F.U.nited

I’m busy as hell and really don’t feel like ruining my day by thinking too hard about this, but I can’t ignore the news that United Airlines is pulling a Southwest and instituting a Fatties Pay More policy. 

Under the new policy, obese passengers — defined as unable to lower the arm rest and buckle a seat belt with one extension belt — will still be reaccommodated, at no extra charge, to two empty seats if there is space available.

If, however, the airplane is full, they will be bumped from the flight and may have to purchase a second ticket, at the same price as the original fare, Urbanski said.

So, it’s not even just that you’ll have to pay more for a second seat, unless you’re lucky enough to be on a half-empty flight. If the flight is full — which they ALL are these days, because hi, we’re in a recession and airlines have been cutting flights like mad — and the attendant at the counter decides you’re too fat for one seat, you won’t be allowed to fucking fly. You’ll pay more for the privilege of missing your flight and having to wait around for one that’s not already overbooked, which… good luck with that. 

Craig Newman at the Chicago Sun-Times’s Shiny Objects blog offered this surprisingly good response:

Here’s the big question, especially for gate agents: How do you determine who’s too big to go in one seat? Are they supposed to pull people out of line who look a little too hefty? Will calipers and Body Mass Index charts be issued and hanging next to the luggage check scale? Are there measurements involved? How soon til the first discrimination lawsuit is filed? And will there be discounts for the svelte fliers?

Who’s next on the target list? People who snore while sleeping are charged extra to be put in a seclusion zone? People flying with crying children charged extra for a blast of thorazine and noise dampeners? Where does it stop?

I mean, seriously, they’ve got this handy definition of who’s too fat for one seat all ready to answer that inevitable question — anyone who can’t lower the armrest and buckle the seatbelt with only one extender — but how are they supposed to determine that at the gate? Is there going to be a mock seat set up for fat people to try out, the same way they’ve got those little metal cages to measure carry-on baggage? Will fatties be allowed on the planes, only to be removed if they flunk the test? ‘Cause boy, both of those sound like terrific options. 

Furthermore, before I get to why that definition of “obese” is total horseshit, I’d just like to point out that it’s hugely fucking sexist. Fat men are more likely to carry their weight out front, and even with a pretty substantial gut, you can get a seatbelt buckled underneath it. The armrest and seatbelt restrictions are mostly going to affect people with wide hips — i.e., women, a hell of a lot more often than not. Al is a full foot taller than me and outweighs me by close to a buck — he takes up a LOT more space than I do, and is a lot more uncomfortable flying. But my hips spread out underneath the armrests and run the risk of accidentally touching the poor slob next to me. His don’t. I wouldn’t have to gain too much weight to have trouble lowering the arm rests. Al would either have to gain a shitload of weight or get an entirely different body shape. I realize not every woman is pear-shaped and not every man is hipless, but on average, it’s just common sense: who’s more likely to have broad hips? 

As for why it’s total horseshit, the kind of people who call an airline to complain about sitting next to a fatty (more on them in a moment) are not just complaining about people who can’t lower an armrest and get buckled up with a single extender. They’re undoubtedly also complaining about fat people who don’t need extenders at all, fat people who can lower the armrests, but not without their hips and thighs squishing out under them, fat people who can pretty much fit in the seats yet still stubbornly insist on being fat at everyone around them. Al and I both meet those standards, but that sure doesn’t mean we can actually confine either of our bodies to the precise dimensions of a single coach seat. So it also sure doesn’t mean nobody’s ever called up an airline after being stuck next to us for a few hours — or that nobody ever would, if they haven’t already. Many of the people I hear from who need even one extender are already in the habit of either buying two seats or not flying at all, because it is fucking painful, physically and emotionally, to deal with wedging themselves in between those narrow armrests, and potentially between two narrow-minded strangers. How many people will actually be affected by the armrest and multiple extenders rule? The number of people who buy a single coach ticket without being able to lower the armrests or get by without multiple extenders has got to be tiny, relative to the number of assholes who rant about getting stuck next to Fatty Fatty 2 x 4.

Which is absolutely not to say that anyone, of any size, should have to buy more than one seat — Canada’s got it right — just that when you take the number of people whose bodies don’t meet that particular standard and subtract the number of people who already routinely buy two seats, fly first class, or find alternate transportation, how many are actually left? My fat gut says probably not that many. Which means that, even with this policy, the same people who are outraged about having to sit next to fatties will continue to have to, and continue to be outraged about it — only now there’s a discriminatory, humiliating policy in place that will A) penalize a number of fat people in the first place, and B) encourage those assholes to make a public stink about how their fat neighbors should have to buy two seats, regardless of whether said fat neighbors technically qualify for that penalty under the airline’s guidelines. Which are horseshit and sexist, if I hadn’t mentioned that.

Not to mention, as we’ve discussed here before, very tall people or very broad-shouldered people are just as miserable in those tiny seats themselves and just as likely to encroach on their neighbors’ space as fat folks. But making them buy two seats would be discrimination! Making fatties buy two seats is merely offering us extra motivation to lose weight, which is healthy! It’s totally for our own good!

Fillyjonk just made a point in an e-mail to me that I can’t BELIEVE I have never thought of or heard before. To wit:

What we end up hearing every time this comes up is “they should sell wider seats at a premium instead.” (Or, as Dan rather adorably put it, “if airlines want to sell seats based on space, they need to offer a distribution of seats with a distribution of prices, with a mean seat width based on the mean width of the population.”) Of course, they already do that — it’s called first class, and saying that fat people should pay extra for it is no less problematic than saying they should pay extra for another seat. What gets overlooked is that, while there already exists an option that accommodates a fat ass at a premium, there also already exists an option that GUARANTEES THAT A FAT ASS WILL NOT IMPINGE ON YOUR SPACE at a premium. Why shouldn’t people who want breathing room on an airline be the ones to pay for the privilege? In economy, you pays your money and you takes your chances. Want to take fewer chances? Pay more money. Can’t pay enough money to be comfortable? Welcome to American capitalism.

Fillyjonk is so smart. If you’re so terrorized by the thought of having your thigh touch someone else’s (and don’t get me wrong — I don’t LIKE that anymore than anybody else does, I’m just realistic about why it happens, which is that THE SEATS ARE TOO SMALL FOR PRACTICALLY EVERYBODY), just buy yourself a first class ticket! Or two seats for yourself! What? You say you can’t afford that? NEITHER CAN THE FAT CHICK NEXT TO YOU. What? Being next to her means your ride is uncomfortable? SO IS HERS, and you’re not the one sitting next to a total asshole!

As it turns out, that fat chick is a human being who paid for her coach seat just like you did, which means you are entitled to precisely $0 worth of extra comfort and/or services, and precisely no guarantee that you will find the person sitting next to you delightful in all ways. You want more, pay for more. You can’t afford it, take the train; Amtrak’s coach seats are significantly wider, with loads more leg room, plus you can get up and walk around or go sit in the lounge car if you’re disgusted by your seatmate. What? You don’t have time to take the train? You’re busy? You’re important? You have places to be? SAME GOES FOR THE FAT CHICK. This, “just pay more or find another option” shit sounds terribly classist and let-them-eat-cakey, you say? IT DOES TO HER, TOO. Get it?

No, of course you don’t get it. You never will. Because your answer to all of that is, “But I’m a thin person, which makes me good! If some individual must pay a penalty because the airlines are so goddamned cheap they insist on cramming ten pounds of passenger in a five pound bag, it should obviously be the fat person, who is fat and therefore deserving of punishment! Duh!” 

Here’s the most heartening note I can think to end this on. A United spokesperson told Reuters UK, by way of explaining the new policy, “Last year we had 700 complaints from passengers who had to share their seats.” And although my first response to that was, “Christ, I hate people,” my second was, “Wait, only 700? In a year? And that’s enough to change the policy?”

Shapelings, I bet we can get 700 complaints to United in a week. Go get ‘em.

464 thoughts on “F.U.nited

  1. I’m flying United next weekend, actually. I think I’ll bring this up with the desk agent, the gate agent, the flight attendants, the captain and everyone I see wearing a United uniform. And then I’ll write the letter complaining about this policy that includes a detailed description of how the employees responded to me, whether good and bad. We’re serious about this, folks.

  2. What? Being next to her means your ride is uncomfortable? SO IS HERS, and you’re not the one sitting next to a total asshole!

    Oh my god, you are great.

  3. As for why it’s total horseshit, the kind of people who call an airline to complain about sitting next to a fatty (more on them in a moment) are not just complaining about people who can’t lower an armrest and get buckled up with a single extender. They’re undoubtedly also complaining about fat people who don’t need extenders at all, fat people who can lower the armrests, but not without their hips and thighs squishing out under them, fat people who can pretty much fit in the seats yet still stubbornly insist on being fat at everyone around them.

    That kind of people are also complaining about Simon Cowell even considering giving Susan Boyle a record deal.

    If they can’t afford first class, stick ‘em all in cargo with the suitcases, I say.

  4. Yeah, this was a shit sandwich for me. My employers preferred airlines are Southwest and United, so this pretty much means that there I could very well experience job-related consequences of this ridiculous fuckery, in the event I have to travel for work and get snagged for double-ticketing. What a crock.

    Also, ditto what FJ said: you are great.

  5. I’m remembering a heartbreaking conversation with a woman at the PCA conference last week. She was fearing that by the time the next conference rolled around she wouldn’t be able to fit the seats, and she clearly loved the conference and being able to hear fat studies presentations (along with the other).

    It spurred a conversation with my partner on the flight home about how we talk about these things. What is the social contract we have around access to services.

    Unfortunately, our government is slow to enter the conversation about discrimination against teh fatties. So we need to start bringing it to them.

  6. I used to fly when I was in college (and a good hundred pounds lighter, though still not small), and never enjoyed it then. My fiance and I might have to fly in August or September for an interview, and, frankly, I’m terrified. Not of flying or of the discomfort inherent in flying, but of the potential humiliation if I don’t fit into the airline seat and people say something to me or don’t let me stay on the plane. Absolutely. Terrified.

    I’ve shared this with my fiance, and he was pretty comforting. He’s bigger than I am (though mostly gut, I admit) and he’s not had a problem. To be on the safe side, though, I’m going to ask him to book us two seats together with no one sitting beside us (aisle, or whatnot), so that we don’t run the risk of being glared at for taking up “too much room”.

    I should be terrified of flying because we’re tons of miles above the ground. Instead I’m terrified of being humiliated in a very public place because I’m fat.

  7. K this is totally not united-related or even airline-related, but I figgered I’d ask forgiveness, and then ask me question anyway. Can some of you wonderful fabulous people point me to an entry, or give me straight-up pointers, about how to deflect, distract, or otherwise discourage friends from conversational weight-related self-shaming? And where’s a good entry, or conversational starting-point, to send people to Shapely Prose?

  8. Essentially, what is going on here is that by penalizing the fat and rewarding the complainers-about-fat, United is deliberately cultivating a customer base who are bound and determined to support their too-tiny-seat plan (which doesn’t really work for anyone, thin folks included). They are choosing to indulge a widespread prejudice, because it distracts from the fact that their system does not work.

    So basically, complainers, United is playing you. And you are falling for it. Shame on you.

  9. I should be terrified of flying because we’re tons of miles above the ground. Instead I’m terrified of being humiliated in a very public place because I’m fat.

    Well said.

  10. They are choosing to indulge a widespread prejudice, because it distracts from the fact that their system does not work.
    So basically, complainers, United is playing you. And you are falling for it. Shame on you.

    Repeated for emphasis of even more brilliance I hadn’t thought of.

  11. Abbi: That’s my approach. Just so you know, the seats on the right side of an aisle seems to have slightly longer seat belts than the seats on the left side of the aisle.

  12. I thought this was an interesting take on the policy and a possible solution… http://www.slate.com/id/2216304/

    It’s a hard question. Are you paying to get from A to B and should that be the same price for everyone getting from A to B? Sure. But are you also paying for a certain amount of space from A to B, and should everyone get that same amount of space? Also, sure.

    And not everyone complains. Not everyone is a complete jerk. And even fewer people would be jerky complainers with even the most minimal discount. For example, what if they offered fares 10% cheaper if you waived your right to complain about seat encroachment? Then made them 10% more expensive based on a self-selected option of whether you thought there was a chance you might encroach upon your neighbor? The magic trade off point may not be 10% for both types of seats. But I think this is a more discreet solution that would ease a lot of anxiety for fat people who spend the entire boarding and flight time anxious that they’re sitting next to an asshole who’s going to complain. And it puts a dollar figure on the price of being inconvenienced that is likely to be far more realistic than a whole new seat or a first-class ride for either inconvenienced party. They might not even have to make fat people pay more for seats. They can just keep the five or six on reserve in various locations on the plane- no one need know where they are. And the flight attendant can be in charge of making a discreet judgment of passengers that won’t be bothered at the outset.

    People already pay very differently for the trip from A to B. I flew to Vienna last week for $299 because I’m a student and qualified for a fare from StudentUniverse and bought my ticket months in advance. The person sitting right next to me was on the phone bragging about the fact that she’d managed a last-minute fare at $699. Getting from A to B is not a particularly democratic process as it is. The airline wants to get as much money as possible. People want to get from A to B. Certain people take up more room than others, and certain people mind this fact more than others. I think there ways to handle all these variables with more humanity and less fall out.

  13. Tari, you’re absolutely right. And it further allows them to make the seats even smaller because the problem will always be the fat ass (no matter how skinny) and not the seat.

  14. Hm, I don’t recall getting a price break from the airlines when I was anorexic.

    Come to think of it, I don’t remember being particularly comfortable in the seats either. They’re not made to be comfortable. For anyone. So by all means, let’s encourage additional nastiness to our fellow passengers.

    Also, “being fat at everyone around them” is awesome.

  15. I’m a size 16/18 US, and I can’t put the armrest down all the way on some planes because I have very large thighs. I can always buckle the seat belt without an extender though.

    I will be flying United next month and plan on asking if I should get charged for half an extra seat since I meet half of their ridiculous criteria.

  16. But are you also paying for a certain amount of space from A to B, and should everyone get that same amount of space? Also, sure.

    As Dan also pointed out, also because he’s a physicist: assuming you’re paying for real estate, not just passage, raises a lot of other questions. Are you paying for a seat, i.e. a reserved space, or a volume? If you’re paying for a volume, shouldn’t everyone who exceeds it be charged more? Why only people who exceed it in one particular dimension? (The answer, of course, is that the “paying for space” thing is a red herring — people actually think they’re paying for a perceived adequate level of comfort, something that can’t be universally codified and where jerks are the generally the ones who demand the most.)

  17. Wow, what an utter disappointment on the part of United! I actually prefer flying United, I think that their seats are a little more comfortable than my alternative, US Air. This news contradicts everything that I liked about the airline. In my experience they’ve always been extremely helpful in aiding my comfort and the comfort of those around me, in fact I’ve experienced United workers being downright sweet and caring about every person’s comfort, I always felt taken care of on their flights. And now this.

    It’s sad that such a small percentage of people who fly with United have made them change their policies like this. Instead of one ticket=one seat, all airlines should adopt a one ticket=one flight policy. A person is a person, if you buy a ticket for a flight, that’s it! How dare airlines force people onto a different flight just because their dimensions are a little outside of the tiny little airline seats?

    I’m going to write an email and definitely reconsider flying with them again.

  18. Eve, holy crap that is smart. And Kate, word to everything. I’m 5’10” with my lovely wide hips, and I am uncomfortable on long flights because of my height. Also, I find that is is impossible not to touch the people next to me (okay, that sounds so wrong, but you know what I mean!) People shift and move and act, oh, I don’t know, human. Mass travel involves interacting with the masses. It’s usually when I embrace that fact that I have the most fun and get to know people on the plane/train/bus.

  19. Let me see…as a somewhat “normal-sized” person (whatever the fuck that means), I’ve had some unpleasant experiences on planes. There were the two asshats who got into a fistfight over where to put their luggage, the mean security officer who yelled at everyone waiting on line for no apparent reason other than she hated her job, the guy next to me on a trans-continental flight who was, apparently, a conscientious objector to bathing, and, of course, the lightening strike that took out a couple of the engines as we flew over the Atlantic.
    Huh. Look at that. NONE of those had ANYTHING to do with sitting near a fat person.

  20. Consider it done. Did it giving my size and weight, too, since I meet their idiot criteria but thought United might give more of an ear to angry allies than to the discriminated-against population itself. We shall see.

  21. Well okay, question for everyone:

    What if you purchased your ticket, paid full price, and found upon boarding that your seat was randomly selected- one of five seats on the plane, to be 10% smaller than the other seats? I think everyone would be irate, and legitimately so, and direct their anger toward the airline. You paid for passage. But you also paid for a seat, and to not have less room than every other person on the plane.

    If sitting next to a fat person causes this same inconvenience with the same randomness, why are you not allowed not to begrudge your ticket price? The thing is, the blame still falls on the airline’s shoulders. They need to find a way to engage this debate that gets to the bottom line. If statistically there are a random five chairs that this is going to happen to in every flight, they need to do some calculations: how much are people willing to pay for the guarantee that they won’t be inconvenienced on the one hand? How much of a discount would it take for at least five passengers to regard an additional hypothetical inconvenience as worthwhile? How much are fat people willing to pay for a guarantee that their seatmate isn’t going to say anything about a little spillover?

    I think these are all important and not unsolveable questions.

  22. Cat, totally. I think they need to see complaints from fatties and non-fatties alike. Civil rights issues, as some people need to be reminded, are civil rights issues for everyone, not just those being discriminated against.

  23. I’d love to see an airline commercial saying, “We couldn’t be bothered to make most of our seats sized to the average passenger’s body. But if you pay us double or more to get you from point A to point B, you can get a seat where you are GUARANTEED not to have your body squished up against your neighboring passenger’s body, and GUARANTEED not to be looking down at the forehead of the reclined passenger in front of you, and GUARANTEED not to be bumped by the knees of the dude next to you with the gigantic phantom schlong.”

    I mean it would just be so refreshingly honest.

    And yes, you’re so great.

    And I’m emailing my complaint to United.

  24. Are you paying for a seat, i.e. a reserved space, or a volume? If you’re paying for a volume, shouldn’t everyone who exceeds it be charged more?

    I’m imagining now a giant transparent vat of water set up at each ticketing counter…in order to board the plane, you have to submerge yourself in the tub to see how much water you displace, thus revealing your volume.

    Sound like a plan?

  25. These seats are just too damn small for everyone. I sat next to a gentleman on a flight once who did not seem to me to be particularly large, but he ended up not being able to fit completely in his space and his shoulder and arm completely overlapped my shoulder and arm for the duration of the flight. Was it uncomfortable for me? I guess so, but it was tolerable. But I can’t even begin to imagine how uncomfortable and humiliating that must have been for him. At the end of the day, it’s just part of flying business class- you might have to sit next to someone whose personal space (literally or figuratively) overlaps with your own. We’re all grown ups here, we can get over it.

  26. You know, the whole “taking up my space” thing is horseshit, anyhow.

    I’m a tiny person. And I’ve been traveling all over the damn place (coach, of course) for work lately. And you know who is most likely to encroach into my space? Not fat women. Privileged white men, who feel completely comfortable extending their lankiness all over the place. When I make my way to my middle seat, I don’t cringe when my seatmates are fat women. I cringe when they are taller white men. Women (generally) have been socialized to be so concerned about how much space we take up that we overaccommodate each other all over the place. I know I’m very, very careful about how much space I take up on a flight, almost instinctively shy about my arm on the armrest or reaching up over someone to turn on my fan.

    I know I’ve read lit out there about women taking up space, and how we’re not supposed to do it, and what that means for how we sit in public spaces versus how men sit.

    If you don’t want your space impinged on, fly first class or STFU. Jeez. Lord knows I thought flying next to the creepy guy who hit on me for the entire pre-flight (including touching, and making inappropriate jokes, and bothering me by GRABBING MY IPOD TO SEE WHAT WAS ON IT) was a giant PITA. But you know what? That’s flying coach on a full red-eye from LA to Detroit mid-week, isn’t it? It’s always a nightmare, for some reason or other, and I didn’t want to use my miles to upgrade. And I would have far preferred to be sitting next to a fat woman who’s hips might have gone a bit under the arm-rest (shit, mine almost do and I’m small but curvy! The seats are just too fucking small!), but who would have likely realized I’m not a social butterfly and just wanted to read my book, and wouldn’t have thought it okay to flip my hand around to see if I was be-ringed.

  27. This is just one more reason not to fly, as far as I’m concerned (last time I was on an airplane I was pregnant, and I took up more than my one little seat – let them try to discriminate based on THAT one).

    The list is long, though, and it all comes down to one thing – if airflight is important public infrastructure that needs funding to keep airports open & local funding for airports – why the h*ll is it deregulated?

  28. Meghan, how does that calculation change, I wonder, if there’s an even likelihood that your seat will be 10% bigger, 10% smellier, 10% louder, 10% more overbooked, or 10% more kicked from behind by a ten-year-old? There are inherent risks, inconveniences, and annoyances to air travel; they exist for everyone. That’s kind of the fucking point here.

  29. Haha! A Sarah, I was just wondering whether United would also be charging double fares for gigantic phantom schlong guys, although I hadn’t thought of such a delightful phrase to describe it. I ALWAYS seem to end up sat next to one of those guys trying to push me off my seat with his knee.

  30. When I was a kid, I was fat but still pretty small compared to the seats… but my seatmates would be at least 10% more likely to be vomited upon in the course of a flight. I’m sure they got compensatory discounts.

    And big fat word, punkrockhockeymom. If your body doesn’t fit the shape of the seats, I’m not gonna get mad at you. If your body doesn’t fit the shape of your seat because you sit with your legs spread as wide as possible to accommodate your surely gigantic schlong, I’m gonna be pissed. Where’s that guy’s penalty?

  31. Only 700 complaints in a year and they’re taking a slash and burn attitude toward it?

    I bet they get way more than 700 complaints a year about screaming, hyper children or out of control drunks on planes. Yet I haven’t heard of any policies directed at them.

  32. What if you purchased your ticket, paid full price, and found upon boarding that your seat was randomly selected- one of five seats on the plane, to be 10% smaller than the other seats? I think everyone would be irate, and legitimately so, and direct their anger toward the airline. You paid for passage. But you also paid for a seat, and to not have less room than every other person on the plane.

    Sometimes I get a seat in the back, though, and have to exit the plane way later than the people in the front. I don’t look around for someone to blame. I don’t say, “I paid the same as the person ten rows ahead of me, how come I have to get off the plane last?”

    Also, human beings aren’t seats. If I have less room because the person next to me just happens to have a bigger body, that’s a lot like getting the seat in back. Or getting a seat next to someone with a cold, or getting next to the crying kid, or someone who’s a nervous flyer, or getting seated next to a Dude Who Pronounces. It happens sometimes, and I’m a grownup, and only complete assholes think that the world is amiss if they have to encounter someone who they don’t find entirely appealing. That’s an entirely different reason than the airline making some seats randomly smaller and charging the same fare. Seat size is an area in the airlines’ control — and yeah, they should friggin’ make the seats bigger for that very reason. But the collection of traits of some stranger isn’t in our control, thank God, and there’s not really a way to prepare for that in advance except to make the world better and fairer for everyone.

  33. On a semi-related note, I want to mention that I commute by subway and I find it shockingly difficult to predict who’ll be a space-hogging seatmate. I’ve sat with other people my size without our asses touching, but I’ve also sat with small people who somehow manage to not only take up more than half of the seat, but regularly elbow me as they turn pages or open their purse. Recently a size-6-maximum friend showed up complaining that a woman “no bigger than me” had been all up in her grill on the subway — two little asses unable to fit in the space where two big ones have happily coexisted many a time. It’s to the point where I wonder whether time and space work the same on the subway as off it.

  34. If the flight is full — which they ALL are these days, because hi, we’re in a recession and airlines have been cutting flights like mad —

    Anecdotal, but I’ve flown four times in the last week or so, and all the flights were half-empty. On two of them, I had an entire (three-person) row to myself, and so did several other people I saw. On the other two, I WOULD have had a row to myself, but I was flying with my boyfriend. Flights are cheap, but no one’s flying.

    But this is just nitpicking! Carry on.

