, I don’t buy all this “safety” happy-crappy.

So what’s really going on here?  Who is pushing for this?  Like flying isn’t stressful enough for fat folks.




  1. Why is the FAA even be concerned about this? I’m pretty sure that if someone got hurt because their extender failed it would’ve made national news. Should I bring out Lobo the Great Lobby-Detection Labradoodle for a sniff?

    The question remains; are the people on board the plane passangers receiving a service or cargo that’s just getting moved around?

  2. I was most unhappy about this new rule. I had a preview of it several years ago when I flew home from speaking at a conference. I had a flight attendant (who was very new) tell me I couldn’t use my own seatbelt extender, that I HAD to use the one provided by the plane. I argued but to no avail.

    I had four different flights that trip. On three of the four, I used my seatbelt extender without issue, but on one, I was told it was against the rules. The flight attendant wasn’t mean but it was frustrating to have this discussion, and embarrassing to do it in front of everyone around me. And she didn’t care that other flights didn’t require this.

    Sounds like it was a preview of things to come. Ugh. I can ask for what I need now, but before I bought my own, my experiences asking for an extender varied from unremarkable to highly embarrassing and indiscreet. On rare occasions I faked having my belt on and no one really checked. I’m more able to advocate for myself now and wouldn’t take this chance anymore, but I betcha lots of fat folk would.

    That’s what’s going to happen….some fat people are going to fake wearing a seatbelt (a big risk in turbulence or an accident, both to themselves and those around them), or they will cram themselves in a regular belt (which will be a strain on that belt and may not be safe, not to mention horribly uncomfortable for that person). How does this rule improve safety?

    I’m frustrated that I spent all that money for my extenders and wouldn’t be allowed to use them, despite the fact that they are FAA approved in the past, in great shape, and JUST like the ones on the planes. If it were truly a safety issue I’d be okay with this, but it’s not. UGH. I think I will be subtle in using my extenders (when needed; on some planes I don’t need them). If you aren’t obvious in putting them on and then pull your shirt down over them, most attendants won’t notice you have one.

  3. In a fit of pique I stole an extender from an airline a couple of years ago (and feel completely ok about it). Does that count as “my” extender or “theirs”?

    • I don’t remember where I saw it, but in doing the research for this post, I found a site where airline employees were commenting on the new rule – and I was amazed that many flight attendants seemed to be oblivious to the idea that fat people had their own extenders. They were sure that fatties with extenders must have stolen them from other flights. So I guess it doesn’t matter where the extender came from, the crew will think it’s “theirs” – but if they didn’t hand it to you, it’s “yours”. Ahhhhh, my brain hurts now.

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