Flying, while a miraculous and very useful invention, kind of sucks. It sucks because the cabin of the plane perpetually smells like stale body odor and farts, you always get stuck next to the crying baby, and now they even charge you money to check a bag. Don’t even get me started on the sassy flight attendants, the chalky peanuts or the airlines that charge you for a can of soda! Flying is uncomfortable because the usual rituals of “personal space” that we abide by every day are grossly broken. Whether it’s somebody’s knee pressing against your back, a toddler kicking your seat, or a fat person sitting next to you, it’s not comfortable to fly, no matter what your size. (If you always fly first class, please stop reading here: The cattle call of coach doesn’t apply to you, kthxbai.)
My friend Kenlie, at All The Weigh, is suing Southwest Airlines after being publicly humiliated after being told by gate agents that she’d need two seats to fly. The problem in this is that she flew with them several times before, never needing to purchase a second seat and fitting just fine. Kenlie said in a recent blog post, “The problem I have with Southwest is not that they may want me to purchase two seats. It’s that sometimes they want that, and other times they don’t. I don’t know about you, but I fly a lot. And paying double because a gate agent may or may not have something against overweight people is not realistic…nor should it be necessary.” By the way, did I mention she’s lost over 100 pounds? So I’m pretty sure this isn’t a “fat acceptance” law suit, if that’s what you’re thinking. Oh, and this happened to Kevin Smith, awhile ago too.
I’m obese, but I still fit into an airplane seat. I’ve never needed a seat belt extension, but not a single flight goes by that I don’t scuttle through the aisle, hoping my seatmate isn’t looking up at me and thinking, “Oh great, I’m sitting next to the fat person.” Airplane seats are not generous. At 17″ across, they’re small. I’m not small. The vast majority of Americans are not small. But if I fit in that seat, and the belt buckles, and the arm rest goes down, I’m not paying for an extra seat. I can’t even imagine how Kenlie felt the day that the gate agent publicly denounced her size, rudely. Weight, like illness, dandruff, bad breath, panty lines, break ups and layoffs, should be discussed privately and tactfully. How would you react if a gate agent said to you in front of a line full of people, “Well, look at you. Obviously you need two seats.” ?
This is obviously a controversial issue, and I see many sides to it. On one hand, sure, why should somebody have to sit next to somebody much larger, if their personal space they paid for is being encroached on? Nobody wants to be pressed up against someone else’s roll of fat. On the other hand, if toddlers and infants fly free, yet can kick seats, drool, scream and jabber on their parent’s laps, isn’t that encroaching in my space? I want to eat my dusty peanuts in peace, damnit. How about the guy whose 6’5 and whose legs press up against my seat? Better yet, how about that asshole we’ve all sat behind who ALWAYS leans his chair all the way back within the first five minutes of take off? And oh, don’t forget about the classic in-flight drunk. He’s five vodka tonics in and we’ve all heard about his ex-girlfriend and that one time in Cabo before the “fasten seatbelt” sign is turned off.
Here’s my opinion, and yes, it’s biased because I’m fat. If obese people are required to purchase larger seats or double seats because they clearly do not safely fit, that’s fine, fair and logical. But along with that, let’s make a standard of purchase for other “special” types of passengers as well. I want babies and kids in a sound and smell proof chamber. I want people who don’t believe in deodorant in the back, with the air vents on full blast. I want the drunks anywhere but the emergency exit aisle, preferably next to the emo kids with headphones on, and they can pay a little more for those extra four inches of leg room. And while we’re at it, I expect a $3 refund from the airline if my inflight magazine’s crossword puzzle has already been played. Because you know, that’s part of what I paid for, and if they get to charge me for a glass of water, I get to charge them for having to count the dandruff flakes on the head of the person in front of me. This is all unreasonable, obviously, so it points to the bigger problem. The communication. It is unfair, unjust and unconstitutional to not establish the guidelines of “persons of size” and what or what not constitutes your ability to fit in one seat. If we need to have one of those gate side “You must be this big to ride on this ride…” signs, so be it. Just make it more discreet than a “Well look at you. Obviously you need two seats.”
What are your thoughts on this issue? As more and more Americans become “too fat to fly”, this issue will emerge much more frequently in the media – and it’s sure to get heated. What do you think? Should fat people always have to pay for two seats? Should there be a better, universal standard of measurement? Here’s a deal for you. Next time I fly, I’ll make a little more room in my seat by wearing Spanx. In exchange, you wear deodorant. It’s that simple.