  35. fillyjonk, I was going to point out the same thing that Dan said (only with less science). My husband is 6’5″ and broad-shouldered. He’s not fat enough to use a seatbelt extender or squish under the armrests, but damn if those seats aren’t way too tiny just the same.

    For the record, we drive the 800 miles home for the holidays rather than fly, because 1) we know we both fit in the car, 2) we can take all the luggage we need, and 3) the car’s excellent mileage make it cheaper than two plane tickets. I would love to fly, but it just isn’t worth my while yet.

  36. DH has a ship’s reunion in 2010 that we want to attend, and flying from MN to VA would be the least time-consuming way to go, but at my height and weight, I’m not risking the humiliation of being told I have to get off the plane/buy a second ticket/any other horseshit. Since DH did a lot of flying when he was in the Navy, getting from one ship to another in various ports around the world, he’s not keen on flying either. We’re going to rent a minivan and take our time seeing the country between MN and VA, stopping to visit friends/family on the way. This isn’t a solution if you have to fly for business, but since neither of us will ever have to do that, we’re saying fuck the airlines, you don’t want our fat asses on your planes, then you don’t want our money either, we’ll give it to the car rental agencies, gas stations, and restaurants between home and destination.

  37. Are you paying to get from A to B and should that be the same price for everyone getting from A to B? Sure. But are you also paying for a certain amount of space from A to B, and should everyone get that same amount of space? Also, sure.

    Ehh, wait a minute. Fillyjonk already covered this, but that’s not going to stop me. I don’t agree with the second premise. As I said with regard to subway seating:

    All this diversity might cause problems if public transit riders were paying for a comfortable seat. But we’re not. We’re paying for the cheapest possible ride from point A to point B, which will sometimes involve having multiple seats to spread out on and plenty of breathing space, but at other times will involve being packed cheek by jowl with a squirming, stinking, ill-mannered mass of humanity — and quite possibly some barf or poop in a corner somewhere.

    Obviously, air travel has assigned seating, which changes things, but not that much. As FJ and Dan point out, there’s a difference between paying for a seat (i.e., a place to put your ass and have access to a seatbelt) and paying for a specific volume of real estate.

    Having said that, for once, Saletan doesn’t sound like has his head completely up his ass — at least at first. His idea’s intriguing. Unfortunately, it’s not anywhere near that simple. If you say, for instance, row 18 is reserved for two discounted skinnies and one premium fatty (heh), what happens when you sell both the discounted skinny seats on a flight, but not the premium fatty one? You lose money, when you could have charged those skinny people the regular coach price. A designated area with slightly wider, slightly more expensive seats, akin to economy plus, might be a better solution — but the thing is, thin people would probably want those, too, because they’re better seats. I’ve got a 27-inch inseam, and I’ve flown economy plus a couple of times, possibly depriving some actual tall person of the legroom. (Finding another flight isn’t always an option. You might be willing to pay extra, but if there are no seats in that section and you need to get somewhere at a specific time, then it’s back to steerage with you.)

    And if this doesn’t involve designated areas, then how do you implement it? You pretty much have to ask every passenger, “Are you fat? If fat, how fat? If thin, would you be willing to sit next to a fat person for a discounted price? How fat a person are you willing to sit next to?” And then you can only offer that discount if you end up with a fat person willing to pay a premium to sit next to 2 non-assholes (or at least 2 cheap bastards). So you need to know the dimensions of 3 different people before you can assign seats and pricing, or else you risk losing money if there’s no fatty paying 40% extra. In this scenario, you can’t charge the fatty extra if you can’t guarantee the two non-assholes, and you wouldn’t want to discount the other seats if you can’t guarantee the fatty.

    So, while it’s a nice idea to let capitalism solve the problem, it would be an administrative nightmare. And there would still be fatties who couldn’t or wouldn’t pay for more than one coach seat, and there would still be assholes sitting next to them, who thought they were safe because they refused the fatty-neighbor discount. And there would still be tall people, and broad-shouldered people, and people with disabilities, and people with children under two on their laps and thin people who squirm and snore and want to chat.

    Which brings us back to the question of what you’re actually paying for. And that would be, just as on the subway, the cheapest possible ride from point A to point B — in this case with a guarantee of a place for your ass and a seatbelt, but NO guarantee of comfort or space to move. There’s just no other way to look at it without completely redesigning the airplanes. (Not that that would be a bad thing.)

  38. FJ, that is so true. That’s why I try to get a window seat if I can. That way the other person in the seat can shift into the aisle some if they feel they need more space.

    When dealing with phantom giant schlong dudes, I have found the most useful technique to get them out of my space is to plant my foot next to his and shove his leg with mine until it is comfortably out of my way. It is amazing how much less room these dudes take up when they sit up straight and bring their legs together in a desperate effort not to have any contact with my lower limbs.

    When I’m feeling really petty, I will seek out phantom giant schlong dudes to sit next to, just so I can have the pleasure of reminding them that their dicks aren’t actually ginormous.

  39. And wow, a lot of posting happened while I was writing that.

    You paid for passage. But you also paid for a seat, and to not have less room than every other person on the plane.

    Setting aside the well-earned ridicule you got for that comment , Meghan, let me be serious here: That is so fucking othering. The “you” in this scenario is presumed to be thin, along with “every other person on the plane” — except the lone fatty. The fat person is presumed to be something other than a regular consumer.

    Here’s the thing you’re not thinking of. AS A FAT PERSON, I AM ALREADY PAYING THE SAME PRICE FOR LESS SPACE THAN A THIN PERSON GETS. The only reason anyone thinks that’s OK is because presumably, I brought this on myself and could just go get thin if I didn’t want to be uncomfortable or infringe on other people’s space.

  40. Is there any particular United phone number or website where we should all complain en masse? This is pretty crazy – as if gate agents aren’t busy and harassed enough, apparently they now have to select people out of the crowd and let them know they are “too fat to fly”?

    Whoa.

  41. Thanks for posting this, Kate.

    I’ll be flying alone for the first time in a few years in may, and I’m pretty afraid of what’s going to happen. Usually I fly with honey, and we get an aisle seat (with him in the middle) so that I don’t ‘inconvenience anyone’ with my jeans touching their jeans.

    But this time I have to fly out alone, and yep, I’m terrified. Well, that and disgusted. It’s crap like this that keeps assholes feeling safe every time they sling insults or discriminate against fatties.

    Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for this, and you can damned well bet that while we’ll be boycotting united (and southwest), I’ll be firing off some letters in the next few days too.

  42. There’s just no other way to look at it without completely redesigning the airplanes. (Not that that would be a bad thing.)

    I vote for individual hovercrafts.

  43. Fillyjonk, I get your general point that a flight experience is variable. I think some of the details of your examples fall apart. Overbooked? Airplanes do have to pay penalties for this and compensate passengers affected more than those not affected. (Incidentally, they do it in a way very similar to what I think would be appropriate for this one. See who’s willing to voluntarily accept compensation for additional inconvenience. It’s so rare that an overbooked flight has to kick off a non-volunteer because of this.)

    How are seats 10% wider? That one I just didn’t get. And the rest- the louder, the inconsiderate douche seatmate, the kicked from behind from a 10-year old? These are all things that can only be addressed by flight attendants mid-flight should you choose to make them an issue. And would it be appropriate to make an issue of these things? While I wouldn’t, people do. If you have someone behind you kicking so hard your kidneys feel it, who would begrudge a complaint and making the flight attendant address it? I’ve been on flights where they ran out of food or it was inedible, and been compensated afterward. Yes, some people suck it up, and some people complain. That’s just the nature of people. But all of these things the airline would be willing to try to address if you said something. The only way seat size really sticks out is that it’s something that can’t be addressed mid-flight. whereas the rest really can’t be addressed until mid-flight. If there are any responses to selling seats people can’t fit into, they need to happen at the ticketing stage.

  44. “Here’s the thing you’re not thinking of. AS A FAT PERSON, I AM ALREADY PAYING THE SAME PRICE FOR LESS SPACE THAN A THIN PERSON GETS. The only reason anyone thinks that’s OK is because presumably, I brought this on myself and could just go get thin if I didn’t want to be uncomfortable or infringe on other people’s space.”

    THIS. I frequent the WW Canada message boards because I have made a lot of friends there, but there they all are, all of them with weight issues, and they are actually agreeing with this policy! ARGH.

    I tried arguing the excellent points made here, but all I heard back was “If that person is taking up half my seat, why should I have to pay for first class tickets?”

    or

    “They should have to pay, because they made themselves that way and could lose weight if they wanted to be more comfortable.”

    Palpable irony on a WW board, where most people initially lose weight, then gain it back. Like I did. Like 95% of the population.

    *Headdesk*

  45. The funny thing about this is that I too United to Vegas for a conference a couple of weeks ago. I sat next to a very thin woman who was ALWAYS in my freaking space. Here I was all hunched up because I don’t like to impose on people and this woman’s arm was over in my seat the whole time.

  46. I think my solution is just going to be to pay Blog Scientist and Resident Very Thin Person Volcanista to travel with me everywhere I go, so I’m always next to a non-asshole who takes up 10% less seat than an average-sized person. The expense (and company) will be worth it, and no one will ever complain about me. Except the person on the other side in a 3-person row. Or the person I end up next to when Volcanista and I can’t get two seats together, because the airline fucked us over, which happens to Al and me way more than I would like.

    Anyway, Volcanista, you in?

  47. Also? Note this b.s. policy just gives them an excuse to bump passengers when they’ve oversold flights without paying them for the trouble.

    I flew to San Diego Sunday night. I had purchased a ticket on a non-stop and got bumped. Because I made threatening noises about my meeting the next morning, they got me on a flight that was leaving fifteen minutes earlier but had a stop in Minneapolis. They gave me $300 and a meal voucher for my trouble (but didn’t do much for the fact that I had to run at breakneck speed all the way to the end of a giant terminal to catch the replacement flight).

    Under this policy, they won’t have to bump me and pay me next time. Instead they can find an undeserving-of-consideration fat woman, bump her, and have her pay them for a new ticket instead of them having to just give her a new ticket AND pay her!

  48. Under this policy, they won’t have to bump me and pay me next time. Instead they can find an undeserving-of-consideration fat woman, bump her, and have her pay them for a new ticket instead of them having to just give her a new ticket AND pay her!

    DUDE, YES. Did not even think of that! Which goes right back to what Eve said way upthread.

  49. Kate, you’re taking my words unfairly out of context. They were intended to be coupled with a hypothetical of finding out the airline randomly gave you a smaller seat than everyone else without informing you of this at the time of purchase. In that scenario, it’s completely true and I stand by saying that you paid not to not have less space than everyone else on the plane.

    As to your other comments: you’re focused on relative size. The size at which two people of different sizes would be equally comfortable. Maybe in this context, fat people do get less space. My comments were about absolute size. And fat people, not through choice, but do not get less absolute size on a plane. The fact that they take up more absolute size, often takes away the absolute size available to their seatmate. If you really want to argue that fairness requires that a ticket guarantee every person be given the same relative comfort on a flight- well I guess hypothetically it’s a great idea. But it’s also completely impracticable and unworkable. And in regard to absolute size- well there’s not an issue of discrimination against fat people, but thin people. Fat people who get more, thin who get less. The question is what to do about it.

    (Away from the computer till this evening- but hope to catch up then.)

  50. First time responder- just wanted to say I lodged my complaint. I tried to attack it not only from a this-is-bullshit view but also from a you’re-going-to-lose-money view.

  51. And in regard to absolute size- well there’s not an issue of discrimination against fat people, but thin people.

    LOL!

  52. I saw this yesterday and I was hoping Kate would cover it. Honestly, I’m really not sure how I feel about this (I can see both sides), but I have a question for those of you who think the whole thing is BS…

    What about a situation where a very large person (who truly cannot fit in a single seat without being on top of the person next to them) has only purchased a single seat? Should the middle-seat person just suck it up and deal?

    I ask because I had an experience like this recently where a woman who really needed a bigger seat/two seats was literally pressed up against me for the duration of a three hour flight. In that situation, it wasn’t just like her leg was brushing against mine; her entire side was pressed up against me. She was very friendly and it wasn’t a big deal, but I couldn’t help but feeling that other people might have a bigger problem with it.

  53. Carla, obviously we think that there’s a size under which you deserve human dignity and freedom from being financially or emotionally penalized for having a body that others find inconvenient, and a size over which you lose all rights, other people’s problems with your body become of paramount importance, and you should either pay double or preferably stay home and diet.

    Seriously, though, NO we don’t think there’s a cutoff point for how fat you can be before you don’t get the same rights anymore. Hopefully once you think about it that way it becomes a little clearer. Obviously it’s polite and kind for people to work against the inherent flaws of air travel to give everyone plenty of space, but you don’t become solely responsible for shouldering that burden by having a body others deem unacceptable.

  54. Meghan, seriously?

    Oy, the thin discrimination, it’s been plaguing me my whole life…whine whine whine. Thin people aren’t being discriminated against. We are just *lucky* enough that when schlong guy, or that mythical seat-and-a-half fat person (because I just don’t believe it), take up our space, we’re LESS uncomfortable than average-sized people.

    Also, please see my note above and re-read about the policy. It’s not like bumping, because when you’re bumped you get a free ticket on the next flight they can get you on, plus a voucher (usually with Northwest it’s $300, sometimes, when they’re desperate and trying to get volunteers, it’s even more). This policy would be doing something totally different–it’s not *eliminating* some hypothetical discrimination against me as a small person, it’s privileging my “small person rights to space” so much that they (a) outrank every other potential imposition into people’s space in an airplane, and (b) justify IMPOSING A PENALTY on people for not being speshul tiny snowflakes like the other ten of us.

    And really? I can’t remember the last time flew in which a fat person took up my space in such a way that I noticed it. No one is taking up half of your fucking seat. How many people fly a year? 700 complaints is NOTHING. It’s just the most justifiable thing they can come up with, because everyone hates fat people.

  55. punkrockhockeymom, LOL in a totally different way. :)

    It’s a good thing you and volcanista are both small special snowflakes — I bet there’s room for both of you in the Shapely Prose Resident Very Thin Person throne. Or in the seat next to Kate on the plane.

  56. Flying first class certainly results in a passenger having more space, but it’s a lot more than that.

    On most planes, 2 first class seats are about as wide as 3 coach seats. The difference in leg room is a bit harder to judge, but even if it’s the same ratio as the widths, the first class prices I’ve seen aren’t proportional to the extra space. Airlines charge quite a premium for the various first class amenities (hot towels, pillows and blankets for every seat, drinks, food, being seated closer to the door, more cushioning on the seat, foot rests on some planes, etc). And for some reason the arm rests between first class seats (on at least some planes) don’t raise.

    I can probably afford to pay proportionately more for extra space but I can’t afford to pay a premium for stuff I don’t use (free drinks) or don’t really need (cushier cushions, front of the plane seating).

    If the whole plane spaced out the seats like they do for first class, there’d be more room in the overhead bins for everyone’s carry-on luggage. I usually check my bag that just barely fits in the overhead bin because I don’t want to bother trying to find space for it or risk forgetting that I gate-checked it. Of course, I also don’t want to traipse around the airport trailing my only barely carry-on-sized bag. This has occasionally resulted in my luggage flying on different flights than I did and requiring my bags to take taxis (on the airline’s dime) to my lodgings.

  57. God, flying is so humiliating, isn’t it? Now that I’ve finally gotten used to asking for the extender, now this shit comes along

    It’s really sad to me that I get so excited everytime I ride a plane or a train with my boyfriend or a friend, because I can relax my body since they’re not going to have a coronary because my side is touching theirs, or my arm touching theirs on the armrest.

    It’s a very depressing feeling of relief.

  58. You know I have heard, read, and talked about this subject alot especially last year when I was planning to go on a missions trip over in Cameroon Africa to help out the people there and was facing the flight over there. It was terrifying, not the thought that the plane might crash , or that we would be a kajillion miles in the air over water, that stuff didn’t even cross my mind.

    The terror I felt was knowing I would have to deal with this, and still dealing with memories of the hour and 45 min flight for my grandmas funeral which left me with a massive black bruise all down the side of my left thigh and the muscle underneath so sore it killed to walk for a week or so after. All because the guy next to me was so mad that I was being fat at him he insisted on jamming and holding down the armrest on my thigh the whole way there, I couldn’t do anything about it because the flight attendant had been called over by him in the very beginning and I was informed that if I didn’t or wasn’t able to keep the armrest down fully for the flight I would have to pay for an extra ticket (something there was no way I could afford it was just by the grace of friends I was able to go in the first place) or exit the plane.

    The thought of a situation like that on a flight all the way across the ocean for hours terrified me and I ended up not going on the mission trip because I couldn’t face that thought again.

    Even after reading , thinking, and hearing so much about this situation this is the first time I actually HEARD that wait the same thing they are flinging at us as a punishment for not being good enough to be thin, also goes for them. If they want guaranteed extra room then buy a freaking first class ticket, if they can’t then they need to shut up or instead of complaining about the yucky seat stealing fatties instead complain to the airline about their insane keyboard width seats that they try to shoehorn everyone into .

    Sometimes I need a few more hits on the head for something to sink in, today I get it. I as a fat woman don’t need to sit in shame and apologize for existing when flying. The airlines should be shamed and apologize for not working to meet their customers (the people who pay their paychecks) need both their skinny customers, and their fat ones. So thank you!!

  59. fillyjonk, just as long as that throne isn’t placed next to one belonging to some tall-guy-with-giant-schlong. He’ll probably grab my ipod or “accidentally” rest his thigh against mine or volcanista’s ALL OF THE TIME. And, you know, our space is privileged space. We’re entitled to to every inch of it!!

  60. Fillyjonk,

    I totally understand what you’re saying…and its pretty compelling. At the same time, I feel like each person pays for their seat on the flight, and if someone else prevents you from using your seat comfortably (by physically occupying it), that isn’t really fair either.

    The whole “one seatbelt extender” thing seems stupid to me, but the “lowering the armrest” thing seems kind of reasonable. If you can’t put the armrest down, at that point you’re in someone else’s seat. Which isn’t fair to the person who bought that seat.

    And, pardon my ADD, johnny-come-lately-ness, but the “filly” in your name…are you into horses? That just occured to me, haha.

  61. Kate, on the rare occasions that Volcanista is unavailable to be your flying companion, I volunteer. Not only am I thin, I’m under 5 feet tall. You’ll get a pleasant companion and space. I only request that you help me with my bag in the overhead bin without looking down my shirt.

  62. This is kind of off topic, but I want to know what people think about this. There’s a lot of legal ambiguity as to whether obesity is considered a disability under the ADA. Basically, right now, it’s not (as far as I know). On the one had, I don’t feel like obesity should be a disabilitiy because that could be stigmatizing and othering, especially when what we do in FA is try to say that, no really, fatness is normal.

    On the other hand, if obesity was considered a disability, it’d offer some protection, and shit like this would be considered completely, utterly, totally fucking illegal.

  63. The whole thing just allows the fat-haters to rear their ugly heads. I was stupid enough to read the comments to the Chicago Tribune web page, which was full of the same fat-shaming, name calling rhetoric that is everywhere.

    And I know the people who will complain and who they will complain about; like you mentioned, it isn’t that very small percentage of the population that already is terribly uncomfortable with flying already because it is a harrowing experience due to their physical size, it is individuals like me, whose thigh rubs up against the individual I am next on occasion to if I don’t sit perfectly still for 3 hours. I actually had a woman in the theater turn to her friend make a snide comment about how she bought a seat, but how it appeared someone else was getting to use half of it after my leg brushed up against her when I uncrossed my leg. Had I not been on an early date with my current boyfriend at the time, I would have opened up a verbal can of whoop ass on her. We have to worry about being targeted by people who have heard about the policy in passing, not knowing what they policy actually is, and using it to try and get a nice, empty seat next to them because they don’t want to sit next to a fatty. Because hey, it isn’t like you are having a person kicked off a flight, right?

  64. All because the guy next to me was so mad that I was being fat at him he insisted on jamming and holding down the armrest on my thigh the whole way there, I couldn’t do anything about it because the flight attendant had been called over by him in the very beginning and I was informed that if I didn’t or wasn’t able to keep the armrest down fully for the flight I would have to pay for an extra ticket (something there was no way I could afford it was just by the grace of friends I was able to go in the first place) or exit the plane.

    This makes me want to find the guy and key his car. I won’t, and it’s maybe not the best impulse in the world, but… I just… I mean… *sputter/boggle/seethe* How can someone go through life being that hateful?

  65. What the fucking fuck, Meghan?

    Kate, you’re taking my words unfairly out of context.

    No, I’m really not.

    They were intended to be coupled with a hypothetical of finding out the airline randomly gave you a smaller seat than everyone else without informing you of this at the time of purchase. In that scenario, it’s completely true and I stand by saying that you paid not to not have less space than everyone else on the plane.

    Except your hypothetical doesn’t offer a useful parallel. Because in reality, while all the seats are the same size, all people are not. So it’s not as though everyone on a plane is getting the same size seat, practically speaking, in any case. All other things being equal, in practical terms, fat people, people with babies, tall people, etc., start out with less space in which to move around than thin, short people do. When you’re next to a tall person, fat person, person with a baby, broad-shouldered person, dude with giant phantom schlong, whatever, you might end up with less room to move around in your seat than you would have had in a magical world with no other human beings. But when you get on an airplane, there is an expectation that you will sit next to another human being of unknown size. This means that the amount of space you’ll have to move around in is always variable, despite everyone paying for the same size seat.

    So, this hypothetical in which some people get seats that are 10% smaller is bullshit, because it only works if everyone’s expecting the same amount of room to move around in in the first place. And as Fillyjonk said, even though you couldn’t fucking grok it, what about a hypothetical in which some people are asked to pay extra for getting a seat that’s 10% wider, even though they didn’t know they would before they got on?

    I mean, that’s the thing right there. Nobody remembers, much less complains about the flights where they got seated next to thin people who smelled good and didn’t squirm, snore, or talk too much. And certainly, no one goes home from a flight like that and says, “Why, I should call up the airline and offer to pay a premium for that experience!”

    If you really want to argue that fairness requires that a ticket guarantee every person be given the same relative comfort on a flight- well I guess hypothetically it’s a great idea.

    Huh? Where did I argue that? Especially since I’ve spent a great deal of time talking about how that’s simply not possible, with the way airplanes are currently designed.

    And in regard to absolute size- well there’s not an issue of discrimination against fat people, but thin people. Fat people who get more, thin who get less.

    LOLOLOLOLOL. That’s A.

    B) You’re only thinking of a scenario in which a thin person is next to a person fat enough to be partly in the thin person’s seat. I’m a fat person who fits into airline seats, albeit barely. Yeah, I said up there that I have trouble confining my body to the space of a single coach seat, but by that I mean I’m probably going to accidentally elbow or kick somebody when I squirm — just as thin people do, as MANY people have said, let alone the umpteen examples of other bodies that don’t fit. But if I sit up straight and still, no part of my body is in anyone else’s seat. Which means, if there’s a thinner person next to me, she has a couple more inches of room to accommodate her ass than I do. Yet (in theory) we paid the same ticket price. She got a better deal than I did, if you look at it that way.

    But I don’t expect the airlines to make things more fair to me, because air travel involves human beings of various sizes in very close quarters, with seats only built to fit a small portion of them. Ergo, there is no expectation of comfort, or of not having to touch another person. Period.

  66. Carla: Nah, horses are assholes.

    Srsly though… thanks for seeing through my sarcasm to the point at hand. As for your other objections, well, see the rest of the thread, you know? We’ve talked about whether you buy the right to passage or space, whether others have a right to not be crowded and whether it outweighs your rights, and how many people are really taking up “half a seat” anyway. You may not find it all convincing but there’s certainly been a lot of discussion about the points you’re raising.

  67. And as a side note, if they do force you to buy an extra seat because you are too big and the person next to you complains, but the flight is too full so there isn’t an extra seat, can you buy the seat of the complainer and have him bumped? Might make people think twice before complaining and embarassing, and it would seem more fair than just allowing the “average” sized person a nice, open seat next to him or her. I might just buy that man or woman’s seat to spite him or her. Don’t fuck with a fat lawyer, honey.

