Weighty Matters

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Fat Rights and Airplane Seats

on May 29, 2013

I will be without Internet service at home for awhile.  The modem is shot.  I’m switching Internet and television services to a different provider but with an upcoming business trip and other work responsibilities, the first day I can be at home for a few hours for the tech to come and do the work is a week from Friday.  Last night I dragged out my old 20 foot phone cord and tried to go online the old-fashioned way via a dial-up number on AOL.  The connection is spotty at best.  So, I’ll post when I can during the day and hope you’ll all bear with me.  If anyone send me an email, it might be awhile before I can retrieve it.  I can only do that from the home computer and last night the service was simply too uncooperative.  My apologies!

Yesterday I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine who is also a travel agent.  She booked my trips to Alaska and Hawaii.  I haven’t seen her in a few months so the weight loss since last time is pretty noticeable.  I remarked on how much more comfortable it is for me to fly and probably more comfortable for whomever sits next to me on the plane too.  This sparked a conversation about overweight people and airplane seats.  You might remember a few  years ago director/writer/actor Kevin Smith was told by Southwest that he needed to buy a second seat.  Other people have been taken off of planes because of their size and, I gather, because a second adjacent seat wasn’t available for them to buy.

This never happened to me but I can safely say that if I had ever been approached by a flight attendant or gate staff for this, I would have absolutely shriveled and died inside from humiliation.  I will say that I have always done what I could to alleviate inconvenience and discomfort for fellow passengers.  I always took an aisle or window seat and squeezed myself over as far as possible from the person in the middle seat, if there was one.  I used to fly one particular airline a lot.  While they didn’t have a first class, they did offer a couple of rows of “big front seats” for extra money and I paid the premium for those.  For my own comfort, if the flight was more than three hours, I also spent more and flew first class.  Still, whenever I was in a Coach seat, I felt bad about the people I might be crowding.

For many years I needed to request a seat belt extender from the flight attendants.  I’d like to thank all of those people who always handled this request with discretion, quietly slipping me the extender once I was seated.  They made it a lot less embarrassing for me than it could have been otherwise.  I appreciate it so much.

My friend asked me how I felt about airlines sometimes asking overweight passengers to purchase a second seat.  There are individuals and organizations who decry this practice as discrimination and proclaim Fat Rights!  Upon very careful consideration, I don’t think this is discriminatory.  If I, or someone else, is too big to fit in a single seat, then I think we should buy two.  My friend and I agreed that the person in the next seat has a right to be comfortable in the whole seat they paid for without someone else’s body overflowing onto them or pressing against them throughout the entire flight.

I believe it would be difficult to establish guidelines, however.  How could staff make the decision as to which person to charge extra?  I don’t think you can go by weight itself.   A person 5’5″ who weighs 250 pounds is going to fit differently than a 6′ tall person of the same weight.  Do they wrap a tape measure around a person’s butt and stomach to determine whether they fit in the seat without overflow?  Do they go by body mass index (BMI)?  That’s a really knotty challenge.

When the situation arises, I believe that airline staff can and should handle the matter with professionalism and discretion.  It’s difficult enough for the overweight person to be singled out.  Regardless of how you feel about obesity and personal responsibility, in the words of Plato, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

What do you think?

3 responses to “Fat Rights and Airplane Seats

  1. Caitlin D says:

    Verry nice blog you have here

  2. Skye says:

    A friend of mine who is super obese (450 lbs, 5’9″) by choice will buy two seats because a) he will be more comfortable, and b) he feels it’s right for the other passenger(s). Because he chooses to be overweight (he has a gainer fetish), he also chooses to not be affected by other people’s opinions and comments and, through him, I learned to be less self-conscious.

    • bhnmt says:

      Skye, I love your friend without ever having met him.

      I’ve never had to sit next to someone on a flight that made me feel uncomfortable because of their weight. I have had to sit next to plenty of jerky people made me uncomfortable because they were thoughtless, self-centered, and rude. I’ll take the thoughtful obese person any day.

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