  68. Meghan:

    Okay, how about things which can’t be addressed midflight? Have you ever sat next to somebody on an airplane who smelled really bad? Or just somebody who was wearing perfume or cologne to which you are allergic? Have you ever sat next to somebody with a disability which caused that individual to make repeated sounds, or which involved some kind of repetitive movement? Have you ever sat next to a wailing baby? These aren’t issues which can be addressed by the airline midflight except by re-seating you or the individual who is offending your notion that you can have a perfect experience while flying coach — just like sitting next to somebody who is fat. For that matter, a kicking toddler is rarely something the airline can address either; if a parent can prevent a three-year-old from kicking, a flight attendant certainly can’t.

  69. Er, and I hit “submit comment” just as I was realizing that my comment made it seem as if I equate “having a disability which irritates people around you” with “being fat” with “smelling bad” with “crying babies”. All of these are profoundly different issues and I put them together only as a string of the types of things which annoy the kind of people who are annoyed about not having a perfect flying experience.

  70. I wish I didn’t have to fly. I have to for work way too frequently and there’s no way my company is paying anything more than economy. When I fly for fun it’s with my Maasai-wannabe husband and that’s really awesome.

    On the last leg of my trip home from conference last week my inbetweenie ass was seated next to a very fat man on a plane with only two tiny seats per side (I live in the middle of nowhere). It was horrible for both of us. Had I been tinier I think it would be okay but my back still hurts from leaning out into the aisle trying to keep from us having to be too friendly because he couldn’t get the armrest down.

    I wish there were a way to comfortably accomodate everyone. I hate how I reacted with “Oh shit” when I saw the man next to my seat – but it also made me feel worse about myself because if I were smaller there wouldn’t have been a problem. :(

  71. haha thanks fillyjonk. Although I’m disappointed about the horse thing.

    I apologize for kind of jumping the gun with my post without reading the entire thread. I’ve been reading through the rest of the thread and I see what you guys are saying. I think ultimately I’m inclined to side with you guys.

    But really, scattered marbles’s story really drove home the bigger point; which is that if people could just have common decency, we wouldn’t have a problem. We shouldn’t need rules that demean people in order to run an airline. Everyone should do what they can to accomodate those around them (tall guys with broad shoulders should be aware of their upper body, skinny people shouldn’t flip out if a fat/tall/long-armed person is in their space, fat people shouldn’t be shamed if they occupy more room than the average seat). If everyone just focused a little more on compassion and a little less on enforcing their “right” to space on an airplane, we wouldn’t need shit like this. Because these kind of rules aren’t a cure for anything…they’re just a symptom of our pathological fear of teh fatzzz.

  72. Flights aren’t comfortable for ANYBODY; I think that’s been established. My dad’s considered “normal” by BMI but since he’s 6 foot he’s still uncomfortable and gets awful leg cramps. He never complains. He never complains about the asshole in front of him leaning his chair back encroaching on his long legs and he didn’t complain when on a three hour flight to Vegas we got stuck behind a ridiculously smelly family. Why? It’s not because he’s some stoic saint who deserves a reward. He didn’t complain because, and now listen closely as this might boggle all minds, he didn’t complain BECAUSE IT’S A COUPLE OF FUCKING HOURS OF YOUR LIFE!!!! I get it. I really do. People want comfort. And planes just don’t give you that and it sucks. I get it. But complaining won’t change the fact that your situation sucks and it (usually) won’t make your current flight any better. And it won’t erase those hours of your life you spent squished up next to the fat guy glaring at his audacity of being fat. And taking the time to call up and complain afterwards is just so laughably stupid I can’t even believe it. You had a flight squished up next to a fat person. So what, you’re going to waste MORE time being upset and crabby and uncomfortable by complaining about the few negligible hours you spent being upset, crabby and uncomfortable and hating on the poor soul who just happened to be stuck next to you (and failing to realize you probably would have been uncomfortable and crabby regardless because planes are just at base uncomfortable)? How much of a bitter, fat hating whiner do you really have to be? Christ. Don’t get me wrong, it’s obvious that sometimes companies actually do listen to complaining and try to adjust accordingly so therefore having a bitch about a problem with the flight isn’t totally wasted time. But instead of complaining about the company having the audacity to do what companies do and sell a fucking product to a customer who may or may not be fat and then (horrors!) allow the fat customer to have the product they paid for, why not complain that the planes need to be more comfortable and more accommodating? Wait, because you’re a stupid fat-hating asshole who thinks you’re super awesome for being thin(ner). Gah. I know I’m being a little mean here and making a lot of assumptions, but I really have a hard time with people just whining to begin with, and this whining to make for more discrimination just makes me want to throw things.

    I’m not sure what airline my boyfriend’s flying up with next week but I swear to GOD that if this ridiculous piece of fuckery induced by bitchy, fat-hating, whiners prevents him in any way from getting here when he’s supposed to I will SLAY United and Southwest Airlines. We already don’t see each other nearly often enough and this piece of assholery just proves yet again that people are so prejudiced they can’t even believe that fat people might actually have loved ones who want to fucking see them on the other side of that flight, just like the thin people do. Oh, and not to mention, things like, jobs, lives, interviews, speeches/presentations to give and, well, would you believe it, some fatties even like to vacation! It’s almost like they’re… HUMAN!

  73. dude with giant phantom schlong

    This is my new favorite phrase ever. Well, maybe a close second after the whole “discrimination against thin people” thing.

  74. @ scattered marbles: I am so sad and sorry that that happened to you. Did you write the airline and complain about them seating you next to a psychopath who assaulted you and caused you bodily harm on your way to a funeral? You should. You don’t deserve that and I’m sorry.

  75. Tari –

    Shlong is just a hilarious world. Use it whenever possible, preferably with a strong emphasis on each syllable. I know I do.

  76. It’s never been a problem for my fat ass in a seat.

    The problem is I’m always next to someone with linebacker shoulders and they make me extremely uncomfortable (when I’m already experiencing severe anxiety– me no likey flying).

    Can I complain about that and get them to make people with broad shoulders buy two seats and leave me the hell alone?

  77. And really, if someone really can’t fit in one seat the airlines can do the exact same thing they do when it turns out that they have too high a volume of people per available space in ANY OTHER SITUATION, which is to ask for a volunteer to take a later flight in exchange for a voucher. It’s not like the only solution is the put upon thin person having to sit on a fat person’s lap. And the vouchers are not a terrible deal for the airlines, either – I’m sure they’re not redeemed at 100% rate and when they are redeemed, people probably end up bringing friends or relatives on the flight with them when the whole group might have gone on another airline. Seems like a reasonable compromise for all involved, to me.

    The ridiculousness of this whole thing was brought home to me when I was watching an episode of that stupid show Airline (or whatever it was called) which followed Southwest employees around an airport. The employees bent over backwards to find an exit row seat for an especially tall teenager so he’d be comfortable and then perfunctorily and insultingly insisted a fat woman buy two seat. Yeah, no hypocracy there at all.

  78. Under this policy, they won’t have to bump me and pay me next time. Instead they can find an undeserving-of-consideration fat woman, bump her, and have her pay them for a new ticket instead of them having to just give her a new ticket AND pay her!

    You know what else? Suppose you’ve got this compliant and well-heeled Fattie who conscientiously buys his or her two seats, and the plane is oversold. You just know that the gate agent, and anyone else who’s aware of the situation, suddenly starts looking at her ANYWAY because my GOD she’s taking up TWO SEATS and why should she get two seats when other people have none?

    Grrr.

  79. If everyone just focused a little more on compassion and a little less on enforcing their “right” to space on an airplane, we wouldn’t need shit like this.

    Totally. Although once again, the real problem is being packed in like sardines, so the airlines can hold as many fares as possible in one plane. ‘Cause I mean, it’s not like I’m totally cool with being squished in with a total stranger or two, fat or thin. I hate it. When I find out I’ve got a middle seat, I sometimes have to hold back tears, depending on how bad of a travel day it’s already been. When I find out Al and I are in a two-person row, I want to jump for joy. The one time I flew on an airplane that had a one-person row and a two-person row, I was with two friends. One of them took the single seat, and I sat with the other friend — and was a little bummed about it, even though that friend is, in fact, average-sized, delightful, and someone I’m comfortable elbowing, and it was just us in the row. I just wanted that rare opportunity to get one seat next to NO ONE.

    Flying sucks. Airports suck. Being that close to other people, even when you know them, sucks. (I love Al more than anyone, but I don’t sit that fucking close to him on the couch at home unless I’m actually looking for snuggles or feeling amorous, which is a relatively small percentage of the time, you know?) EVERYONE on a plane is uncomfortable and on edge. I think what I hate most about these arguments is that some people seem to assume fatties are totally blase about the space we take up, and we’re having a grand old time while thin people hurt themselves trying to carve out their own space. No. Everybody hates it. Everybody’s uncomfortable. Every fatty I know is self-conscious about it and desperately tries not to get in other people’s spaces. Air travel sucks for all of us, unless you’re flying first class — and even that’s not so much luxurious as just barely humane.

  80. I’m too pissed to even read the comments. This is… it’s… fuckity fuck fuck, that’s a bunch of fucking bullshit! Oh no, you might have to TOUCH SOMEONE for a while! You might have to be UNCOMFORTABLE! Because the WORST THING EVER is to touch a FAT PERSON, am I right?

    I don’t care for sitting next to smelly people on planes. I don’t care much for sitting next to shaky old ladies on planes, after the time one spilled an entire cup of apple juice on me. I don’t particularly want someone who wants to chat with me, nor someone that snores, or any other number of obnoxious and crappy things…. but does that mean that we need the Behavior Police at the gate to tell everyone “No, you can’t get on the plane, you suck?” Fuuuuuuuuck no. They’d never make smelly old ladies who snore buy extra seats, but hey, FAT PEOPLE…

  81. Hey, when I sit in those seats, there are totally like 2 inches I’m not taking up. Where’s my discount?

    This is a terrible excuse for the fact that those seats fit nobody. They’re just singling out some passengers to pay for the airlines’ mistakes in making the seats too small! (Why not the phantom schlong guys, who are often just too tall to comfortably have their legs straight in front of them? *I* sometimes do the same and I’m only 5’6″!)

    And the trouble is, I can’t imagine a market pressure or a plausible regulation that would require the airlines to have reasonably sized seats. Paying more won’t help – air travel is so expensive, a lot of us are just lucky we can afford to be on the plane in the first place.

  82. Some airlines (at least in Europe) do sell their seats at different prices depending on small differences in comfort. It almost seems like a good idea, but then you get situations like when my brother had to fly home with his foot in a cast. There were free seats available in a row that happened to have a bit more leg room, so they approached him with an offer to move to one of those for something like 20 euro. He was annoyed, said no thank you, and those seats were left empty. I assume that before they had this policy, they would have used some common sense and put the guy with the broken leg wherever he’d be more comfortable.

    To me, that’s like deciding that people with disabilities should be paying extra for the big parking spots. Because you could probably sell those to people with big trucks who are bad at parking and make extra money, right, and why should those people get a privilege they didn’t pay for just because they have trouble walking? Actually, somebody probably does whine about that and I’m just lucky enough not to know them.

  83. Carla:
    As uncomfortable as you felt sitting next to that lady, do you think it was near the same level of discomfort felt by the lady in question?

    She was in the same level of contact with you, but also had to sit there and know that you were thinking badly of her, that many people on the plane may have been thinking badly of her, that at any second she might be asked to buy another seat or her seatmate might throw a gigantic fit that called out her girth in front of all of her fellow travelers. What torture!

    It seems that what air travel, and a lot of other issues need, is more esprit de corp, the idea that while this thing might suck, we’re all in it together. So much of modern life works against our recognizing the humanity of other people and instead turns them into obstacles to be dodged and avoided or physical impediments to our happiness.

    Think how much more pleasant your flight, and memory of your flight, would be if you had turned to your seatmate and said, I know that this must be hard for you, flying is so uncomfortable.

  84. Air travel sucks for all of us, unless you’re flying first class — and even that’s not so much luxurious as just barely humane.

    I flew first class exactly one time (random cheap upgrade on a very short flight), and it was such a fundamentally different experience – to have a totally separate seat, instead of a bench with fucking armrests, to be free of the low-grade mental buzzing of constantly worrying about whether the guy next to me is fuming about being in contact with my hip. It was nice to get to stare out the window at the landscape, instead of trying to sleep through the misery.

    I immediately wished I never flew first class. Ignorance is bliss.

  85. Thing is, Carla, “fair” doesn’t come into it.

    Is it fair to have to sit next to someone who gets violently ill when flying, fills up multiple sick bags and smells of puke the whole flight? Nope. But at the same time, I am sure that ain’t much fun for the pukey person, either.

    Is it fair to sit in a seat with some bratty kid behind you, kicking your chair for the entire duration of the flight? Nope.

    What about sitting next to someone that falls asleep, then lolls over and rests their head and shoulders on you? Not fair, either.

    You might end up sitting next to someone who turns their music up REALLY LOUD so it bugs you the whole flight, and keeps doing mildly annoying things like humming, tapping and whistling along to it. Or, next to some arsehole that won’t stop making innappropriate advances to you.

    I work in the complaints department of a holiday company, and do you know what I got in my inbox this morning? A complaint from an able-bodied customer who was DEEPLY INCONVENIENCED by the fact that they were sat in a window seat with their husband, and an elderly, paraplegic gentleman was put in the aisle seat. He took up space because his lower body tended so spread out. He smelled funny because he was unwell with a number of ailments and was using those old-person lotions and creams. His food spilled down his face when he ate because his hands were shaky, and it looked all gross and stuff. He was in the way, and they couldn’t get past him to go to the toilet. When the plane landed, they had to wait until last because he couldn’t get off of the aircraft until a wheelchair could be arranged, which meant they had to run, oh horror, to get to their taxi that was waiting for them at the other end.

    The thing is, there are loads of reasons why another passenger might encroach upon the space in the seat you are using. If you’re flying economy (and peasant like me ALWAYS do), then you accept being crammed in like cattle, whatever the reason.

    Unless you’re an arsehole, like the customer I got that letter from, today.

  86. As a fat woman, I’m sure I spend A LOT more time stressing about how well I’ll fit in my plane seat than an average size person does about the possibility of having to sit next to a fat person.

    I’ve had to sit next to smelly people, drunks, crying babies, grouches, bad kids, sickies/coughers, white knucklers, etc. It is part of flying and I suck it up and deal. I can’t even believe that anyone is so put out about sitting next to a fat person that they actually raise hell with an airline about it. I need to start complaining more about assholes in general I guess!

  87. I need to start complaining more about assholes in general I guess!

    If you can do it 700 times in a year, maybe they’ll do something about it!

  88. I need to start complaining more about assholes in general I guess!

    Ha! Dear United, On a recent flight, I was seated next to an asshole. What do you intend to do to keep my business?

  89. GAH! By which I did not mean that you, as in you, are an arsehole, but a general “you”… more like “if one is an arsehole”

  90. So wait, if the flight is not full, you get moved to a spot with an empty seat next to it for free… but if the flight is full, you get bumped AND you have to pay for an extra ticket?

  91. Tracy, I already addressed the Saletan piece somewhere upthread. Which is not to say the Shapeletariat shouldn’t also have at it, just that there’s at least one response!

    Oh, and M. LeBlanc, I think your question about disability and legal protection is a good one, but it might need its own thread. Remind me, if you don’t see one soon.

    So wait, if the flight is not full, you get moved to a spot with an empty seat next to it for free… but if the flight is full, you get bumped AND you have to pay for an extra ticket?

    It’s totally like gambling now. You MIGHT end up with an awesome result for no money. Or you might end up spending a lot more than you intended to, for jack shit.

  92. OK so in ONE YEAR, 700 people complained and that was enough to implement a POLICY??? How many thousands of people fly FUnited air in a year? What percentage of their customers do these complainers represent? What percentage of customers did they just piss off becuase they are what is considered an exception when they are actually the rule? Thank you so much for blogging on this. I am furious!

  93. OK so in ONE YEAR, 700 people complained and that was enough to implement a POLICY???

    A policy that has assorted financial benefits to the airline, as outlined in various comments above, sure.

    The only way they don’t get the financial benefits is if fatties and their loved ones boycott. Dare we hope?

  94. Yeah I think the ‘pay for first class’ for complainers is the best solution. Sure that’s more expensive for that person. But flying is a privilege not a right so you’re not the boss of everyone on that plane. Everybody else has paid their fee so if it doesn’t suit you ante up the extra expense.

    I think there’s a certain amount of snobbery that goes with flying. People think because they’ve paid 300.00 for a ticket they’ve somehow earned special consideration. In reality you’ve just paid to get somewhere faster and that’s expensive. There are millions of people who have to either drive or just not travel. So thank your lucky stars you have the money to be in the plane and STFU. Seating preferences, meals, people who smell good are just extras not guarantees.

    If a person wants to live like the jet set with more privileges then they have the choice of first class and need to go there.

    What I would like to see addressed are the arrogant aholes who think they’re too good to check their bags and spend a gagillion hours putting their SUITCASES up and taking them out of the luggage compartment. Oh by all means make me wait an hour because your underwear and toothpaste are so much more valuable than mine which are traveling cargo.

  95. If I purchase two seats initially, but then get to the plane and pass their fatty seat test, can I get a refund on the seat I don’t need?

    All planes have different seat sizes so there is really no way to know if you can pass their fatty test. I’d rather do that than risk getting bumped 3 times and missing my meeting or cruise.

  96. I just sent them a letter through planetfeeback.com, which will get the message to the president of the company, not just customer service. I used several of the excellent points in this post.

    I really hope they drop this policy. I’m so fed up with air travel as it is but with relatives living halfway across the country, I can’t give it up entirely.

    Reminds of a story my friend blogged about–when she sat down, the thin woman next to her gave her a dirty look for being fat and sitting next to her and then the thinnie proceeded to fall asleep and use my friend as a full body pillow.

  97. Airlines are all assholes. I can just picture the meeting in that boardroom now:

    Airline Exec 1: Team, our airline’s in the toilet. We’ve already done all we could, from gouging passengers on fares to charging them for wanting to take clothes along on trips, but it’s just not helping enough. What else can we do?

    Airline Exec 2 (hesitantly) : Maybe we could make our planes more comfortable and offer good service to all of our passengers?

    *All shout AE2 down angrily*

    Airline Exec 3: Hey, let’s target fat people! Nobody likes them. We could charge them double.

    AE4: Yeah! Hey, we could throw them off the plane and keep their money.

    AE5: I heard fat people are completely responsible for the crumbling economy! They deserve to be punished!

    AE1: I heard fatties are all actually zombies. They want to EAT THE WORLD!

    AE3 (sobbing quietly): I’m pretty sure fat people are responsible for giving my puppy cancer. They were being fat at us all the time on walkies. She didn’t have a chance.

    AE1: Damn them! Damn them all to hell!

    *Reassuring murmurs to AE3, angry grumblings about “fat puppy killers”*

    AE2: Um, guys? I think we’re getting a little into the wacky realm here…

    AE1: What are you saying, Carpenter? My God, man, it was her puppy!! Are you actually defending puppy killers?

    AE4: You know, Carpenter, you’ve gained some weight recently.

    AE5: Don’t think we haven’t noticed!

    AE1: OK, let’s take a vote, all in favor of punishing the fat puppy killers?

    *All raise hands except AE2, who is looking dazed.*

    AE3 (whispering to AE4): I bet Carpenter kills puppies all the time.

    AE1: Good meeting, everyone! Let’s go smack down on some fat folk! (aside) Carpenter, can I see you in my office?

    It would be funny, if I didn’t think it actually might have happened. O_o.

  98. I am reminded once again that I sometimes think the single most important quality for human beings to have is, simply, compassion.

    The stories are reminding me of the particularly uncomfortable flights I had immediately following one of my foot surgeries, when my foot and leg were still swathed in a rather gigantic bandage (and I was totally non-weight bearing). The airline’s treatment of me in this case was great; from the moment my friend pulled up to the curb and found a red cap, I was all taken care of, no stress. As it happens, this was a time in my life when I was quite thin because I had been very sick (of course many people congratulated me on the “silver lining” of “looking fabulous” from my weight loss during those two full years of utter misery, memories of which naturally make me feel just GREAT when I think about them now that I’m happy, healthy, and recovered — and back to my old weight… guess I was a better person when I was too sick to eat, huh?). But on one of my flights, I was dozing after my early boarding (lots of painkillers, I wasn’t thinking very clearly), and suddenly realized that the woman next to me was KICKING MY BANDAGED FOOT. Repeatedly. Because it was in HER SPACE, because I couldn’t really bend my knee in the huge bandage, and my foot extended beyond the underside of the seat in front of me and into the underside of the seat in front of her, where she wanted to put her bag.

    I woke up enough to explain that I’d had surgery and couldn’t really move my foot. The memory’s a bit too fuzzy for me to remember exactly how it played out; I remember that *I* felt guilty and like a bad person for taking up her space — and I don’t remember her apologizing for KICKING ME REPEATEDLY, though at least she did stop. The memory, now, makes me outraged, absolutely outraged that someone could be so selfish and cruel that she could treat me that way. I wish I had, I don’t know, yelled at her, complained to the flight attendant, just done SOMETHING more to drive home the point that it is evil, cruel, potentially dangerous and harmful, I don’t even have words to describe what it is, to repeatedly kick somebody’s foot 5 days after they’ve had major surgery on it… I was lucky I didn’t take any damage.

    This new policy? If the airline, instead of treating me like a disabled person as they did, had instead ignored my pain and difficulty, had furthermore backed up the woman beside me, agreed she had every right to kick me, and demanded that I either pay for first class/two seats (like I could afford THAT after major surgery the insurance ended up largely not covering!) or get off the plane, forfeit my seat, buy another, possibly with extra fees. It’s just the same, as far as I can tell. I mean, hey, my surgery was technically “elective.” I didn’t HAVE to have it, even though it was best for my health in the long run. But it inconvenienced other people around me, and what right did I have to do that?

    In response to the question about whether fatness should be legally protected a disability even though what we’d really like is for society to see and treat it as normal, not a problem that needs to be fixed: well, my observation is that there are a lot of disabilities that wouldn’t be disabilities if society considered them normal and accommodated as such; but it doesn’t, so at least having a law to protect/enable people with those so-called “disabilities” is better than no protection at all. Under that logic, it might be a step in the right direction if people of sizes so large that our stupid society not only won’t accommodate them, but actively punishes them, were protected by disability laws.

  99. Aah, okay. I think I’ve calmed down a bit from when I posted upthread. I had heard about this from one of the other forums that I frequent, but it was posted with a subject line of “About time they made the fatties pay for more space! Booya!”… and the rest of it went downhill from there. It pisses me off that the fun, goofy, nerdy-gamer-fun-people places that I like to hang around online would never, ever accept me participating in ‘em in real life because I don’t meet some arbitrary standard of visual acceptability. So I got mad. And I said “fuck” a lot.

    I’ve flown United twice, and the experience was mostly unremarkable, if a little scuzzy and run-down. But I sent their customer service a mean and pissed off e-mail declaring that I’d never ever EVER fly with them again because of this. Air Canada all the way, man. The planes are a damn sight nicer, too. I’ve got my upcoming vacation booked with them, and I’m… a little tense, but not too terribly so. Travelling While Fat feels about the same as Walking While Fat or Shopping While Fat or Doing My Laundry While Fat or any number of things that involve me, out and about and bringing my fat in contact with the public. Which is to say I’ve got a background buzz of ‘I’m gonna get mocked, I’m gonna get mocked’, but I’m too preoccupied with getting my shit done to let it do anything like STOP me.

  100. I took advantage of Glenn Titon’s email, posted upthread, and made the following point (among others):

    You say you’ve received 700 complaints in one year out of all of the individuals who fly your airline. First, I note that 700 complaints does not necessarily correlate to 700 individual passengers. Second, surely you receive significantly more complaints about any one of the following than you do about the temerity of fat people wishing to engage in air travel: terrible food, insulting beverage charges, broken equipment, terrible customer service, lost luggage, delayed flights, frightening turbulence, filthy bathrooms, unexpected gate changes, tedious in-flight magazines, horrible movie offerings, and that insufferable flight safety video narrator. Yet, having flown United as recently as two months ago, I note that you’ve done nothing to address any of the issues listed above. I am curious what it is about fat passengers that prompted you to take such swift, ridiculous, and hateful action based on a mere 700 complaints when your airline has been willing to ignore complaints about everything from sanitation to safety for as long as I’ve been flying.

    There’s a little hyperbole in there, but the situation is just so ridiculous, I feel like I’m in bizarro land as it is.

  101. It appears to me that people think comfort is an amenity included in the cost of their fare. I wonder where on earth they got the idea that *anyone*, fat or thin or tall or large-schlonged or otherwise, is *entitled* to anything even resembling personal comfort while traveling by air. Especially when dealing with an industry that views human beings like this:

    http://pro.corbis.com/images/CB067036.jpg?size=572&uid={E9709C7C-3492-48C4-9C28-6F017A038E13}

  102. Wow, that’s fucked up. What’s even more fucked up is that my fiance and I both hover between 100-110 kg (220-240 lb approximately, we have a metric scale) – I’m 5’8 and he’s 6’5. Guess which one of us is more uncomfortable on airline flights – I’ll give you a hint, it’s not the ‘fat one.’

    For him to be comfortable he’d have to get a seat next to an empty one and sit sorta sideways to stretch his legs out. But I can’t imagine any airline actually making a *policy* about tall people.

    Argh. Seriously. Just argh. I’ve read like, 8 pages of your blog in the past day and a half. I’m also in Chicago (temporarily, til I move back to Australia) and I want to say you rock. I’ve always been fat, like, since I was 6 years old, and so is most of my family (all the women, most of the men) and that made me so depressed I as they say “ate my feelings”

    When I was 17, my batshit mom kicked me out of the house, and I lived on the streets and at shelters for about 9 months. During that time, due to, you know, not eating anything, I went from my max weight of 280 down to 185. The fucked up thing was I ended up going back to my old high school the next year when I moved in with my dad, and I was surrounded by so many people who were like “OMG WHAT DID YOU DO YOU LOOK SO GREAT!” Being a punk bitch at the time I told them the truth – their faces sorta shifted and I usually got a “wow, I’m sorry to hear that, but you look SO GOOD!!!!!”

    After that I started partying hard, first it was weed which strangely made me *lose* weight, I think it messes with the metabolism, then coke, pills, heroin, etc. Down to 145. I have one picture of me at my lowest weight, it’s shadowy but all I can see is my wrist, and it looks like I could literally snap it with no effort.

    Anyway I cleaned myself up and got on a medication which (yay) makes you gain weight. I was miserable. Even today, I get the random thoughts “I should start doing drugs again, just a bit, to help me lose weight.” Like that side effect would make all the rest of it worth it…and sometimes when I’m hating myself, like trying to shop at Australian clothing shops, seriously, your option is the shops that cater to the 45+ dynamic if you need more than an Aussie 14 (US 10-12) or Target if you need more than an Aussie 18 (US 14-16) and good luck finding over an Aussie 22 (US 18-20) – you might as well shop online.

    Anyway that’s my little rant. I’m SO FAR from coming anywhere close to fat acceptance, but I like the idea of health at any size (even if that voice in the back of my head is saying ooh if you do this youll lose weight) but I really love your blog, even if I’m not ready to *accept* my size, I’m definitely ready to stop HATING myself over it and seeing it as my defining physical trait.

    Anyway, you rock. Yeah…took a while to get to the point, but there it is. Thanks.

  103. Hey, how about this. Instead of booting people out of coach or off the plane, or making them pay for two coach seats: if there are any unsold seats in first class, fat people get them.

    This has the added benefit of making the complainers sorry they complained in the first place. Fat people get bumped to first, empty seats are used, and complainers get to sit there stewing in coach because they just had to open their traps.

    No, I’m not serious about this, because no one should be embarrassed or shamed by being made to move ANYwhere. But still, it’s a thought.

  104. This just added to the complete anxiety I’ve been feeling about an upcoming trip. Have to fly to the brother-in-law’s wedding with my husband (who takes up as much volume as me, but it’s all vertical space), in Norway. I’m already freaking out that we can’t afford 2 seats for ourselves – let alone an extra for my apparently giant ass

  105. Here’s what I wrote….

    I am writing to express how appalled I am at United’s new policy to require that passengers of size either purchase a second seat or be removed from the plane.
    I am a thin person, and I have been “encroached upon” in my plane seat by a larger person and found no need to complain about it. A little human kindness goes a long way, especially in a tight space.
    I realize that the Airline industry is hurting and you need to raise revenue despite fuel issues and reduced ridership, but there are other ways than victimizing a one of the biggest (pun not intended) groups in this country. By implementing these policies, you risk alienating 2/3 of your customer base.
    By pandering to the whines of the 700 or so people that do not know how to behave in public and feel so entitled as to never have to encounter another human being, you are hurting your own business.

    Another suggestion- rather than making passengers pay for two seats or excessive fees for checked baggage that ultimately result in passengers cramming as much stuff into their carryons as possible, why not charge people a per-pound rate on everything they bring onto an aircraft, checked or carryon, perhaps $1 per pound? Medical devices of course would be exempt. That way you would both reduce the amount of fuel wasted over cargo AND would not have to victimize people over their size.

  106. Meghan: Yes, some people suck it up, and some people complain. That’s just the nature of people.

    Uh, well, right. There are different sort of people in the world, and part of being an adult in public is expecting that someone else’s presence may not provide you with a delightful sensory experience. Which would make “absolute size” really, really far from the point, though I must say it’s a delightful phrase that I love saying.

  107. The employees bent over backwards to find an exit row seat for an especially tall teenager so he’d be comfortable and then perfunctorily and insultingly insisted a fat woman buy two seat. Yeah, no hypocracy there at all.

    No kidding! A few months ago, I was flying back from a very stressful visit to my family, and I had a panic attack while the plane was taxiing to the runway. They had to turn the plane around to get me back to the airport (and EMTs), and it inconvenienced every single person on the plane, but you know what? People treated me with dignity anyway, because it was clear that I was violently ill. My seatmate even got my bags out from the overhead for me. Later that day, after I had recovered, the airline booked me on a different flight, and I asked if I could have a seat in the back in case I got sick again (so I could puke in the bathroom instead of a bag). They told me no problem and GAVE ME THE ENTIRE BACK ROW at no extra charge so I could lie down. So I paid for one seat that day, but actually ended up taking up 4 at various times. With no extra charge and with a lot of sympathy from flight attendants and passengers.

    If the airlines cared about their passengers, they would take the opportunity to treat them with respect and dignity (like they did for me, a medium-sized person) rather than humiliating any passenger with a certain type of body.

  108. I’m a pretty compact 150 pounds (5’3″), and I’ve noticed the seats getting smaller over the last several years. I have trouble getting enough legroom now, and I have REALLY SHORT LEGS. It’s ridiculous, and I’m afraid they’re not going to stop until they’re shipping us standing up in little bubbles.

    And yeah, I don’t worry about sitting next to fat people (oh noez!). I just smush into my seat, open my book, and try to ignore that I’m in a flying tin can for a couple hours. I know that I’m way less uncomfortable than most people on airplanes.

    (I do wish they’d put the earphone jacks somewhere else, though–on my last flight the woman next to me had the armrest up and I couldn’t plug in my earphones. But while I’m at it, I wish they’re reverse the incredible shrinking seat trend, and I’d also like a llama.)

  109. (I do wish they’d put the earphone jacks somewhere else, though–on my last flight the woman next to me had the armrest up and I couldn’t plug in my earphones. But while I’m at it, I wish they’re reverse the incredible shrinking seat trend, and I’d also like a llama.)+

    Oooof yes please! Wire the damn panel into the back of the seats, plug headphones in there, voila. Wouldn’t THAT be nice. Hah!

  110. In June I’m going to be flying to Italy for a three-week school which I’m going to be basically managing and running.

    The company is paying for my seat in coach (already about $2000 round trip).

    I’m 6′ 0″, ~290lbs, broad-framed, and VERY pear shaped (I’m a 26 on bottom and a 20 on top).

    If they find me “too” fat, the following will possibly happen:
    * I get reaccommodated to a magic place where two unsold seats are side by side (unlikely)
    * I am forced to purchase another seat, which would have to be done on the company’s dime, meaning that I would cost $4000 to be transported, which is about what I bring home in eight weeks of salary;
    * I get bumped and have to miss my connecting flight and possibly be stranded in a European airport, or be late to the start of the school, which I’m the one principally responsible for organizing and *having start smoothly*

    I’m terrified. Absolutely terrified. It’s keeping me up nights.

  111. Mad love for Coco and OTM. And Lis, welcome and thanks! Also, I really need to do a thread that’s entirely devoted to people’s stories of, “I lost weight in a completely horrific way, and people kept telling me how great I looked.”

    Anyway, one thing I was just thinking about in the shower…. A few times, on especially cramped flights, when someone sitting in front of Al has reclined their seat — which means that at best, he can’t put his tray table down and at worst, he’s in actual pain — I’ve watched him tap that person on the shoulder and say, “Look, I’m sorry, and I know this sucks, but I’m 6’2″. I really just need you not to recline at all.” No one has ever argued with him or done anything but apologize and put their seat back up.

    First, I was totally amazed the first time I saw him do that, because I was like, “Wait, you can DO that? You can just say, ‘Hey, I need that space,’ like it’s no big thing, instead of suffering in silence? God, I wish I was a guy sometimes.”

    But beyond that, how many people do you suppose go home and call up the airline to say, “You know, I paid for a seat that reclines fully X inches, and the tall guy behind me insisted that I not make use of that option. I deserve a partial refund, and you need to make a policy that addresses tall people to make sure they’re not infringing on the rights of people seated in front of them”? I’m gonna go with zero. Because in that case, people just shrug and go, “Well, rats, I wanted to recline, but whaddaya gonna do? The poor guy’s suffering back there. Shit happens.”

    Yet, when the same person is asked to leave an arm rest up while sitting next to a fat person, said fat person’s physical pain means jack, because buddy PAID FOR A SEAT WITH AN ARM REST!!! SHE’S MAKING ME NOT GET EVERYTHING I PAID FOR! OH, THE HUMANITY! That’s totally all about the customer getting value for his money, nothing to do with fat hate, obvs. Nothing at all.

  112. OTM, I laughed myself silly at your letter. Tedious in-flight magazines! My new favorite thing to complain about.

  113. I think part of what needs to be realized here, as well, that this is a blatant move to make money off of what would have been unsold seats. If the airlines were really smart, they’d enforce this policy first, and then next year or so reduce the size of the seats yet again so that even more people must “choose” to pay for a second seat that would have otherwise gone unsold, and the airlines get the bonus of being able to squeeze another fare in every row by the additional tiny seat the seat width reduction would have produced.

    The point is, like has been said above over and over, flying coach is uncomfortable for everyone, and concessions must be made on nearly every flight to something that is annoying/uncomfortable/too loud/etc.

    My brother is 6′ 9″, and he also asks the people in front of him not to recline. He weighs a good 100 lbs more than I do, is taller, and yet can still fit in the seats and buckle the seat belt. So is this policy inherently sexist? Hellza yes.

  114. At least from my experience on planes, buses, trains, and concert seating, shoulders and elbows are a zillion times more likely than hips or tummies to intrude into seat-neighbors’ space. United is dumb if they think fat is actually the problem.

  115. Yes, my complaint is sent also. I also had to fit in my complaint about being completely unable to get my knees in behind the seat in front of me. Because, you know, I’m freakishly tall at 6′. If they start charging folks for taking up more airplane real estate, like they say they are doing, then tall folks would get hit too. And how about those people who fit in their seats but throw out their elbows and cross their legs, etc? Body builders, athletes, BO, purfume. Where does it stop?

    Actually, I framed my complaint as a question of their soundness in organizational decisions. If their logic and sense is this poor, do I really want to entrust my safety to them? If they can’t think around all the corners in this issue, I don’t trust their overall competence!

  116. It strikes me that so much of this shit is about nasty people’s overinflated sense of selves, that mean little streak that sort of runs through everyone, but thanks to the past eight years of the United States’ leadership effectively condoning and promoting that mean streak in a “I gotz mine, so fuck all the rest of you” sort of way. I don’t know about the rest of North America, let alone the rest of the world, and this could be thanks to a greater awareness to people’s attitudes on my part, though I’ve always been uber-sensitive to this sort of thing.

    Which I know is incredibly obvious, but I am the Rear Admiral Lieutenant General of Obviousity lately.

    And in-flight magazines are a sedative, duh! They exist to bore you into complacency in the event of a crash, with such tantalizing articles as: “Salt: An Epicure’s Delight.”

    /red dwarfishness

  117. I’ve never been on a plane where I haven’t had to put the armrest down as the plane was taking off. I fear that, so I don’t fly. Is that not usual in North America?

  118. This morning, I was on one of the most crowded buses I’ve ever been on. Then a woman with three small kids, including one in a wheelchair, got on. The bus driver rousted four people from their seats to accommodate the wheelchair, and they gamely pushed toward the back with all the other people already standing. The bus was stopped for 5 minutes or more while the driver hooked the kid in, inconveniencing the whole bunch of us. The mom managed to find seats for the two kids; the youngest didn’t like where he was sitting and started to cry, while the oldest, who was in charge of the stroller, dropped it on my foot.

    And you know what? Everybody dealt. People smiled at the woman and the kids. The bus got on its way. Everybody arrived, a little later and little more squashed, at their destination.

    Really, is that so hard?

  119. bigliberty: I don’t fly much at all anymore, but is there any way you can contact the airline NOW and get them to work something out for your June trip? I hate to think of you stressing about it so far in advance. I mean, even if you get something in writing from them now, some sort of committment about your seating on flights, you may still get crap at the airports but you’d have some plan to wave in their faces, rather than having to “wing it.”

    Not related to bigliberty’s situation, but my personal flying horror story. About 20 years ago and a good 100 pounds ago, I was flying to a job interview. I was just graduating with my Ph.D. and interviewing at every university in the land (or so it seemed). For this interview, I took a major plane from large city to large city but then had to take a puddle jumper (6 seater) into the bowels of Kansas. Oh no, I was not happy. The clerk at the check in counter asked me my weight. I wanted to know why he needed to know. He said, in small planes they have to distribute weight correctly. Makes sense. I didn’t want to crash. I told him my weight. I don’t lie about it anyway–it is what it is. He did not believe me. I pulled out my driver’s license, and his response was that “everyone lies on those things too.” So his solution was to put me on the baggage scale. In front of all of the other folks in line, other clerks, and everything. Talk about humiliation. And then had the gall to announce, quite loud, “well, looks like you were telling the truth, you DO weigh XXX”

    My face still burns when I think of it.

  120. Hm, I don’t recall getting a price break from the airlines when I was anorexic.

    I had to start paying full-fare prices for my son when he turned *two*. If the airline ever gave me a problem about how much space I was taking up, I’d just say that they can deduct whatever space my butt is taking up from the extra space left on my son’s seat.

    Regarding airline passengers, though, I don’t fly a ton, but I usually take a flight or two a year to go to visit my parents, and while everybody is pretty unhappy and uncomfortable flying, I’ve flown next to people of all sizes and honestly have never encountered anybody who was a jerk. I’ve never not been able to lower the armrests, but I’m definitely not a small person and I’ve never gotten snide comments or rude looks from a seat neighbor. I know people like that are out there, and they suck, but I think the fear of “OMG, the person next to me is going to hate sitting next to a fat person and make my flight miserable!” is probably worse than the reality in many cases, since most people are expecting to not be particularly comfortable on a flight.

  121. I’m sorry, but someone is not automatically an asshole if they complain on an airplane- whether the complaint is about babies, smells, bratty kids, or someone encroaching on their space. I don’t agree with this policy because it’s true, you could say “what about really tall/broadshouldered/lanky people” but I can’t get behind the idea that you’re an asshole for speaking your mind.

    I don’t think the solution is to charge more, I think that we should make the seats bigger for sure (they are uncomfortable either way) but don’t call me an asshole if I don’t want someone squished up against me all flight. The thing is, I have no problem telling lanky white male McGhee to get in his own space. I have no trouble telling someone not to touch me or my things. This doesn’t make me an asshole, it makes me confident enough to stand up for myself. I realize this is a tangent but a lot of the subtext of these comments, such as “all of us being a little more compassionate, it’s uncomfortable for all of us” just doesn’t work with me. I paid for my seat, be it a train or a plane or a bus, and I’m going to do everything in my power to be comfortable. And unfortunately, when someone is very large (in ANY WAY) and as a result is pressed up against me all flight, and giving ME a bruise on MY LEG because I’m literally crushed up against the arm rest that doesn’t move, there is nothing I can do. There *is* logic to the “mid-flight” problems versus “in flight” problems.

    I see being seated next to a very large passenger as the same as being seated next to a screaming baby- I don’t hate large people, and I don’t hate babies, but it annoys the shit out of me to be stuck on a plane for hours on end crammed next to either. I fully realize there is no logical or workable or FAIR way to get around this 100% of the time, but it’s not like people who state their displeasure are heartless asshole freaks of nature who can’t control their self centered egotistical rage. It’s natural to not want to get smooshed all flight, or get screamed at all flight. So let’s stop judging the NATURAL human reactions to those situations and talk about how to fix it- we need bigger seats, better service, less packed flights. That would benefit EVERYONE without discriminating specifically against large people- broad shouldered, tall, large, fat, etc.

  122. Well, Rebecca, they are among the fruitiest and most succulent.

    Liz, with a beer milkshake, I hope.

    Which, incidentally, ARE FUCKING DELICIOUS. Guinness Stout + chocolate ice cream = scrumptiousness.

    It also occurred to me that I have flown probably more than average, though by no means a ton, and I have never ever been so annoyed as to complain except when British Air forced me to check my bag, which was in fact smaller than the carry-on allowance, and then proceeded to lose it. I mostly just put my head down and try to tune out, and so far I haven’t been so offended by others’ humanity as to waste my energy complaining to a fucking airline as if my petty complaints have any true merit, and as if they give a shit. I may be a complete idealist, but I’m not fucking delusional.

  123. @Muse of Ire, you’re lucky. We had one woman with a baby who was Not Happy on my bus last night, and two people went over and told the woman to shut her baby up.

    Seven or eight of us pointed out to the complainers they could get right the fuck off the bus and get on the one coming in five minutes, no, seriously, leave now.

    The poor mother was so embarrased (I don’t get why, babies cry, it’s what they do) she got off at the next stop.

  124. Seven or eight of us pointed out to the complainers they could get right the fuck off the bus and get on the one coming in five minutes, no, seriously, leave now.

    THANK YOU FOR DOING THIS.

  125. Pocomommy, that is so appalling! I’m so sorry that asshole felt it was necessary not only to treat you like a liar, but then to deflect from his own assholishness of treating you like a liar by announcing your weight to everyone, like no one would notice he was being a douchenozzle.

    I’m willing to bet everyone who witnessed that was NOT on his side.

  126. this is really frustrating. i mainly lurk but this just brought me out into the open. first discrimination aganst “le fatte’ ” because they in your space, well then why not discriminate against sex, religion, and race (well some do ne ways). if your gonna be an asshole to one group then be an asshole to all. i have not been on a flight since 2000 and this is just another reason not to.

    instead of just using all the money that they have to make bigger seats (which would in return cause more people to fly, thus making more money) they have to punish the ones who dont fit the “body ideal” that has been somewhat in place for god knows how long that does not even make sense. im telling you just wait and see, you are gonna have some jackass that thinks that glbt’s and blacks are harmful to his /her space, then they will be charging extra for glbt ‘s and other minorites to board a plane

    discrimination is wrong across the board. no if’s and’s or but’s about it.

  127. Is there a different way to do airlines? I mean, what if there were an airline club that was owned by members/shareholders? And when you sign up, you indicate what sorts of perks you need, and the more you want to Not Be Bothered By Others the more you pay? There’s a level of membership where you never ever have to sit next to children under 16, or something. And if you’re always willing to be the person to get put next to the small children (like me, I’d have no problem with this, I’m used to it.) The fares are standard based on when and where you’re going, but the membership fees differ based on what kind of distance you need others to be held at in order for you to feel comfortable (and for which you’re willing to pay).

  128. Why can’t I, or anyone, buy 1/2 a seat for 1/2 the price I paid extra? First class is often 4 times as much as coach, for not 4x as much space, I’d wager, although the way coach is shrinking it might be soon.

    I purchase absolutely everything I can on my United visa card, just so I can upgrade whenever I can. Even upgrading to Economy Plus, which has the same width seats as coach but with more legroom can feel better to me. I try to get a window seat and lean into the body of the plane, rather than the person next to me. I’m a size 24/26 on the bottom and can usually buckle the seatbelts, albeit tightly. http://www.seatguru.com is very helpful in picking the least bad seat for when I do fly coach.

    Ironically, I had to book a flight on Southwest just yesterday–first time since their policy went into effect years ago. My boyfriend is really skinny, so we should be fine, but who knows what will happen at the gate.

  129. Aww, thank you lucizoe. You are very sweet. I will tell you the punch line: it was the job I REALLY wanted, and I got it in the end. But the airline also lost my luggage, so I was in that tiny plane, humiliated and in tears because my luggage also had my interview clothes and my presentation. When I got off the plane, I was met by the department chairman and his wife, neither of whom I had met before. I was puffy eyed and SO not the suave inteview candidate I wanted to be. The man who would become my boss for the next 5 years, his wife, and the other faculty came to my aid, were as gracious as anyone could ever hope for, and I was happily ever after at that job for a long while. I still wouldn’t have chosen to get weighed and to have it broadcast in the airport, if I’d had my druthers. :)

  130. I am a member of the United frequent flyer program. I’m currently not traveling often (baby), but when I’m back to my normal schedule I’ll be flying domestic seven or eight times a year, once internationally.

    I have written my complaint letter with my frequent flyer number in the subject line. Anyone else with such a number should do the same, and use the Mileage Plus customer service link – our complaints go higher up and faster than the general line.

    I am 5’4″ and 144 pounds as of this morning. I wear a size 10. If I were willing to give up the ability to take deep breaths I could force on an 8.

    My hips hit the armrests when I get into the seat no matter what, and on some planes, squish out beneath the armrests into the neighboring seats when I am sitting down.

    The problem is not the dimension of the human in the fucking seat.

  131. Yeah, I dunno Cortney, you come off kinda like an asshole to me.

    unfortunately, when someone is very large (in ANY WAY) and as a result is pressed up against me all flight, and giving ME a bruise on MY LEG because I’m literally crushed up against the arm rest that doesn’t move, there is nothing I can do.

    You could pay extra for more room or not take the transportation. Don’t want to? Neither do they. Otherwise, short of them losing volume during the course of the flight, what exactly do you expect them to do either?

  132. What they should do is ask for people’s body sizes when they’re buying the ticket. It would be easy enough to pair up people by sizes and give them seat tickets accordingly. For instance, the Kate Hardings would be paired with the Kate Mosses. Then all the leftover Kate Does could sit next to each other. I think a little forethought and organization could knock this problem out without having to resort to the kind of embarrassing and costly situations this new policy will entail.

  133. I got a little distracted by that one quote, there’s thorazine available?! Yeah, I’ll skip the in flight movie and have that.

    I’m terrified of having to fly because I can no longer sit in a seat with my feet parallel to the floor, I have to have my right leg way out in front of me or I’m in excruciating knee pain. Not being able to afford a second seat is right up there with worrying about affording accommodation for my disability. Right now, it looks like I’ll have to be left at home alone for a week when my husband goes to visit his family, and we’ll all have to hope I don’t need any help taking care of myself.

    F. U.nited indeed, eff all the airlines right now.

  134. I think Cortney is agreeing with you fillyjonk. She doesn’t expect fat people to do anything about it. What I believe she way saying is that her complaining about the situation doesn’t make her an asshole. She can complain about the situation to the airline in hopes of and with the suggestion of more spacious seating for all. Unfortunately, especially in a recession and as much as airlines are struggling financially, they don’t have the kind of money it would take to remodel their airplanes. We all want cheap tickets, and, sadly, this is what we get for it. Perhaps there should be an option to pay an extra dollar every time you buy a ticket that will be donated toward remodeling planes to have larger seats. Otherwise, I don’t know how any of us is going to be satisfied.

  135. I’m kind of wondering what solution Cortney et al could come up with for my screaming baby…

    When did people decide they were paying money for comfort? You’re not – you’re paying for mass transportation which requires you to travel with OTHER PEOPLE.

    FFS buy a private jet or get over yourselves.

  136. Fillyjonk, did you even read my comment? I specifically said that there was nothing you can do *in flight* when it comes to body size- and I didn’t say fat, I said body size, tall, broad shouldered, large chested whatever- and then further said that I disagreed with the policy, and that they should focus on better service, larger seats, and more comfortable travel in general. My point was that there are other things you *can* do in flight, and that I don’t think of myself as an asshole for simply standing up for myself and telling a man to not touch my things, or turning around and telling a parent to please ask their 10 year old to quit kicking my seat.

    But overall my point was that I’m not an asshole for having a natural human reaction to not wanting to hear babies cry, to not wanting to be smooshed against the wall, to not having room to move, etc. I was addressing the fact that many of these comments took an attitude of the problem being the complaint- to me, the complaint is valid. What isn’t valid is the action taken, which I said, at the end of my comment, isn’t fair and that there should be another solution that didn’t involve discriminating against people.

    But thanks for calling me an asshole for saying yes, I’m sorry, I like to be comfortable. I think most people- fat thin tall short what ever- like to be comfortable, and as I said in my comment that you apparently chose to read with your “interpret in the worst way possible in order to get offended and be able to call names” filter my point was that we DON’T need to have DISCRIMINATORY pay charges, we need to address the problem that results in people legitimately and understandably being uncomfortable at having their space encroached on- regardless of the reasons for it being so. The airlines are cheap and should stop packing us in like sardines for one. I have no idea how you didn’t get that from my comment, other than that you chose to assume I was an asshole from the get go.

  137. Well my solution, in the Universe Where People Are Not Assholes, is that everyone would get space relative to their size, and airplanes could even do this without decreasing the number of seats on their planes. Some of them would be wider for fatter and/or broader shouldered people, and some of them would be narrower for smaller people, and most of them would be average width. Some of the leg space would be longer and some of the leg space would be shorter. They would determine which seat you would get by your size, but no one would feel ashamed about it, because everyone would accept that people deserve the same amount of relative space, not the same amount of absolute space. They would figure out what proportions of seats should be what size based on the stats of the heights and weights of people who fly and not on what size people “should be”.

    I say this as a fairly little person who always has extra room in the width of the seat and extra leg room, unless it’s one of those super tiny planes with only 39 seats, in which case I’m still comfortable but don’t have any extra room. If I can “give up” some of that extra space and still be comfortable, why not let someone who’s uncomfortably squished have it?

    haha, reading that first sentence over again and I sound like a communist manifesto of airplane seating.

  138. Here’s the copy of my complaint letter, BTW:

    This complaint is in regards to your new “screw the fatties” policy.

    I have not traveled recently due to a new baby. When I resume traveling, it will be seven to eight domestic flights a year, and one international flight.

    Those flights will not be on United unless this policy is reversed. It only took 700 complaints to put it in, so surely you can pull it when you get 700 complaints against it.

    I am a size 10. I am 5’4″. I weigh 144. I run two miles a day. I cannot sit in one of your coach seats without my hips hitting your armrests.

    Your reducing the seat dimensions past the point of insanity does not entitle you to punish your customers, and I will not reward that punishment with my business.

  139. unfortunately, when someone is very large (in ANY WAY) and as a result is pressed up against me all flight, and giving ME a bruise on MY LEG because I’m literally crushed up against the arm rest that doesn’t move, there is nothing I can do.

    Good thing fatties have no feelings or nerve cells, so THEIR legs are completely unbruised and comfortable! And those crying babies — you’d think they’d learn to shut up or something. I mean, it’s not like they’re having a terrifying experience that makes their eardrums feel like they’re exploding or anything.

    but I can’t get behind the idea that you’re an asshole for speaking your mind.

    Right, you’re an asshole for having a bigoted mind, not just for talking.

  140. the kind of people who call an airline to complain about sitting next to a fatty (more on them in a moment) are not just complaining about people who can’t lower an armrest and get buckled up with a single extender.

    Oh yeah. I CAN get buckled with a single extender – and not uncomfortably. I CAN lower the armrest, although not comfortably. ME, Ms 400lbs, 58-58-68. And I STILL get the “OMG I hope SHE’s not seated next to ME” looks waiting at the gate.

    also already exists an option that GUARANTEES THAT A FAT ASS WILL NOT IMPINGE ON YOUR SPACE at a premium. Why shouldn’t people who want breathing room on an airline be the ones to pay for the privilege?

    Generally, when I fly, I do one of the following:
    1) buy first class (if cheaper than 2 coach)
    2) buy 2 seats (if cheaper than first class)
    3) buy 3 seats for 2 persons (say if flying with a friend)

    Last time I flew it was first class. I noticed the that the ones I overheard talking about not wanting to sit next to THAT FAT WOMAN while waiting at the gate looked REALLY pissed when they boarded and saw me sitting in first class. Gee, I wonder why? I wanted to say, “You’re NOT sitting next to me. So be HAPPY already!”

  141. My point was that there are other things you *can* do in flight, and that I don’t think of myself as an asshole for simply standing up for myself and telling a man to not touch my things, or turning around and telling a parent to please ask their 10 year old to quit kicking my seat.

    Or standing up for yourself by telling someone not to be fat at you?

    Cortney, you’re really coming across as saying “I agree with all these ideas against discrimination; I’d just like to be mean about it, thanks.” What do you get out of that?

  142. I second seatguru, especially when comparing flights on different planes — for me, the inch between the 17-inch seats and the 18-inchers makes all the difference. Also, even if you do spring for first class, on some planes, that’s only a half-inch difference!

  143. Cortney, you are not helping your case. Here’s the problem: Several people on this thread, including me, have expressed the same basic points you claim you’re trying to make. To wit, everybody’s uncomfortable, lots of bodies are built to encroach on others in such a close space, flying is fucking miserable and annoying, being squished by strangers is never fun, etc. — ergo, while flying, it is perfectly natural to be cranky and irritated by any number of things other human beings do and are.

    NOT ONE of the people who has expressed those sentiments has been told she sounds like an asshole by a moderator, except you. Maybe you should think about why that is instead of insulting a moderator, which is REALLY not a good way to improve your standing in this community.

  144. Sweet machine, I was referencing an earlier comment where a woman complained about a bruise on her thigh because she couldn’t fit in the seat- my point was that, to completely beat a dead horse, we are ALL UNCOMFORTABLE on planes. We should be focusing, as I said in my first comment, NOT on discriminating against large people (which I reiterated in my second comment) but rather on improving the seating in general. I have no idea how I could have made that clearer.

    Further, in regards to everyone jumping me like I hate babies, I thought it was clear from my first comment that one can be annoyed at crying babies *without* hating them- I have never, ever complained about a baby crying. Ever. It’s not their fault. I’m just saying, that the natural human reaction to being annoyed at a baby crying does not make someone an asshole.

    I was referencing what I admitted was a subtext of the comments, and not a direct rebuttal of the post- the idea that someone is an asshole when they complain. I happen to think that complaining doesn’t make someone an asshole, and that was my point. It’s not the complaint that’s the problem- be it a large person complaining they don’t fit, or someone complaining they are pressed up against- it’s our reaction to it.

    I’m going to say it, again, as I said in my very first comment- I don’t agree with this policy. I think it’s discriminatory.

  145. Well, Cortney’s first post was about discussing whether or not someone is an asshole for complaining. She brought it up herself. Those who have called her an asshole subsequently are doing so in reference to her own point. I believe that’s the reason she’s the only “ONE” who has been called an asshole by a moderator for expressing her sentiments. Sorry, just had to make a technical point here.

  146. Thanks Sanya for reminding me to use the Mileage Plus contact email as our house has a Premier and a Premier Executive Member in residence.

    That said- everyone quoting Seat Guru and the seat size in first class:

    Seat sizes on SeatGuru and United’s website include the full width of the padding on the seat cushions. Whilst there is a gap for supports between the seat cushions, the armrests are wider than the supports meaning you don’t actually get the full width reported for your hips. I’ve taken a sewing measuring tape for this before.

    Also in first class, where seats are reported to be larger, they infact can be smaller thanks to fixed armrests that are solid with no gaps to hold all the crap like the TVs. We upgraded to business on our Dulles-Rome legs of flights for our honeymoon and the seats were actually narrower than economy plus which did in fact leave my crying in pain after a few hours. Of course we had booked both our economy plus tickets on a 777 which they switched out at the last minute for a smaller plane with smaller overall seats. Given that we specifically booked the 777 tickets for the sake of extra space I wish they could get in trouble for breach of contract.

  147. I am a longtime flight attendant and I am appalled by this policy announcement, the latest in a long string of customer-screwing policies initiated by the company because, much to their great chagrin, it would be illegal to direct their flight attendants to go up and down the aisle taking all the cash out of passengers wallets and purses. My partner of 5 years does not fit these “guidelines,” and I am tempted to go online and by him a ticket in hopes that we might be among the first to file a lawsuit (thus forcing United to pay my retirement after all, ha ha.)

    For what it’s worth, I will not raise so much as a finger in “defense” of this heinous and discriminatory policy and now, thanks to this sweet blog, I am armed with my response. In future, when skinny passengers complain about having to share their space (and they will; they do) I will offer the suggestion that if they wish to guarantee their space, they should upgrade or buy a second ticket.

    Trust me, if flight attendants got to decide who should be penalized for taking up “too much (psychic) space” on the airplane, it would rarely be the fatties who got dinged.

  148. Gotta say, Fillyjonk, I think you might be being too hard on Cortney. She’s right, everybody likes being comfy, and she’s right that “we don’t need to have discriminatory pay charges”–I don’t remember reading any bits where she claimed a magic perfect idea on how to fix it with non-discriminatory pay charges, or a magic criterion which would separate those who must pay from those who don’t hafta. It’s impossible to decide how much room people Should take up–but might be equally impossible not to think that way when everybody gets approximately a quarter of a telephone booth in which to attempt Teh Comfy.

    But I’m all for discriminatory pay charges for the willfully annoying–the persistent hitters-on need two seats, clearly! (-;

  149. Wow. Only got through half the thread, because it’s way past my bedtime, but I wanted to confess, somewhat shamefacedly, that it took me that whole half of the thread to get all the way on board. Before that I really wanted to be all the way on board, but something was holding me back, and I finally realized what it was: I’m way too conditioned to expect my “small person rights to space,” as punkrockhockeymom so resonatingly put it. There was still a voice in my mind that was saying, “But…if someone really doesn’t fit into one seat, shouldn’t they have to buy two? Do we really have a “right” not to have to buy things we need?” And I bought all the arguments about other, still-unpunished ways of impinging on people’s comfort zones on an airplane, and I understood that the new policy was arbitrary and dehumanizing…but God help me, something was still niggling, because I was clinging to my small person rights to space. If I buy an airline ticket, said my unexamined assumption, doesn’t that give me the right to every square inch of my seat space?

    Um…no. It gives me the right to sit in the seat. Anything after that is luck of the draw. And one more scrap on the pile of privilege blindness bites the dust. Time to complain to United…

  150. I just sent this letter on United’s Web site (click “Customer Service” and you’ll see a handy e-mail link):

    I am writing to complain about your newly announced policy of forcing larger passengers to pay for extra seats. I am a large woman due to a hereditary condition, and I must fly frequently for business. I understand that many passengers would prefer not to sit next to me. I would prefer not to sit next to crying babies, amorous unwashed men, heavily perfumed ladies, and drunken sports fans. Will you be charging them extra too? Instead, I hope United will rethink its cabins so as to allow enough room for most Americans to sit comfortably. Until then, I will choose another airline.

    Sincerely,

    (me)

  151. Cortney, I don’t think anyone has said, or implied, that it’s unacceptable to complain about a fellow passenger harassing you, or a kid kicking your seat, or anything else that’s actually within that person’s control. What’s unacceptable is complaining about things that are not within anybody’s control. Like their size. Or their crying baby.

    And by “complaining” in that paragraph, what I really mean is “complaining as if you expect someone to do something about it” or “complaining directly to, or in earshot of, the fat person/person with a baby/airsick person/whatever”. Of course you have the right to be annoyed, to complain within your own mind, and, when you get home, to complain to your friends how much your flight sucked. But airing those complaints in front of the people who are, inadvertently, annoying you just makes more people uncomfortable and unhappy.

    Yeah, it’s natural to dislike being uncomfortable. But it’s civilized to deal with it without making everyone else miserable too.

  152. I don’t know, if you feel you have a right to complain loudly and publicly that someone else’s being is making you uncomfortable, and believe that your complaint should be listened to or acted on in some way, that makes you, at the very least, unlikeable if not an asshole.

  153. Couple things, for what it’s worth:

    1. The parents of the crying kid ARE ALSO BOTHERED BY THE CRYING, very likely have gotten less sleep than you, have been having all day to deal with having to care for the vulnerable body of a person who is very poorly-accommodated by public space.

    2. There are nice ways to address a disagreeable child who is old enough to behave better. (To toot my own horn: I was once getting spat upon in line by a kid who was blowing raspberries for fun. I turned to her – she was probably eight or nine – and smiled and said, “You probably don’t realize this, but some of your spit is ending up on my arm. Do you think you could turn your head a little?” She was my new best friends. Kids are mostly flabbergasted when adults address them like they’re people.

    3. There are not nice ways to address a crying baby. Babies can’t be stopped from crying, especially when they’re away from their homes and have missed a nap. It just sucks for everyone, including especially the baby and the people who are primarily responsible for him or her.

    4. There is a sexist construct saying that mothers are 100 percent responsible for erasing all signs of their children’s bodies and bodily needs in spaces that don’t accommodate those bodies very well. Therefore, if you are bothered by a child in public, and you think of yourself as a feminist, please consider trying ANYTHING other than blaming or taking it up with the mother! Deep breathing, taking it up with the father, actually *talking* to the child in a respectful tone, making it a “we” problem instead of a “that mother needs to get her kid under control” problem, etc.

    5. It is very likely that you, too, will someday have a body that is poorly accommodated in public spaces in ways that are inconvenient and annoying for yourself and others. Think about what kind of people you’d like to be stuck on a plane with when the shoe’s on the other foot.

  154. Sweet Machine, I totally adore you too! (I’ve been loving your comments on the Bitch Ph.D thread from hell, too. Yours and m. leblanc’s, and probably other Shapelings I didn’t realize were Shapelings. But way to call bullshit on the hoity-toity business.)

    Also, everyone, sorry for this:

    It is very likely that you, too, will someday have a body that is poorly accommodated in public spaces in ways that are inconvenient and annoying for yourself and others. Think about what kind of people you’d like to be stuck on a plane with when the shoe’s on the other foot.

    In my mind, I had the opening clause, “If you don’t already…” before that. But I didn’t write it. That was a screwup. Sorry.

  155. Kate, I am here! (Man, I was not online for, like, two hours, and I missed over 180 comments!!) I will totally travel with you! Can we go to New Zealand?

  156. I’ve seen this statistic quoted twice in articles linked from this post already: “A Southwest Airlines rep tells a similar story: The company, which has already cracked down on oversize passengers, still gets more angry mail from encroached customers than from fat ones. ”

    Neither article (on Slate or on the Daily Kos) had comments enabled, however, is it a complete lack of logic on my part that says that *of course* they don’t get more complaints from fat ones, because fat ones aren’t flying Southwest now?

    Am on a flight (USAir) in July and am already freaking about the looks I know I’ll get…I’m in the boat of being able to use an extender and get the armrest down but still being uncomfortable – I’ve got broad shoulders anyway. I know I’ll get glared at by at least one person, especially if I have to get up and use the bathroom during my flight.

    Will have to write United off my airlines-to-fly list, however, along with Southwest.

  157. I like Southwest for other reasons, but United is taboo now. I don’t fly much, but guess who books tickets for my coworkers? And guess who’s not going to be flying United when I book?

    I confess to a simmering internal rage when the infant behind me screams for 6 hours, but at least I keep it internal and know, intellectually, that no one is at fault. I did also have a fun flight where a three year old kicked me in my kidneys, despite my attempts at self-defense. I have sympathy for parents. I really, really do. But I do wish that they’d give us those plexiglass sound barriers they pass out to the people who sit in front of the trumpets in the orchestra so they still have eardrums after rehearsal.

  158. Well, for fuck sake. Ok, fine, I’ll admit it: I’ve had the audacity to fly NOT ONLY FAT, but WITH TWO SMALL CHILDREN! I know, right? What the fuck was I thinking, inflicting myself and my family on all those other nice, unobtrusive passengers?? I’m such an asshole.

    Well, time to settle up. Let see, my son is 4, so I had to buy a seat for him, but not for my 16-month old, so that’s like +1/3, maybe? My son doesn’t take up the whole seat, so I guess -1/3? My ass does squish out into his seat a bit, but I already paid for it, so that evens out. But, then if there’s someone on my other side then +1/10 seems fair. I do like to get drunk and set my hair on fire in flight, so that’s gotta be worth +1.5, but then I don’t have schlong so -1/2.
    I am totally that bitch that will ask the person in front of me reclining their seat to put it up, and I dare to do it while fat, so that’s +1/4 right there. But then I also NEVER put my seat back if someone’s behind me, so that’s -1/4, PLUS minus another 1/4 for being so awesome. I should add some if my daughter poops in her diaper mid-flight, because of the smell and all, but I shouldn’t have to pay upfront in case she’s constipated that day. Minus for a well-behaved son, never wearing perfume, and being a sparkling conversationalist. Plus for the inevitable take-off and landing baby squawks, having broad shoulders, and wearing bright colors

    So…(*pokes tongue out*) that’s …+2….-1….carry the 3….cosine….

    Aw, shit. I forgot to add at least 2 for nursing my baby mid-flight, because, seriously…boobies, but not in a fun way.

    Fuck math – I’ll just write United a letter of apology for having the temerity to leave my house, include a check for 2.5 times what I’ve paid in the past and call it good.

  159. LOL krismcn!!! I love you! Let’s start our own airline!!

    (Anita, though, I do sympathize — it is a HARD noise to listen to. At least, I find it really hard, even/especially when it’s my kid. If you invent those plexiglass things I’ll pre-order one.)

  160. Hey, anyone wanna know my fellow-passenger pet peeve that’s a source of irrational rage? Frequent throat-clearing, snarfing, audible tooth-sucking, and any combination thereof. It brings out my absolute, absolute worst qualities. It reminds me of my father-in-law, as well as interminable breakfasts with my parents when I was a teenager and none of us knew how to talk to each other. Seriously, I HATE IT SO MUCH SO MUCH THERE ARE NO WORDS I WANT TO STAB MY EARDRUMS AND MEANWHILE MY HEART TURNS TO COLD SHRIVELED TAR AND I SEND MENTAL DEATH RAYS TO THE OFFENDER!

    The thing is, though, I don’t consider myself as having paid to be free of my irrational pet peeves that stir my worst qualities. If only frequent throat-clearers were despised by the manufacturers of popular culture, like fat people and women are. Then I’d be all set — I could have them bumped from the plane and pat myself for being so fair.

  161. ctjen, it is ONE HUNDRED PERCENT MY PROBLEM and it’s an irrational thing for me even to be bothered by. May I gather, from your response, that I was *far* too blasé about the fact that it’s my reaction that’s the problem, not the problem of the throat clearer? Assuming that’s the case: I’m really sorry.

  162. Carla: Nah, horses are assholes.

    And you should know, Riki-Manu. Biggest horse asshole of them all!

    m.leblanc, as for the disability discussion, I think the point to make there is that disability is context-specific. A person can be abled in some situations and disabled in others (for instance, a situation in which their body is required to fit into a seat manufactured to fit only certain people).

    Some airlines (at least in Europe) do sell their seats at different prices depending on small differences in comfort. It almost seems like a good idea, but then you get situations like when my brother had to fly home with his foot in a cast. There were free seats available in a row that happened to have a bit more leg room, so they approached him with an offer to move to one of those for something like 20 euro. He was annoyed, said no thank you, and those seats were left empty. I assume that before they had this policy, they would have used some common sense and put the guy with the broken leg wherever he’d be more comfortable.

    THIS is why disability law should cover this issue. This should be fucking ILLEGAL. The airline should be required to do whatever is necessary at no additional cost to the customer to accomodate the person for whom they have not arranged the proper facilities. If facilities can’t accomodate customers, it’s the fault of the people who MADE THEM, not the dummies who dare to be shaped wrong. FFS.

    (Oh, or what Ayelle said. Sorry, the thread is so long I can’t remember what I want to say, so I’m adding to my comment as I read!)

  163. Errgh, CTJen — yeah, it would be nice if in apologizing to you I also capitalized your name properly.

    Hey, also, I know intentions aren’t the important thing — effects are — but does it mitigate anything if I explain that part of my point was that my reaction *is* totally ridiculous in a way that’s obvious to everyone, and then likening that to fat phobia (i.e. it’s ALSO ridiculous and irrational, just like my irrational reaction to throat clearing)?

    Maybe it doesn’t, and in any case the apology stands. I was thinking about making my point zingingly more than I was thinking about people, and that was wrong. And it should have occurred to me that I wasn’t just poking fun at myself, but was poking fun at people who clear their throats (for *whatever* reason, which anyway isn’t my business.)

  164. LMAO krismcn!

    I have a complaint. All this fucking wit that everyone here seems to have – where’s my share? I wanna be funny too!

    Ok, srsly though. I’ve been lurking in this thread most of the day because I just couldn’t imagine what I could possibly contribute. As if that’s ever stopped me before but sometimes I’m irrationally shy.

    I flew for the first time ever last year and it was a relatively good experience overall but before I got on that plane I was in severe anxiety mode for days – weeks! – not because I was afraid the plane was going to suddenly drop from the sky but because I was terrified of any number of things including being too fat for the seat or having my weird hormonal issue that screws with my body odors from time to time rearing its nasty head on the day of the flight and then I’d not only be fat but I’d fat and smelly and how dare me. Both of with are things that are beyond my control. The thing I didn’t think about is that I would have a very real issue with how crowded my legs are. I’m only 5’3 so I thought my short legs would be fine – then I stood up after 2 1/2 hours and had absolutely no feeling in my left foot at all. By time I got to the gate the blood had begun to flow back to my foot and it was like walking on glass, on top of which my calf had tightened up and was making leg movement impossible but there was nowhere to stop until I could manage my pain until I was out of that horrible cabin. All of this because I have a very real circulation problem and the airlines can’t be fucked to make seats that actually allow people to have room. The problem is with the airlines not those of us that have the audacity to be fat or different in any other way.

  165. You guys, stop the presses — Cortney says we’re all uncomfortable on planes!

    FYI, Cortney, I didn’t say you were coming off like an asshole because you stand up for yourself. I said it because you’re kind of coming off like an asshole.

    (And as the biggest horse asshole of them all, I should know! I’d make that my gchat status if I hadn’t just changed it to a perfectly delightful Bai Ling quote.)

    The funny thing is I do actually think Cortney agrees with us. She’s just being so aggro about it that she’s putting everyone else’s backs up regardless. Or mine, anyway. That is a reaction I tend to have to people I don’t know from Adam who come in right off the bat yelling and banging pots about how we’re all wrong about some thing or another, whether they actually agree with us or not.

  166. (Also, I should probably back off this thread because everyone except the usual suspects is annoying me lately. If you read that and went “wait, oh no, am I annoying FJ? I don’t think I usually do!” then you qualify as the usual suspects, never fear. It’s a good thing I’m not participating in the Bitch thread, I might blow a gasket.)

  167. I am so sick of this airlines asshattery with the seats. I also noticed that this is like to disproportionately affect women, due to the whole ass/seat ratio issue. I barely squeezed into the seats even at pre-obese weights, due to my shape. The whole thing just makes me feel tired to think about.

  168. Yeah, it’s natural to dislike being uncomfortable. But it’s civilized to deal with it without making everyone else miserable too.

    This. Thank you. Which is why I wrote the above. I realize that yes, it’s a bit of the throwing every complainer in the asshole bin kind of thing Courtney was talking about, but this is generally what I think was the point of a lot of people (myself included) to begin with. Sure, it’d be AWESOME if airlines could stop packing us in at an absurd rate, but since they seem unwilling to do that, complaining about how the larger people make the flight more uncomfortable for YOU it just makes it worse for EVERYONE and rarely makes it better for you, as we can see. How is this benefiting “normal” sized passengers? Aside from the obvious “it’s giving them more certainty that they won’t have to be humiliated in public and have to pay more for a ticket” there isn’t much benefit. Thin people haven’t gained anything from this (ha). People thin or fat, purple or sparkly will continue to have their precious comfort encroached upon in one way or another and all that’s been accomplished by this stupid policy is that fat people lose. I guess people figure that if society can’t shame them into losing weight then they have to lose other things, like being treated like a human being.

    Giving birth isn’t particularly enjoyable either (so I’ve heard anyway), but enough people seem to think it important enough to live through a few hours of the torture necessary to get the kid out. You’d think a couple of hours sitting down doing nothing more terrible than getting a bruise or having to smell someone who doesn’t smell like strawberry fields would be nothing. Which um… sorry, but in my opinion… it kinda is. Do you mean to tell me you’ve never gotten bruises from anything else before? Did you never run around as a kid or play tag? Unless you’ve lived in a bubble all your life things that make you feel uncomfortable are bound to happen. Learning to deal with them probably isn’t the worst thing that could happen to you.

  169. This whole “oh but fat people take up more space and make thin people uncomfortable” thing is nonsense.

    You know who really takes up extra space on planes? Tall people. And by “tall” here I mean “over 5’8″” because I’m too tall for most coach seats. My 6’3″ husband is way, way too tall.

    Note that they’re charging fat people more, but they’re not charging tall people more. This makes no sense at all. Tall people make shorter people uncomfortable, as I can attest after years of flying next to my husband. Why not charge tall people more?

  170. I went through this with Southwest in July 2007. I happen to be blessed with hips and butt! United will likely apply the policy in the same manner Southwest does.

    In their case, when you check in with the sky cap, he tries to be friendly/seems like he’s hitting on you when he asks if you’ve flown with Southwest before and hints at you possibly ‘not being comfortable’ in one seat. You say you flew Southwest just a year ago and it’ll be fine. He pretends to agree with you, then calls up to the gate when you walk away and sells you out/gives them your name and describes you to the gate agent as the huge blond with the giant ass and the slightly smaller hispanic girl (ok, overexaggeration).

    Then, you get upstairs and decide to go get something to eat for the first time today (at like 3pm) and come back only to find out they called your name for some reason. You go up to the desk at the gate, puzzled, and they tell you the flight is going to be full so they’re going to need you to purchase an extra seat and ‘that will be x dollars please’.

    You are absolutely humiliated in this situation because there’s a “normal size” woman standing in your personal space at the counter, demanding attention and overhearing this exchange. You resign yourself to the fact that you’ll pay, cuz THANKGOD you happen to have a little extra money in your checking account so Southwest Airlines will let you go on vacation! You then proceed to cry your eyes out the entire time you sit in the terminal, through the embarrassment of “pre-boarding”, most of the flight to your first stop, and off and on for your whole vacation every time someone finds out what happened because you are completely humiliated and have not found any type of fat acceptance yet so you can do nothing but berate yourself for being a giant lardass . . .

    This is how it will go with United too ladies and gents. After this happened to me, I flew Delta and didn’t hear a word or get any type of looks from their staff . . . and that’s because one flight was the type with no middle seat. I also hear there’s another airline that does the $10 more for a bigger seat thing, but I can’t remember who it is at the moment.

  171. Jenny1144 said:

    I’m way too conditioned to expect my “small person rights to space,” as punkrockhockeymom so resonatingly put it.

    Being very small can also lead to the experience of people thinking they have a God-given right to your personal space, so I can understand that initial reaction. :) (I don’t mean like on an airplane when you can’t help it; I mean people propping their elbows on my head ’cause they think it’s funny, or the way I used to absolutely lose my shit in elementary school when the kids next to me let their stuff overlap onto my desk. My teacher told me I didn’t need as much space because I was so small. “My books are the same size as everyone else’s, I replied.)

    I’ve always thought that I should be able to arrange to sit next to larger people on planes–I’m not thin, but my small frame means I’ve got room, so I’ll gladly exchange some of the space in my seat for help with the overhead compartment. (I hate having to ask complete strangers to help me with my bags, but somehow I doubt they waste time calling up the airlines to complain about me.)

  172. How many thousands of people fly FUnited air in a year?

    Make that hundreds of thousands in a year. United is an international airline; they fly in and out of every major airport in the world and quite a few minor ones. Out of those hundreds of thousands of passengers, they got 700 complaints from people claiming a fatass was stealing part of their seats. That’s less than 14 complaints a week, total, from every single airport they serve. We’re talking about a piddling number of cases, really.

    So really, what percentage of their customers are fat enough that they actually take up part of someone else’s seat? Very few.

    How many of these offending fatasses were women? Almost all, since as Kate mentions, a man has to be getting up over 400 pounds in order to even start being large enough to “not fit,” while a woman can start “not fitting” at half that weight, and 400+ pound men are extremely rare.

    And how many of these fat women were poorish to working class? Oh, probably almost all, I’m guessing.

    And about how many of these fatassed working-class women have a snowball’s chance in Yuma of ever getting and staying “normal size” without becoming deathly ill? Oh, try ALMOST NONE. (Never occurs to anyone that the fatter someone is, the lesser the chance they have of ever being standard size no matter what they do, now does it?)

    So GIVE THEM THE GODDAMN SEAT if they really do take up part of the seat next to them. Just fucking GIVE IT TO THEM. What is so hard about that? We’re not talking about that many seats; 700 seats is nothing for an airline that size. Nothing. Rewarding people for snacking, my fucking ass. If you don’t have the genetic capacity to be fat enough to take up more than one seat, you’d need to be fed through a tube 24/7 in order to make that happen.

    I know a lot of people in FA pooh-pooh the “fat people can’t help being fat” argument, and yes, I realize that it doesn’t apply to every single fatass and that those to whom it doesn’t apply don’t deserve to be treated like shit any more than the rest of us. That said, if people didn’t almost universally believe that fatness was entirely voluntary, would an airline even think about pulling shit like this? Would most of the complainers resent sitting next to us that much if they thought most of us didn’t have a choice?

  173. A Sarah – you’re on! We’ll call it Outcast Airlines.

    We’ll have extra wide, comfy seats so everyone has the space they need to be at least minimally comfortable. Plenty of leg-room, extra wide aisles to accommodate wheelchairs (as opposed to those crazy, scary-looking transport chairs), and spaces to accommodate those wheelchairs. We’ll have a ball pit in the back to set the kids loose in, and free margaritas for any harried parents. We’ll have a No Douchebag policy and we’ll apply it ruthlessly!

  174. My email to United:

    I flew a few times last year with United, and I was really happy with your “Economy Plus” option. I was still waiting for knee surgery and having that bit of extra leg room made the flights more pain-free for me. I would gladly have made you my airline of choice when flying in the US (I’m a Canadian).

    However, because of your new policy of charging fatter people extra, you will not be receiving one single penny of my money in future. My shape means that this rule would never apply to me, but I’ll be damned if I knowingly support any business that is so blatantly discriminatory.

    Oh, and I believe your spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said that this policy is being put in place because of the 700 complaints your airline received last year. I fully expect you to be keeping track of how many customers are making the same choice as myself to boycott your company, and when that number reaches 700 you will remove this policy. Or, you know, you could do the decent thing all on your own and simply decide not to discriminate. Your choice, United.

  175. sherunslunatic:
    **I’ve always thought that I should be able to arrange to sit next to larger people on planes–I’m not thin, but my small frame means I’ve got room, so I’ll gladly exchange some of the space in my seat for help with the overhead compartment. (I hate having to ask complete strangers to help me with my bags, but somehow I doubt they waste time calling up the airlines to complain about me.)**

    Oh, Yes, THIS (so long as you aren’t just grabbing my things or flipping me around to find my chains, erm, I mean wedding ring). I don’t even take any carry-on except for a briefcase any more, I just check even my SMALLEST carry on suitcase, because I swear I’m terrified that I’ll kill someone trying to get it down.

  176. Well, I managed to miss this whole thing today! Not much left to say except you all rock, and I so love reading sane people’s responses to things like this.
    Also, I took Amtrack for a trip a couple of years ago, and loved it. Loved it loved it loved it. Well, except that I got in 4 hours late. Um. But besides that, most comfy travel seating ever. If they could ever get any decent support from the government (you know, like airlines and highways do), the airlines would be quaking in their little not-fat boots.

  177. Hey everyone! So there are a lot of posts and I didn’t get to go through them all, but here’s what I did: I’m a law student and we just finished a fictional brief centered around Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under 42 USC sect. 12102 the people who are most likely to fail the proposed test would probably fit the definition of disabled. I don’t know how I feel about defining obese people that way, but there you go.

    According to Title III No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.

    Also, cases of discrimination have often been joined into a class action suit regardless of whether they occurred at the same place and time, but if United does this to enough people around the country those people could be joined into a class action suit which would take United down.

    Unfortunately, this would cost a lot of money in the long run so preferably United will see the error of its ways before it gets there.

  178. I’m glad I don’t fly and have no urge to travel beyond my own country. Well, I can drive to Canada if I want.

    I’ve never been on an airplane, and most likely never will – especially with this type of discriminatory crap happening. I wouldn’t want to inconvenience a superior thin person with my presence.

  179. the sense of entitlement in this thread is astonishing. i’m plenty big but i really don’t have a sense of entitlement to bruise other people (!), any more than i would be loud or wear strong perfumes or let my kids be annoying brats. i also don’t have a problem distinguishing between my inconvience at a too small space and other people being inconvenienced by my putting myself in there.

    i can’t wait for the outrage over airlines charging for excess baggage, though.

  180. BTW, I am flying to Ireland this summer, but I tend to go with USAirways, which I’m happy about, since they haven’t made any motions in this ridiculous direction.

  181. I just want to say that a friend of mine pointed me in Shapely Prose’s direction, and I spent a huge chunk of time at work today reading entries back to January. There is so much I admire, and so much for me to learn from here. You’ve got yourself another devoted reader.

  182. OK “m,” what do YOU suggest that bigger people do then? Not fly? Leave the airlines for those who fit in the seat? And you have the nerve to talk about US being entitled? Give me a break!

  183. I don’t consider a desire for basic human rights and equality a result of a sense of entitlement.

  184. krismcn and A Sarah — I want to fly Outcast Airlines!
    krismcn — what you wrote about the complicated math made me laugh really hard.
    Having flown and nursed with my extremely large breasts, I think that I offended nearly everyone who could see. But once little one was old enough to require her own ticket, I no longer felt bad about taking up space, ’cause I just took up hers.
    I am uncomfortable with the armrest down, but I just barely manage without an extender.
    The best case is 3 seats across with little one in the middle and Mr. Rounded — plenty of room for all. Except for flying with Mr. Rounded is really hard.

    I want a high-speed train between the Portland and Los Angeles. Then we won’t need the friggin’ airlines anymore and Mr. Rounded will be much easier to deal with.

    I also don’t have the same needs for personal space that most Americans do. I’m respectful of others personal space, but I don’t really expect to be on a plane with someone and not have their body not touch mine. It’s not like we’re naked. Jeez.

    I like flying, though, I know I’m weird.

    Oh, and Outcast Airlines could have different sections, like the “no deoderant section” or “stinky food from home” section or “flying with cats” section, “needs to get drunk to get through it” section, and a big ol’ area of the plane with a bounce house for the kids — just put them in at the beginning of the flight — turbulence is no problem.

    I think Outcast Airlines could charge a “complaint fee” — anyone who complains has to buy all the seats around them on the return flight so they will remain empty, and everyone on the plane will be really bitchy toward them and they will get their beverage last, and shockingly, their beverage of choice will be “out.”

  185. How much are fat people willing to pay for a guarantee that their seatmate isn’t going to say anything about a little spillover?

    Meghan, I am seeing some troll-like tendencies, but I did want to address this point anyway–what the hell, I haven’t beaten my had against a brick wall in a few days.

    For me, the answer to this question is “absolutely nothing, thanks.”

    How much –extra– money am I willing to fork out to ensure that the person sitting next to me isn’t an asshat–or at least, not that particular flavor of asshat? None.

    I’ve paid for the airline to transport me, on X date, from city A to city B, and get me there by Y o’clock. Nine times out of ten, they only manage three of these four things. If I wanted to be comfortable while it happened, I’d pay for first class–but I wouldn’t expect that to make me immune from asshole-seat-neighbors.

    I fly Delta exclusively, and the reason for that is simple: Delta has never fucked up my flight schedules, and their flight attendants have *never* made me feel like an imposition or an “OMG WHAT A FATTY WHALE” when I ask for a lap belt extender or, god forbid, take up space. But you know what? Even on Delta, I frequently end up sitting near assholes.

    Assholes who make fun of me for knitting or want to ask me eleven billion questions about the book I’m reading or sigh and glare at me every time I inhale too deeply or have loud obnoxious conversations with their friend across the aisle about mind-numbing inanities, pretty much assholes of every flavor.

    And do you know why this is? It’s not because I’m fat and have induced assholism in the people around me. Believe it or not, fat-proximity does NOT cause assholism. It’s because being an asshole is actually the default state for about 75% of the human race.

    Which is a long way to go to say this: I wouldn’t pay a dime–literally, not one thin dime–to ensure that my seatmate on my upcoming trip won’t complain about me being fat. If s/he happens to be that flavor of asshole, so be it, and if s/he wants to announce his/her assholism to the world, bully for him/her. In a few short hours, I will be on the ground with good friends being loved and spoiled and generally having a grand old time, and the asshole will be stuck being an asshole, writing stupid complaints to airlines.

  186. “I feel like each person pays for their seat on the flight, and if someone else prevents you from using your seat comfortably (by physically occupying it), that isn’t really fair either.”

    Somebody may have already addressed this, but I agree that it’s unfair. It’s unfair that the AIRLINE doesn’t bother making seats that fit people, and insist on cramming us in like sardines instead.

    And that unfairness is not the fat person’s responsibility to rectify.

    I fit in an airline seat pretty well. Not comfortably (well who is, really?) but without spilling out. And I was thinking about what I would do if the seats were such a poor fit for someone next to me that I actually had trouble sitting in mine. (I get a sore back easily so this could be a real issue.)

    Here’s what i think I’d do: I’d call over an attendant, I’d point out that the seats are far too small and too close together for both of us to fit comfortably in our seats, and I’d say something like “Now this lady/gentleman paid for a seat, and I paid for a seat, so let’s solve this so that both of us can sit comfortably.” And I would insist on that and raise hell if any offered “solutions” were discriminatory against the fat person.

    It is simply NOT NOT NOT the responsibility of fat people to solve the problems airlines create for themselves by squashing people into their planes. To suggest that it is is hateful and fatphobic.

  187. I was grateful that I usually fly Continental now since I live near one of their hubs and then I saw an article in slate that Continental has had the same policy for a while…what?

    http://www.slate.com/id/2216304/

    I also fly Southwest a fair amount and so far no one has asked me to buy an extra seat. (So far). I use seat belt extensions and cram my big hips in between the arm rests, but I do spill under–it’s painful. Not emotionally, I can usually suck that up, but actually physically. First class is so crazy expensive I can’t afford it and I travel often across the country/to Europe so there I am stuck in pain unless I luck out and get an extra seat near me. If first class was actually only a third more expensive (since such a seat takes up a third more room) I would definitely buy one (why are two coach seats significantly cheaper than one biz/first class??).
    Ugh.
    I would love to be a flight attendant on Outcast Air!! :)

  188. If they could ever get any decent support from the government (you know, like airlines and highways do), the airlines would be quaking in their little not-fat boots.

    Funny you say that, car…

  189. sherunslunatic and punkrockhockeymom:

    Wow, I never realized the overhead bins were so problematic for some people. I am moderately tall and have awesome Gumby arms, and from now on I’ll pay more attention to see if people around me need help with them.

  190. You know, the thing about fat people, is that we’re kinda squishy. I mean, it isn’t our giant-ground-sloth-sized hip bones that are in danger of pressing up against the people next to us, it’s our soft, squishy fat. So it really doesn’t hurt others that much.

    Pointy elbows are a whole ‘nother thing. You ought to pay extra for those. And great broad shoulders? Muscle and bone, neither of which are soft and comfy. And having to sit at a forty-five degree angle to accommodate someone else’s shoulders makes my back muscles go into spasm. Having a fat hip touch mine? Not really that big a deal.

  191. Funny how it’s United Airlines, an American ran airline, that is discriminating against large people when America itself has the highest percentage of obesity. Like no offence but if this is the way you want to show to world that you want your citizens to go on a diet or they can’t fly, it’s quite sad.
    And to those people that actually took the time to complain to UA, for goodness sakes, your on the plane for 15 hours tops, most of the time you would be sleeping so i don’t understand why you have to make the situation worse by complaining about the fatty beside you. and doesn’t it take time to write a letter or type up an email or even call and to be put on call waiting for the longest time to complain?
    I’m actually quite saddened and outraged with i read that. plane tickets are kind of expensive and having to pay double to get the same service just because your fat is terrifying.

  192. Absolutely agree both with the idiocy and discriminatory nature of the policy, and with how unpleasant air travel can be. (Any other fans of William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition in the house? Jet lag=soul delay!)

    But this thread is also making me remember my undergrad reading of medieval pilgrimage narratives:

    “The 12th century guidebook The Guide for Pilgrims to Santiago described some of the dangers that the pilgrim faced including thick forests, mosquito infested marshes, wild animals, impassable rivers and undrinkable water. Supplies of water and drink were a constant problem and would-be pilgrims were advised not to travel at certain times of year. The food in Gascony in the south of France was excellent, but Spain was different: ‘if anyone can eat their fish without being sick, then he must have a stronger constitution than most of us’. (Sumption: 177)” (via http://www.internationalschooltoulouse.net/vs/pilgrims/journey.htm)

    So as much as travel sucks now, it is perhaps not bad to remember that it used to suck way, way more.

  193. Emilymorgan, thanks for posting that link! I just took a look and it seems as though the Pacific Northwest line maybe comes up to Vancouver … which would be all kinds of awesome for this Canadian.

  194. Also, with flights being so full, couldn’t you go days without there being another plane with two contiguous empty seats to take you back? I can’t remember the last time I saw two side by side empty seats on a plane.

    This would especially be a clusterfucktastrophe for someone departing a city where the airline doesn’t have that many flights, and even more so for business travelers. What are the chances they’ll hire you or keep you around if it costs more than twice as much to schlep you around, including the costs of staying over in a hotel for however many nights it takes until they have room for you? I assume they don’t comp you a hotel voucher if you’re stranded, given that they’re allegedly doing this to save money.

  195. bigliberty, I don’t know if you’re still reading, but I just wanted to offer you some reassurance, even though it probably won’t help.

    I’m getting the sense that you haven’t flown in a while, hence the anxiety.

    I know everyone’s bodies are different, but sometimes comparison can be helpful. I’m much shorter than you and weigh almost the same.. bout 5’2″ 275#. Wear a 24 on the bottom. And I fly a lot, and I haven’t met a seat I couldn’t fit into. Sure, I’m pressed into the armrests, hard. It is not comfortable. It sucks ass. But I fit in there. Sometimes I need the extension, sometimes not.

    Like I said, I know all bodies are different. But my BMI is higher than yours, and I’ve got a great big butt, and I can still do it. It’s not great fun, but it’s not close to the “can’t fit in the seat worried about getting kicked off the plane” land. I think you’re gonna be ok.

    Hope you don’t find that offputting, but sometimes reassurance is nice even if the person is talking out her ass.

  196. M,

    My sense of entitlement is NOT, as you put it “to bruise people” my sense of entitlement is to NOT BE BRUISED, or ABUSED by the person next to me who is harumphing over the fact that he was put next to one of those fatties and hell if he was going to lower himself to being nice , courteous, respectful, or even a little bit patient and let that fattie have a break and relax a little bit ,

    My sense of entitlement is that I can travel when I need to without having to fear and dread it for weeks even months on end because of the almost guaranteed humiliation, shame, and embarrassment that goes with it.

    ALL PEOPLE, fat, AND thin, deserve to be able to travel from Point A to Point B without suffering war wounds, bruises, emotional scars, or shame. I do not WANT to make things hard for anyone else, shoot I work hard to be considerate and to not make life difficult for others or cause other people hardships or frustrations. I don’t think there is one person who sets out to make a plane flight wretched for anyone else. I put up and deal with alot of stuff other people do to inconvenience me because I know that they can’t really help it.

    Here’s where I think the air of entitlement comes from, this is the deal, EVERYONE regardless of body shape or size deserve to be NOT singled out, miserable, hurt or penalized because of the size of their body, regardless of how it got that way! The major beef here is not the jerks who complain, whine, and put up a fit when they are inconvenienced slighty, the main underlying issue of all this are the airlines who are putting forth a vastly inferior product, making fat people the scapegoats, and then turning around to make a profit off of them and penalize the obese for not being able to conform to their sub par seating.

    No we aren’t entitled to a higher, better standard, but we are entitled to equal and fair treatment and it is time that the airlines stepped up and started doing just that. It is also time that people stop accepting this, justifying it, and claiming that fat people deserve it cause it is their fault they got into the mess in the first place. It is the time for people to stop attacking and blaming fat people like me and focus the blame on the real culprits the greedy businesses and corporations packing humans in like sardines and cowering behind their fat people shield.

  197. Man, I wish I had “gumby arms!” The whole time I’ve been reading this, I’ve been thinking about the fact that the airlines want us to believe that it’s only the fat people that have trouble fitting into their seat, which of course we all know isn’t true. I am probably the only person in the world who is comfortable on a plane. I put my carryon underneath my seat, because there is no way in hell that I would be able to get it out by myself and I’m fine. Why am I comfortable? Because I’m a little person. I am 4 foot and 91/2 inches with a small frame. I fully recognize that there are very few people out there with my body type and the idea that others should be built like me so that they too can be comfortable is ridiculous. But it seems to me that that’s what they’re basically saying. (Not that I am ultimately paying for comfort-I am paying for a ride to my destination.) If the only person capable of having enough room is a person who is a genetic anomaly of sorts, then shouldn’t it be clear to the airlines that it’s their own planes that are the problem and not the people. Funny how we all reside in differently shaped bodies and yet some are worse than others… (I say, dripping with sarcasm…)

    And I so understand what you mean, sherunslunatic! It is very insulting when people feel like they are so privileged that it is okay to ask if I can be their head/armrest. And yes, this unfortunately happens quite a bit. Or for a grown man who I just helped find what he needed in the store I work at, pat me on the head while thanking me. A simple thank you will suffce, you do not need to pat me to express your approval. Unless you’re going to pat everyone and that I would really like to see! haha

  198. I’ve loved this whole thread, but I’m in a more frustrated mood these days about this society. So, Meowser, that righteous rant really spoke to me.

  199. The rage I feel when someone infringes on my seat space is, for whatever reason, completely out of proportion to reality. It doesn’t matter whether a man’s penis needs to breathe, an idiot can’t brush his teeth, someone JUST HAS to lean that seat back and sleep, or just being too big for the damn seat, it sends my blood pressure skyrocketing.

    The problem is with the seat and the airlines. It is not with the person who feels a waves of depression that an uncomfortable flight just became a misery because of the person sitting next to them. If someone really needs that second seat– if the one seat just ain’t happening– they get the second for free. They paid for the trip, they get to take it.

    It’s easier to bitch about the people who dare to be fat or the people who voice discomfort than the people who made the whole clusterf*ck in the first place. I think I do have the right to have my seat, my entire seat, to myself. And I think the other person has a right to seat as well.

  200. What irritated me, and this was on the news in Chicago, I don’t know if they did this on news elsewhere. They had clips of people telling the camera, they support this, and saying disparaging things about fat people.

    It’s out and out discrimination, in full view of the public. If I ever sat next to one of these people, I’d ask that they move to another seat, and they’re harassing me. I

    It’s unbelievable. I think if they’re going to do this, it’s not so much to ask for there to be a section for parents and their crying screaming children. Or they should pay more if they don’t provide a pacifier before flying. Their children are 20 times more annoying than any fat person I’ve met, yet they’re given a free pass.

    The reality is when you go in public you’re going to deal with other people. Having Asperger’s Syndrome for most of my life I’ve been told I don’t understand social behavior. Well I’d like to know, why that isn’t being said to these people who are allowed to go about discriminating against others. Nobody is going to tell them, all your doing by complaining about fat people is making yourself look like a monster. Nobody would want to sit next to a mean person like you.

  201. I’m a student who’s going to MA this fall to study in college and I’ve been looking at airlines for good prices for a 1-year valid ticket.

    Even though UA is the cheapest, this whole thing is an outrage. I don’t know what I can do now, whether it’s to pay double for another airline or just go on UA and possibly get my lush hips banned from getting to the USA on time.

  202. emilymorgan – Thanks for that!! I hadn’t seen that one. I live a 16 hour drive from my family and a 20 hour drive from my in-laws, and all of us are on that proposed rail map. That would be so awesome.

    (note: my little monster guy is probably changing, because I’m reorienting my screen name to another email address. Still previously purple squiggly me, though)

  203. Still purple squiggly, just different head shape! Funny.
    Sorry, just navel-gazing, nothing to see here, move along…

  204. Jacie, seriously, pacifiers don’t often help (not all babies even take pacifiers), and parents of small children face stiff social sanction and disapproval for the crime of wanting or needing to travel somewhere by air. It’s not like we’re all, “Oh, what? My kid’s crying? Well, gosh, I have the power to stop that, I just don’t.” Crying babies just suck for everyone, especially the person taking care of the crying baby, and there is truly not a lot to be done. That said, if there were a section of the plane that were more accommodating of small kids I would happily sit there – would it include a changing table? excellent. Could you nurse a baby without leers or glares? Fantastic. – but I think we can get there by wanting to account for the physical needs of the youngest members of our society, rather than by blaming these annoying kids and their ineffective parents.

  205. I’m kind of terrified that this would ever happen to me, because my flights are all international. No, I don’t just have a spare thousand dollars sitting around!

  206. the sense of entitlement in this thread is astonishing. i’m plenty big but i really don’t have a sense of entitlement to bruise other people (!), any more than i would be loud or wear strong perfumes or let my kids be annoying brats.

    Well, then you’re an absolute peach, a rare example of gentility in this uncouth world, and I totally want to sit next to you on an airplane. Question: on the flight, will you rudely disagree with me and other passengers with no introduction, flaunt your sense of superiority, and be hateful to kids and their parents? That would be GREAT, thanks, looking forward to it, you get a cookie.

  207. Believe it or not, fat-proximity does NOT cause assholism.

    Really? But it would explain so much.

    When I was a kid I loved flying. I still view the fact that we can get into the air and travel a 1000 miles in a few hours as a technological miracle. It’s the airlines who fuck up the experience. My skinny husband and I visit relatives in Canada once a year or so. I, at 5′ 1″, don’t have enough legroom. He’s 6′ and has a butt like two BBs, and he doesn’t fit into the seat. I don’t think the problem is our freaky builds.

  208. I’m reminded of the conversation in “Lost in good book” when Tuesday Next is checking in on the gravitube to Osaka (Jasper Fforde fans will know what I mean). In fact, I had to go look it up and share.

    She looked at the next question on her sheet.
    “Who would you like to sit next to?”
    “Nun or a knitting granny, if that’s possible.”
    “Hmm”, mused the check-in girl, studying the passenger manifest carefully. “All the nuns, grannies and intelligent non-amorous males are taken. It’s technobore, lawyer, self-pitying drunk or copiously vomiting baby, I’m afraid.”
    “Technobore and lawyer, then.”

  209. Whew. It took me 45 minutes to read all the comments…I think this policy is ridiculous, and have dutifully sent off my email and voted “no, people should not be discriminated against because of their size” (which is now winning!!!)

    When I fly, most of the time, I am seated next to a man. Most of the time, he will take up all of the shared armrest, plus some of my room (I’m fat, I fit in the regular belt, but have broad shoulders/pendulous breasts, so I would actually like some of the fucking armrest). I end up sitting with my arms crossed over my chest and my legs squeezed together. It’s hard for me to believe that they don’t realize they are doing it, but I think I will start saying something.

  210. As a former travel agent, I can say the downsizing of airline seats is the result of a domino effect that began with deregulation, which made airlines implement the truly ridiculous pricing schemes they use. They have trained the traveling public to wait for “sales” and they play counterproductive with fares and reduce seat size all in order to soak us for as much money as possible, and they get away with it, over and over. They have us over a barrel, they know it, and they will continue to fuck us over with smaller and smaller seating and stupid fare bullshit unless and until the government steps in, which is a whole ‘nother can of worms, eh?

    I can totally see both sides of this current mess because I am not only a fat woman who travels at least two or three times a year, but also because I complained and sought a refund on my ticket when another passenger encroached on my space, which led to actual injury for me.

    I’m about 310# I imagine, and about 5’6″ tall. I fit in most seats with armrests down, although of course they’re not tremendously comfortable, and I don’t usually need an extender (I carry my own just in case). I carry most of my weight in my belly, so my hips and thighs don’t really spill over, but I need every speck of that seat! I do have broad shoulders, so yeah, sometimes I touch the people next to me. I do try to be considerate when I travel, and to my knowledge, nobody has ever gotten pissed off at being touched by me, or has even given me the hairy eyeball. Maybe I’m just lucky or even naive, but even if someone did seem to be crabby, unless they said something specific, I wouldn’t immediately assume they were torqued at me “being fat at them”.

    A few years ago, I had one of my worst flying experiences EVER, and buddy, I’ve flown a LOT. Flying home from Minneapolis to Seattle, I was seated in the aisle seat of a row of three seats, with the window and middle empty. The very last people to board were seated in my row. One man was a bit larger than average, and he took the window. His companion was wheeled onto the plane and down the aisle on an airline wheelchair.

    To put it bluntly, he was one of the largest people I have ever seen, at least 6’6″ tall and very, very fat. Unlike most fat men, his weight was concentrated in his bottom, thighs and legs, and he did not fit in his seat. The two men raised the armrest between their seats, and he shifted over a bit toward his friend, but he still did not fit. His thigh literally took up a full third of my seat. ONE THIRD.

    I could not sit in my seat properly, full stop. I was gobsmacked. He said to me, “We don’t have to put the armrest down, if you don’t want.” At a loss, I said, “Well, I’d actually like for it to be down.” It wasn’t possible to put it down; his leg was in the way.

    Dismayed, I got up and went to find a flight attendant. They were all busy doing last-minute jobs before takeoff, so there wasn’t much time. I told the FA the man was taking up a good chunk of my seat. What should I do? She said the flight was full. “Even first class?” Yep, even first class. I couldn’t see the 1st cabin, so I don’t know if that was the truth.

    Confused and upset, I went and sat back down. Still, I could not sit in my own fucking seat. I was literally doing a one-cheeker, people! Literally goddamn leaning over toward the aisle, no hope of sitting properly. The same flight attendant went past me. I grabbed her. “Look, seriously, I can’t sit in my seat properly!” I said *quietly*. “I need help here.” I got NOTHING. The flight was full, it was the LAST flight of the day, and we were taking off RIGHT NOW, there was nothing she could or would do. I was fucked.

    In retrospect, I should have been more foreceful with my objections, although really, post-9/11, you DON’T raise a ruckus on a plane without serious risk. But it was obvious the man was in sheer misery at the whole mess, and I was totally sensitive to that so I just gave up, but goddamn …

    His ass became MY problem, and a real problem it was. After more than 3.5 hours of sitting like that, my back was utterly fucked up. I almost couldn’t walk off the plane. I was in pain for WEEKS after that, while my chiropractor worked to get me functional again.

    I called the airline (Northwest) from home, and asked a res agent supervisor what was the policy regarding passengers who do not fit in one seat. She said if there was an issue, the passenger would have to pay for another seat. When I told her what had happened, she was appalled, and said it never should have gone down the way it did. From what I halfway overheard when the men were boarding, it seemed they’d been on a cancelled flight or something, and their presence on my flight had been a last-minute thing.

    However, the airline representatives were well aware of his size, because they were the ones to bring him onto the flight on the wheelchair, on which he didn’t fit, either, and they really had to work to get him down the aisle sitting on it. It was one of the special armless chairs they use to wheel someone right to their seat, as he was barely able to walk at all; there was something wonky about his leg, and he had a tough time getting to the restroom the one time he got up inflight. So if the flight was entirely full and there were only two seats left, they should not have been put on the flight, per the airline’s own rules and their prior knowledge of his size.

    I should have been able to sit in my own seat without injuring myself, but that’s not what I got. There were no winners in that equation, but I sure as shit was the loser. To put the cherry on top of the asshole sundae, the guy was a total dick to me when we finally reached Seattle. I stood up as soon as I could, trying to stretch a bit and nearly crying in pain, and he snarled at me loudly, “You know what? You have a BIG FAT ASS, you bitch!”

    Oh, yes, everyone around us heard him. Yup, I have a fat ass, fella. This whole thing was TOTALLY my fault. I was so completely aghast, I could do nothing more than turn my back to him and clench my jaw, because if I had said one word, it would have turned into a scathing ass-reaming that would probably have resulted in me being taken off the plane in cuffs by the Port of Seattle police.

    As I said in my letter of complaint to Northwest, if I ever become so fat I don’t fit in one seat, I’ll bloody well buy two seats or I won’t fly. Nobody likes the size of the seats, but until the airlines are forced to change, we have to work within those parameters. There’s no way in hell it’s fair to expect that a total stranger should be forced to relinquish part of their actual seat for an oversize person. I have flown (and sold) Northwest a helluva lot, and have never, ever had any sort of problem with them, or with any other airline, for that matter. I’ve never had a lost bag, never been bumped, never been treated shabbily by staff. This incident was entirely the fault of the airline staff, not minee, nor that of the man next to me.

    I was only partially satisfied at their response; they agreed the incident should not have happened, and they gave me a voucher for only the return portion of my ticket, not even a refund, and I did end up using the voucher. Had I been firmer in my objections before the flight departed, I think things might have been different, but I honestly didn’t think I would end up being *injured* by sitting like that; in less than a half hour I realized I was wrong. I suspect their only “solution” would have been to have me deplane and give me a free ticket and maybe a hotel voucher, but I just wanted to get home!

    And if anybody thinks I’m an asshole for complaining, you can fuck right off. I defy anyone to say I should have just kept quiet.

  211. @meowser – “What are the chances they’ll hire you or keep you around if it costs more than twice as much to schlep you around, including the costs of staying over in a hotel for however many nights it takes until they have room for you? I assume they don’t comp you a hotel voucher if you’re stranded, given that they’re allegedly doing this to save money.”

    Yes. This. My anxiety level just inched up a few notches….it’s an international flight, no less.

    @m. leblanc – Thanks, that does make me feel a bit better. I’ve got a wider frame than many shorter people (most taller people do, which translates into when I was anorexic and underweight I could only squeeze my butt into a size 10), and so that can cause issues because my actual bones are pretty close to the armrests, not to mention the fat that pads them. Last time I flew was in the fall, and though I could put the armrest down (if I leaned on it!) the button from the recliner on the other arm gave me a nice bruise on my right thigh.

    I’ll be flying Delta and not UA this summer, but to me if 2 airlines have gone this way (and Air France has long since adopted the most strict policy on this I’ve seen anywhere), then the others will follow. I know I’ll need an extender, and hopefully I’ll be able to cram down the armrest…if I can just GET there, you know, that’s all I care about.

    Thanks for making me feel a bit better. I hope I don’t have a problem. I’m more worried about this than flying Southwest with my brand-new hubby for our honeymoon, because we’ll be sitting next to each other (and the width of SW seats is slightly more generous than what I remember from UA).

  212. And yes, the policy isn’t “fair”, just like life in general isn’t. And there’s no way I can see possible that it could possibly be implemented in any real, workable fashion that doesn’t humiliate people, so yes, it’s totally infuriating, because all it will do is allow the airlines to soak more money out of more people.

    Do we bombard our elected officials with requests that they sponsor government regulation? Would that in fact be the only way the public could get the airlines to toe the line?

  213. @MsChile – I think I see some of your point, what a harrowing story! There have been a lot of harrowing stories about flying, some which end in physical torment (most of my flights end in back pain and bruising, since I’m both tall and fat), or our space gets taken up by tall or fat people or people who want to sleep (if you are over 5′ 10″ and the person in front of you wants to recline, it can crush your knees—I’ve had knee pain from that in the past).

    So while you had a very harrowing and painful flight – which I’m really sorry about, that sucks, even worse because that guy said something really jerky to you! – in reality, that is NOT what this policy is about. A fluke bad trip (as you said, this man was likely on a cancelled flight and was put on your flight at the last minute) does not a policy make. This policy is a direct reflection of the too-small size of seats, which will wildly disproportionately discriminate against tall fat women (yours truly!), and is fashioned to make money off of seats that would have been unsold, and to give the airlines a free pass to bump fat people off of oversold flights without having to reimburse them properly for their troubles.

    No airline should be allowed to sell someone a fare if there’s any question that that fare will be honored in a way equal to all other fares of its type sold. There’s perhaps a breach of contract argument in there — that unless the airline itself has some real-time way to measure you and say “worthy” or “not worthy” at the ticket window or through an online travel agency no ticket should be sold, or whether or not there’s going to be a double-seater available, and so forth.

    And here’s a good question: the policy of Air France, albeit hugely discriminatory, has the purchase of a second-ticket-if-fat at about 30% of the price of a full fare. Why, oh why, are we being forced to pay full fare for a second seat if it was going to go unsold anyway?

  214. I mostly lurk here, and I just read ALL of those comments, because I Have An Opinion On This Topic! (yay me)

    (Backstory!) I live on an island state completely disconnected from the rest of the country. Flying’s the only way to get anywhere. I’m quite small, and so is my Usual Flying Accompanier, and it’s still awkward as all hell to get into those tiny seats and try to prevent our legs falling asleep on the trip. The space between the front of the seat and the back of the next row of seats is so small we trip over our feet just trying not to annoy anyone. That’s for two thin people for an hour’s trip. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain, discomfort and humiliation for someone fatter than I am. Now United have decided that that’s not enough, that they need to add to that? Fuck you, United. Fuck you. If I lived in America, I’d boycott the shit out of you.

    Fun fact, my elbows are ridiculously pointy, so I have to make sure I don’t jab them in anybody’s ribs. But I think if I did accidentally elbow someone, the most I’d get is a ‘Please stop doing that.’ I doubt that anyone would call the airline afterwards to complain about the awful thin girl being bony at them. I’d never be bumped off a flight and forced to purchase a seat on the next flight, hoping I had enough elbow room on that one. Not to mention my protruding elbows are something I can halfway control, so all I’d have to do is keep my arms close by my sides. I honestly can’t imagine the lack of empathy in people who want to complain about fat people on THEIR FLIGHT.

    But it’s the old thing of the squeaky wheel getting the grease, I guess now Shapelings and friends of FA are going to have to be as squeaky as they can.

  215. Yeesh, this post is interesting. Some commenters seem to thing babies have the ability to, at will, stop crying/wiggling/squirming/pooping/kicking if you ask them nicely enough. Alternately, that they should stay home lest they pollute the placid atmosphere with their babiness until they learn to do so. Interesting!

    I really like the idea that Kate cited in Fillyjonk’s email. Flying ALWAYS sucks, and if you want a no-suck-guarantee, pay for first class. Several people have questioned that, here, which seems kind of strange. But what if my seatmate is REALLY big? If you care that much, buy a first class ticket. Fat people can’t bend the laws of physics and actually penetrate your flesh with their fat; if they are sitting next to you, uncomfortable though you may be, they are indeed occupying their own seat. Deal.

    Damn I hate flying. I’m thin-ish, but 1) tall and 2) irrationally terrified of plane crashes. I always get off of a plane feeling like I just went running because my heart starts beating so fast every time there’s turbulence. I cannot even fathom the mindset of people who would complain about something obviously not fixable in flight. I’m always too busy trying to keep the plane in the air with my magical thinking as I grip the armrests for dear life. They should probably charge me extra for causing my seatmates emotional distress. I must look like a mess when I fly.

  216. One of the worst flying experiences of my life was when somebody dropped their luggage on my head from an overhead compartment. No apology either. I bet that happens 700 times a year easily, but I have yet to hear of luggage droppers being targets for discrimination.

  217. Gee, could Meghan and Cortney miss the point any more? Maybe it would be more apparent if airplane seats were bench-style and in a world without seatbelts?

    What you are paying for (pay attention now) is NOT “the same amount of space as everyone else,” but rather a place to put your butt so you can be transported from A to B. The way things work, it’s illogical to think that anyone could take up the exact same amount of space as anyone else, since NOBODY’s body shape or size is the exact same size. They’d be closer with the volume thing.

    And fwiw, you *do* sound like an asshole. For one thing, you’re comparing completely different scenarios–people behaving rudely and people having different bodies. You’re acting as though people with bigger bodies are being RUDE to you by existing the way they do and requiring more space. (Also there’s a pretty simple solution to the fatty-crushing-you-into-the-armrest scenario. It involves putting the fucking armrest up.)

    You are not entitled to have other people’s bodies conform to your comfort..

    I plan on being fat at everyone all day long today. :)

  218. As a fat woman, I’m sure I spend A LOT more time stressing about how well I’ll fit in my plane seat than an average size person does about the possibility of having to sit next to a fat person.

    Word. The last time I flew, I sat next to an airline-approved size woman who had a *huge* carry on bag that she shoved under the seat in front of her – thus leaving her no place to put her feet and legs. So she sat kinda sideways, with her ankle on her knee – which put said knee, as well as her shoulders and a good portion of her elbows into my space.

    And meanwhile, I’m sitting there, trying to make myself as small as possible, lest the tiniest bit of my fat thighs cross the edge of my seat cushion or, heaven forbid, out into the aisle where people might brush it on their way to the lav. Because that’s what these types of rules foster.

  219. Brava, Catrina.

    The way things work, it’s illogical to think that anyone could take up the exact same amount of space as anyone else, since NOBODY’s body shape or size is the exact same size. They’d be closer with the volume thing.

    Or, hey, what about if people all had to pay precisely the same percentage of their respective pre-tax incomes for one seat? Because then all this, “Hey, I SACRIFICED FINANCIALLY for this seat, so now I demand that no one else encroach on me, ever, to degree higher than the mean amount of encroachment experienced by the rest of the passengers” would seem a lot less disingenuous.

    I mean, if it’s all about everyone having to be equally inconvenienced at all times, shouldn’t the purchase of an airline ticket bring the same real cost to every last person sitting in coach? “HEY, THAT PERSON didn’t even PAY for HIS seat; his COMPANY did, and anyway he earns three million dollars a year! Whereas I had to save for months! My ticket came at a greater financial sacrifice; in essence, when you take into account my income, I paid MUCH MORE! Therefore should get a bigger and more comfortable seat because You Should Always Get What You’ve Rightfully Paid For.”

    I suspect most of us can’t even *imagine* a world in which that would be widely seen as persuasive. Huh. Funny.

  220. I didn’t read the whole post because I’m having a fairly ok day after a series of just absolutely NOT ok days, but I just want to say – and this might have been addressed – but what about tall people? And really, you don’t have to be that tall for those seats to completely destroy your comfort. I’m not that tall but I have looong legs and flying is uncomfortable for me, no matter how big or small I am.

    The last time I flew, I volunteered the empty seat beside me on a tiny, claustrophobic airplane (two seats on each side) to an extremely tall young man who was on his way home after Christmas vacation. I got tons of thanks from the flight staff, from the kid, and everyone seemed to chuckle in that “Oh, it must be so rough to be so tall, kiddo! Aw shucks,” kind of way. But between my wide hips, his long legs and overall hugeness, it was a pretty cramped ride. Should he have to pay extra because he could easily take up an entire row in order to be comfortable?

    (I feel like I should say that he was incredibly nice and polite, apologized for getting all up in my space, and quietly watched The Dark Knight on his iPhone the entire flight.)

  221. If you really want to argue that fairness requires that a ticket guarantee every person be given the same relative comfort on a flight- well I guess hypothetically it’s a great idea. But it’s also completely impracticable and unworkable.

    There’s a good chance that what I’m saying here has already been said – I haven’t read all the comments. But I’ll say it anyway: this “completely impracticable and unworkable idea” is not Kate’s argument – it’s United’s argument. That’s their justification for making fatties buy an extra seat or pay for two tickets if they get bumped off the first plane for lack of seats: that fat people are encroaching on the space that thin people have paid for. Not only are fat people not entitled to enough space to comfortably accommodate them for the price of their single economy ticket, they must be prepared to buy two seats or pay for two flights to guarantee that thin people are comfortably accommodated for the price of their single economy ticket.

    In conclusion: it’s eminently workable and practicable to guarantee a thin person’s comfort by hitting a fat person in the pocket. Problem solved!

  222. I consider this employment discrimination. Pure and simple.

    My job requires me to fly. And the idea that I could be bumped from a flight, at a random time, because some asshole thinks I’m ahalf inch to fat for it?

    Resulting in my missing meetings? And the whole reason for the trip?

    Not on.

    Especially since, if I was merely very tall, I would be happily accomadated.

  223. I make no promises.

    Fair enough, Kate! My breasts are so sparkly, they are hard to avoid. Anyway, bag check is my friend (only fair that I pay to check it since I’m too short to put it up myself, snerk on the not-built-for-all-humans-airplanes, not you.)

    Seriously, back to the discussion. I thought I would look up and compare the current situation for another condition flying passengers have that I think meets the definition of disability in the airline context: peanut allergies.

    The suggestions and accommodations listed in the link above seem mostly reasonable and workable. A call in advance, the privacy of the allergic passenger respected. (Well, until the seatmate busts out the peanuts they brought from home and I request them to either put those away or be reseated lest turbulence fling them my way.)

    Note in particular that they do not charge me any extra money for requesting a peanut-free buffer zone.

    This is the opposite of the way fat people are going to be treated: public humiliation and surcharges. I will definitely mention that in my letter to United.

  224. “Privileged white men, who feel completely comfortable extending their lankiness all over the place. When I make my way to my middle seat, I don’t cringe when my seatmates are fat women. I cringe when they are taller white men. Women (generally) have been socialized to be so concerned about how much space we take up that we overaccommodate each other all over the place. I know I’m very, very careful about how much space I take up on a flight, almost instinctively shy about my arm on the armrest or reaching up over someone to turn on my fan.”

    This! I had to spend 10 hours on a flight to Japan next to a white guy with broad shoulders and a puffy jacket who took up nearly half of my seat area. I was too polite to ask him to get the hell out of my seat. Next time a white guy sits next to me and takes up too much space…oh, he’s going to hear about it.

  225. Catrina, for the third time, I wasn’t comparing people being rude to people who are tall/big/broad shouldered or to babies crying. I said, in my previous posts, those are things that CAN’T be helped. That it’s not the babies fault for crying, or the large person’s fault for being large- hence my comment that it was discriminatory.

    My point was that it’s uncomfortable for everyone, and regardless of the reason for being uncomfortable, it just *is*. I compared “mid-flight” annoyances that can be addressed through changing behavior- a kid kicking your seat, a handsy seat mate, a person unnecessarily leaning into your space, putting their trash on your tray, etc.- with things that CANNOT be changed mid-flight, or at all- being large, being broad shouldered, being tall. Then, I said that regardless of the origination of EITHER of those annoyances, it is natural to be annoyed at ALL of them, because, hey, it’s annoying to deal with being cramped or kept awake or bothered in general. That doesn’t mean you hate the tall guy, or the crying baby, etc. I fully realize my point was tangential but it was meant to address the sentiment that people who are annoyed at being uncomfortable are just being human, but it’s uncomfortable for everyone on flights, and the airlines should focus on *that* and not, as I said in my very first post, implement what I have said from the beginning is discriminatory charging.

    I can only think that the reason my post(s) have been so completely misconstrued and interpreted in the most negative way possible has something to do with the assumptions made about me and my size. From the several comments of people assuming I am talking about people “being fat” at me (which I never said, and quite frankly I’m offended that you would take it there) I guess my comment was assumed to have been posted by a skinny woman complaining about fat people- I’m not skinny, and I wasn’t complaining about fat people…

    I was referred to this website by a commenter at feministmormonhousewives.org. I found it interesting and like reading. I’m a gender studies/sociology major. I have to say though, that on the website above, many, many people from *all* different points of view have civil, interesting discussion in which there is much disagreement about many sensitive issues- religion, sexism, feminism, politics. People who are atheists, people who strongly disagree with the Church, gay people, straight people, people of other religions, come together and have great- and lively- discussions and debates. That is the environment I am used to, and I didn’t think that my addressing the tangential aspects of the comfort issue- for people of *all* sizes- would generate such negativity and assumptions about what I think or don’t think about people, and also what I myself look like.

    I respect that it’s the nature of this forum, and now I know, but it just doesn’t seem like this is a talk about different points of view forum, it’s more of a place to vent and to come together around a narrowly defined, specific concern and to support one another. From other posts and their comments it seems there is a general tone of “thank you for this post, I felt the same way when ______ happened to me”, a way to share frustrations. And of course that is fine, *and is needed!!* just as other more debate oriented boards are fine. I just didn’t realize that was the nature of the community here, and for that I’m sorry.

    I have to reiterate though that it is disconcerting that the assumption was made that I’m skinny, and thus I would assume people are “being fat at me”. Perhaps if I had said “I’m 5″4′ and a size 12, but I still don’t like being smooshed against a wall” then the reaction would have been different. I just didn’t think it was necessary to throw out my “club membership” in the form of my height and weight in order to have my comments read through the correct lens : / Anyway, after seeing people respond to me as through I am a person that I am not, as though I am the kind of person that I debate with and disagree with in life, in class, and online, I just don’t have the energy to get on here and see one more comment calling me an asshole or saying that I think people are “being fat” at me. I bow out. I know how I meant the comment, sorry if I didn’t word it well.

  226. plane tickets are kind of expensive and having to pay double to get the same service just because your fat is terrifying.

    I wouldn’t ordinarily poke fun at a grammar slip, but this one is just too perfect. having to pay double to get the same service just because your fat is terrifying really is the whole thing in a nutshell. :)

  227. I can only think that the reason my post(s) have been so completely misconstrued and interpreted in the most negative way possible has something to do with the assumptions made about me and my size.

    OMFG, STOP DIGGING. Nobody here has a problem with thin people. Loads of commenters on this thread, and some of the people who have called you out are thin. One of the bloggers here is thin. “Being fat at people” is a running blog joke.

    Your posts have been “interpreted in the most negative way possible” because — as I said above — you made the same points many others (including me) have made, but you made them in a nasty, judgmental way.

    And the fact that you could read this thread and believe the only reason anyone would take issue with your tone is because we’re assuming you’re thin… That is precisely the kind of thing that makes people say you sound like an asshole. So is saying (while pretending it’s not what you’re saying) that this is a forum for sycophants to talk about how much they loved the posts, not a place you can get a real discussion going. No, it’s not a “forum for debate” in the sense that we let a bunch of people scream past each other all day instead of moderating comments and reinforcing the community’s standards and values. But seeing as no one has banned you or edited your posts, what you’ve been doing here is freely expressing your opinion and arguing with other people. You just don’t like that no one else thinks you’re right.

  228. @Cortney

    The “being fat at people” thing had nothing to do with you or your comment but with something from the OP.

    Yes, it’s annoying and uncomfortable for all involved when people are squished together, but you seemed to be making the point that because of that you would have not only the right to complain (and possibly shame/penalize the person next to you for something that is beyond control), but the right to not be considered an asshole for doing so.

    I make no assumptions about your body from what you said, but either way what you’re going to the mat for is thin privelege, and I simply don’t agree.

    *I just realized that in the scenario you talked about, you were unable to move the arm rest. Sorry about that*

  229. @The Bald Soprano: “MsChile is also the exact type of person (along with you and me, BigLiberty) who is, from hir own description, likely to be the target of this policy in reality.”

    Yes. This isn’t about targeting people like the man in MsChile’s story, because people like that are *extremely* rare (esp. men). Enforcing this policy wouldn’t be worth the airline’s time/money for such few people. In all my time flying, I don’t remember seeing more than one or two very large people (who were often also disabled, sitting up front of coach with medical equipment as well). When I was in high school and college I flew 2 – 3 round trips a year, sometimes more. I fly much more infrequently now, but it’s probably just as likely.

    What’s different now, of course, is that the seats are smaller than ever.

    This policy is going to single out fat women almost predominantly, with tall fat women likely not having a popsicle’s chance in hell in the very least not getting a dirty look.

    Additionally, as was brought up above and I thought was a very interesting point — with many flights during peak/holiday hours being overbooked (esp certain airlines including UA), what happens when there are no contiguous open seats for two, three, four flights after you’re kicked off your first flight and newly in debt for $X for the unpopularity of being fat (esp fat and female)?

  230. The “being fat at people” thing had nothing to do with you or your comment but with something from the OP.

    There was an original post??

  231. I just wanted to add that the “straw fatty” logical fallacy runs rampant in each of the personal horror testimonials I’ve read from people who support this policy.

  232. Oh, I meant to reference this from Kate’s post:

    “As for why it’s total horseshit, the kind of people who call an airline to complain about sitting next to a fatty (more on them in a moment) are not just complaining about people who can’t lower an armrest and get buckled up with a single extender. They’re undoubtedly also complaining about fat people who don’t need extenders at all, fat people who can lower the armrests, but not without their hips and thighs squishing out under them, fat people who can pretty much fit in the seats yet still stubbornly insist on being fat at everyone around them.”

  233. Cortney, your original COMMENT had a problem with TONE, and it’s only NATURAL that LOTS of PEOPLE thought you were being NASTY.

    Now I’m being nasty to you because, as Kate said, you are just digging your hole more. Your original comment was about how expressing your opinion (a totally “natural” opinion, whatever that means) doesn’t make you an asshole, but now that people are expressing their opinions about your comment’s tone, that makes them assholes?

    We like when new people come to read the blog. What we don’t like is when new people come to read the blog and then complain about how they don’t get the jokes and people are obviously hating on them because they disagree and therefore this is an echo chamber. You obviously haven’t read very much here if you think we don’t have thin commenters or bloggers or that we hate thin people; more to the point, you obviously haven’t read our comments policy. So here is my suggestion for what to do when you enter into a new space and people seem to be pissed at what you’re saying: stop talking. Start listening.

  234. OH, I meant to say this before, but I’m so fucking long-winded even when I have so little to actually say: (even though fillyjonk said it before, it’s worth mentioning again because it’s SUPER)

    What? Being next to her means your ride is uncomfortable? SO IS HERS, and you’re not the one sitting next to a total asshole!

    I’m not really the type of person to profess bloglove, but I really dig you for this, Kate Harding. It’s so perfect.

  235. I am working my way through the comments but things keep occurring to me and I’m too lazy to write them down as I go, so I will probably end up commenting 800 times. I apologize ahead of time.

    One of my worries, aside from being publicly shamed about my fat (again, for the thousandth time), is cost. I cannot afford to pay for additional seat. In most cases, when I fly, I am flying out of the sheer goodwill of my parents, who want so badly to see me that they’ll pony up the difference between the ticket and what I can afford. I seriously have to be penalized (because I’m fat) to such an extent that I wouldn’t be able to see my family? The thought of that happening…the combination of being denied a seat on the plane and not being able to see my family (who I don’t get to see very often) would just kill me.

    Also, in regard to “where does it stop” and allowing prejudices, are people going to start complaining because they have to sit next to a lesbian? A Russian? A person of color? A Jew? A Christian? A Muslim (though I suspect this is probably happening already)?

  236. Has anyone here seen “Last Holiday” with Queen Latifah? On her flight to Europe, she gets seated behind a tall, broad shouldered man who proceeds to lean his seat back, all up in her space (and really, if we’re going to talk about people taking up space, let’s address people who recline all. the way. back. Or being stuck in the very back, where you can’t recline at all. Those people aren’t getting the same space. Should they pay less?). She complains to the flight staff and they tell her “well, if you had paid for one of our first class cocoons, you would have plenty of room.”

    I kind of wanted them to make the point that purchasing a first class seat is out of a lot of people’s price range — they didn’t, she ponied up the dough. But still, where was his penalty as a larger person? Does it not matter because she is a woman, a large woman, or a large black woman? Or just not thin?

  237. Yeah, the fact that this policy says nothing about those who recline into “the space I’ve paid for!!!one1″, is a denial of the exact SAME problem, except those who recline impinge on the space in front of you (for anyone over 5′ 7″ this can mean the seat in front of you IS TOUCHING YOU and can cause bruising), and those who are too hippy for the keyboard-width bench-style-seats-with-flimsy-arms are impinging on the space on either side of you.

    Blatant. Discrimination. Against. Fat. Hippy. People.

    Why? Because it’s acceptable to hate on a fat hippy person (likely a fat woman), and not an exhausted traveler who wants a few moments of beauty rest (as many men as women recline in my experience).

  238. Can I tell a story? Early in my career (I have been flying for 14 years), I had a slim, young, kinda good-looking business guy accost me during boarding and rudely and loudly refuse, right in front of the hugely fat, very good-looking business guy next to him, to sit next to someone “so huge” and he flat-out demanded that I look for another open seat. I assured him that I would check for one, and did so. We can get in big trouble (like fired) for doing this, but I returned to the row in question, told the slim guy that yes, indeed, there was a seat available in First Class, and then offered it to the fat guy, who was only too happy to move. The instigator was floored and wanted very badly to be furious, but he had gotten exactly what he asked for (he did not “have” to sit next to the offending fatty, after all) and the situation quickly fizzled.

    But I have a question for kristin, who would call over the flight attendant and “insist” that s/he resolve the fact that the seats on airplanes are too small (something no flight attendant in the world would argue against), and “raise hell” if the same fact was not resolved to her satisfaction. On an airplane where 100% of seats in every cabin are filled with an ass of SOME description, what would you have the flight attendant do? How would you “insist” that this person change or adjust the size of your seat? Or would you insist that s/he change the size of the person next to you?? And if so, isn’t the intolerance inherent in that request really the whole point of this thread in the first place?

    This particular flight attendant understands your point of view and, as the mate of a 6’4″ 420-pounder, has submitted more than one letter to the company regarding the ridiculousness of the size of their seats and the legroom between same (as well as countless e-mails and letters railing against other discriminatory and ridiculous policies; our CEO lives in fear of seeing my e-mail addy pop up in his inbox), but if every seat on the airplane is full, my hands are tied. If, at departure time or in-flight, I was unable to make changes to the hardware in the cabin (from where, for example, would you have this flight attendant produce the new seats to resolve this problem?), would you really “raise hell” because of my fatphobia?

    You are absolutely RIGHT ON that passengers should not be made to assume responsibility for resolving a problem the airline has created, and the stated policy of bumping fat passengers and forcing them to either buy another seat or stay home is nothing but a cock-up from every possible angle. But please, go easy on your flight attendants. We’ll help you out if we can, but if we can’t, it’s not because we are intolerant or hateful. I treat all of my passengers with dignity and ask simply that people remember that, even though I wear a uniform that can be construed to represent the company and its policies, I deserve to be treated with same.

    In solidarity…

  239. I found this list of airline policies on a smarttraveler.com article dated August 8, 2008 (the article itself is filled with anti-fat innuendo, so read at your own risk):

    ” * Southwest: Passengers should plan on purchasing an extra seat or risk being asked to do so at the airport by staff. If the flight is not sold out, the passenger may claim a refund.
    * American: Passengers over 250 pounds should recognize that there may be limitations to the service that the airline can provide. However, it does not require that you purchase an extra seat automatically.
    * United: No policy whatsoever. [Now there’s a policy, of course – BL]
    * Midwest: Like Southwest, passengers are encouraged to know their needs in advance. If staff determine that two seats are required, the seat will be sold at the lowest possible fare, with a refund available if there is one or more open seats on the flight.
    * Air France: Passengers with “high body mass” may receive a 25 percent discount on an extra seat, knowing that if they choose to not buy the seat, they may risk not being able to fly.
    * JetBlue: You are required to buy a second seat, and there are no refunds.
    * Delta: The airline “works to accommodate” passengers with special needs. Upon request and availability, it will try to make sure the next seat is unoccupied. However, if the plane is full, you will most likely be asked to leave the flight and buy a second seat on the next available flight. (You can actually count on this being a fairly typical practice on most airlines.)”

  240. * American: Passengers over 250 pounds should recognize that there may be limitations to the service that the airline can provide. However, it does not require that you purchase an extra seat automatically.

    Does this mean my extra bulk disqualifies me for that free trial membership in the mile high club? :(

  241. @ Mr. StewardessI returned to the row in question, told the slim guy that yes, indeed, there was a seat available in First Class, and then offered it to the fat guy, who was only too happy to move. The instigator was floored and wanted very badly to be furious, but he had gotten exactly what he asked for

    OMG, this is exactly the scenario that I imagined above (at 6:51)! I’m so pleased it actually happened in real life. :)

  242. In the past, Midwest only had the wider seats, and all seats were the same. In recent years, they’ve started adding narrower seats and charging more ($20) for the few remaining “signature seats.” (There is only one cabin, no first or second class.)

    Their “comfort policy” is pretty disheartening given their past.

  243. And, yes, Mr. Stewardess, I love the story of moving the fat man to first class and leaving the complaining jerk in economy!

  244. So it looks like more airlines have this policy than not. My plan to take Amtrak everywhere I can and drive to where I can’t take Amtrak just got solidified.

    I will fly the airlines that don’t have this policy in force at all when I do have to fly.

  245. To throw in with tg on the peanut allergy thing: I think this is another stellar example of “person who is already having trouble gets piled on even more just so as not to possibly inconvenience anyone else’s random preferences.” I was stunned, STUNNED, the last few times I flew and found that they still serve peanuts as a snack. (I don’t fly often.) Sure, you can call ahead and ask for a peanut-free flight, but for god’s sake, how can that possibly do much good when that plane has gone through a few hundred peanut-drenched flights? Peanut oil is going to be smeared all over the tray tables, all worked into the seat upholstery, fragments of peanut dust in the air systems… But goodness knows, that 1% of people who will DIE from the exposure can’t be accommodated to, because everyone else has to have their 15-peanut ration to make it through a 3-hour flight without starving to death.
    Is that a bit of a derail? I think I’m trying to make it a parallel – you can’t control being allergic to nuts, you can’t control being fat, but airlines keep acting like YOU’RE inconveniencing THEM by suggesting that they maybe notice that they could make small changes to make everyone happier.

  246. It occurs to me that Kate has a handle on a way to shut this down. If it disproportionately affects women, it falls under existing anti-discrimination legislation.
    Is there anyone out there who can do a study on tushy-size in males v. females of similar BMIs?

  247. MsChilePepper: In a sane world, the obvious solution to the situation you describe would be to have the smallest adult on the flight move seats to sit next to the large man. But that would require the whole “common decency” thing that Carla mentioned upthread.

  248. This was way upthread but I love you, A Sarah, for your comments about babies on planes. Airline seats are not built for a child’s body, either. Their legs are dangling awkwardly with nowhere to go. For hours. So they twitch. And kick. And without realizing you can feel it, they press against the seat ahead of them. To me, it’s about the same as fat people who don’t fit into the ridiculously small space they’re assigned. One size seat does not accommodate every body. It just doesn’t. And it makes for all kinds of awkwardness and discomfort for everybody.

  249. oh, and if you can make my toddler stop kicking your seat entirely, I will give you $500. On the spot. Don’t think I haven’t been asking her every 12 seconds to please be still. I’ve had people turn around and glare at me but friends, really. I have tried everything including threatened violence. She’s uncomfortable and she doesn’t get that she’s bugging you.

    rant over. Sorry to derail into babies but as a mother, I have nothing but sympathy for people whose bodies don’t fit in airline seats.

  250. Now I realize that every time I flew and had to deal with a million ‘businesspeople’ who *had* to have all their stuff in unchecked baggage so they took 10 minutes each to get through security and untold ages getting their stuff into the bins and out of them– because, *gasp* it’s not safe to have the airline CHECK your luggage– I should have complained to the airline. I think there should be an extra charge-up line for security– pay an extra $25 for carrying huge carry-ons! or pay an extra $25 not to be on the same line with people carrying everything they own in 2 carry-ons!

  251. Calculating the percentage of Americans that can’t fit into the average size economy seat shouldn’t be too hard, since we know the average pants size of men and women in America right now. Here’s a little ditty I got off of Elliot blog:

    Indeed, the average seat in economy class is roughly 17.5 inches wide. By my calculations, anyone with more than a 44-inch waist wouldn’t be able to sit in such a confined space. Instead, he or she would have to push back the armrests and invade a seatmate’s space or obstruct the aisle.

    So let’s brainstorm. I have this handy-dandy plus size women’s chart from eBay:

    U.S. Sizes 14W 16W 18W 20W 22W 24W
    Bust (inches) 40 42 44 46 48 50
    Waist (inches) 31 33 35 37 39.5 42
    Hip (inches) 42 44 46 48 50.5 53
    Inseam (inches) 31.5 31.75 32 32.25 32.5 32.75

    Hips are the relevant size. So we have that, starting at about a size 16W, it’s going to be uncomfortable to impossible for a women to fit in her airline seat.

    Hmm, when I last checked 50% of all women in the US are a size 14 or greater.

    So the airlines which enforce the “two-seat-if-fat” policy will be picking on nearly 50% of all women.

    If that’s not discriminatory against women (not to mention fat people, of course), I don’t know what is.

  252. I think it is a safety issue of a child becoming a projectile in an accident — and yet we don’t require an extra seat to be bought. I guess it’s just acceptable casualties…

    And yet all this talk I hear about safety and concern for the health of large people….

    All of this blogosphere talk, including here, strikes me as weak.We tell them we are mad threaten to tell them we are mad again as punishment… This is not very effective action. Taking internet polls is not very effective.

    How do you get them to change? By not flying them. If your workplace uses United, how do you think they will feel when they have to buy you two seats? Take action and require your workplace to change airlines for your flights. Are you worth speaking up for?

    Make the argument that all others who take up extra room, including infants on laps, be charged. If they don’t charge for that, and something else is sacred, then why charge larger people..unless they are easily shamed and society has decided there’s no penalty for doing so. The trick is, to make a penalty.

    I really, really wonder about who will get charged for extra seats for being large at that heated moment at the gate: the last flight out on a Friday? The large guy in a suit who could be an executive, or the large woman they assume could not be and who could not have any political power? We’ve all seen men get preferred treatment. I guess because they assume women at most will give them a vigorous letter writting campaign whereas the men could cut their businesses off from the airline. Can you imagine if beefy executive or board member got bumped for being large before an important meeting???

    Sure, charge an extra seat for large people…if you charge an extra seat for babies. Perhaps the combined lobbying force can get an increase in seat space…and think of the jobs it will create to reconfigure the planes.

    It will take an act of Congress to improve the seating on flights as they get involved in other configurations on planes for equipment and other things. There’s no denying that. Also, government controls the gate assignments and there is no hope for competition if airlines can keep gates and reduce flights. Because, where are you gonna go if there is no competition and they reduce flights?

  253. “But I have a question for kristin, … On an airplane where 100% of seats in every cabin are filled with an ass of SOME description, what would you have the flight attendant do? How would you “insist” that this person change or adjust the size of your seat? Or would you insist that s/he change the size of the person next to you?? And if so, isn’t the intolerance inherent in that request really the whole point of this thread in the first place?”

    Well, I didn’t think that my comment displayed any intolerance, but re-reading it, I can understand where you might see it.

    I suppose what I would do on a full flight would depend on where I was trying to fly and for what. If it was a full flight, the last of the day, and I was heading with no extra time to a relative’s funeral? That would be worth potential back injury and I’d shut up and make the best of it. And afterwards I’d fill the airline’s ear with nastiness about how their seats caused me a back injury because they’re so fucking tiny that average human beings can’t fit in them.

    If it was a full flight and I was on my way to less of an emergency destination, like a vacation I wanted to enjoy without back pain, I’d ask to be moved to the next flight. I’d totally frame it (again) as the seats obviously being far too small to accommodate the average human being, since that’s exactly what the problem is. And naturally the most polite thing to do would be to pursue this discussion discreetly, because even though I know the fat person next to me is in no way at fault for the problem, s/he has no way of knowing I feel that way, and I’d hate to embarrass anyone.

  254. I can’t remember the last time I got to use my own armrest. All the flights I have taken recently have been commuter flights, one-hour skips between West coast cities, usually full of business travelers. And in my experience, without a doubt, the worst possible seatmate is a male business traveler. They feel perfectly within their rights to expand their physical being into as much space as possible. Their arms flop onto and over the armrests, their legs splay into the space of the person next to them, they recline so that they’re in the space of the person behind them as well — it’s *these* guys who make air travel the most unpleasant and most uncomfortable for me. (And I know that they aren’t comfortable, either. Who is? But they seem to unthinkingly assume that they can take someone else’s space, because they “need” it. Yeah, buddy, everyone else “needs” it too. Sigh.)

    Not to be all “Yay me, aren’t I cool?”, but I have made a point of being extra pleasant and sympathetic to parents with babies, or people who are large and *obviously* anxious about how their seatmates are going to react to them. It makes a big difference in how the flight goes, not just for them, but for me as well. If my seatmate with the poor crying baby knows from the outset that I am NOT seething at her and her child, but instead am sympathizing, then we are allies. And allies can put their heads together to try to make the best of a bad situation, as when I sat next to a large woman who was clearly embarrassed that her leg crept ever-so-slightly over the line, into my space (by a millimeter. Oh noes, teh fatz!). She was in the middle seat, I was in the aisle (window was taken up by a dude who looked as though he’d smoked too much ganja before the flight. He pulled his hat over his face and was a nonentity as far as we were concerned). I asked her if she’d be more comfortable in the aisle, because I’d gladly trade. She was astounded that I’d offer to give up my aisle seat, but you know, the thing was, it made the flight a better experience for BOTH of us, because she had a little bit more space on the aisle side, and I could fit into the middle more comfortably because we weren’t quite so crammed in next to each other.

    My long-winded point being, there’s no upside to assholishness. It doesn’t accomplish anything (unless you tap into a vein of culturally approved bigotry that makes your asshole behavior corporate policy, but that will hopefully not continue, thanks to all of us telling United where they can stick their new “We hate fat people” policy). Being nice and having some compassion? They make bad situations slightly more tolerable. Crazy, I know… :-)

  255. My solution to this whole thing is, well, draconian.

    I suggest that we rip the arms off of people who have so throughly convinced themselves that they are the center of life’s grand drama, that they are such the Royal Being, and therefore should command all others and esp. service personnel to jump through their own assholes to make sure that nothing uncomfortable ever happen to them.

    We should line these people up as their empty arm sockets spurt fountains of blood, and brain them with the bleeding stumps.

  256. Now, raising hell and holding the AIRLINE accountable? That’s absolutely something I can get behind!

    Thanks, Kristin, for clarifying. I’ll buy you a glass of wine if I have you on a flight.

  257. Wow. This is incredible. As someone who is over 5’10, female, and fat, I’m pretty much doomed…and I’m technically “average” in dress size…

    At any rate, there seems to be a couple of assumptions going on behind these policies (or at least behind their justifications) that are unbelievable fallacious:
    1) That this policy has anything to do with passenger complaints or passenger comfort
    2) That a ticket on a plane buys a certain amount of “space”–like a lease of a seat

    The first has been addressed, but to reiterate: 700 passengers does not a movement make. In the land of complaints, that is a droplet in a huge bucket. This is entirely about airlines wanting to make more money, and finding a scapegoat group (and a large (no pun intended) group–like half the female population) that is already vilified in order to do it. Hey, they can’t help that you letz yrself get so FATZ! Right–just like there is a non-economically-driven reason why airline seats have to be 17.5″ across.

    The second may seem like an academic distinction, but I think it goes to the whole point–a passenger enters into a contract for passage, NOT a lease of 17.5″x50″x22″ box of space. The airline agreed to carry the passenger to the destination–there is no “right to the space.” You have a right to exactly as much space as your body occupies. That’s the thing about embodiment…

    I lived in a developing country for a couple of years, and the main form of transportation was old USA school buses–the yellow kind. Adults of all sorts of shapes and sizes (with my size being far and away one of the largest) were crammed onto these buses with babies and chickens and pigs and elbows, etc. And it was uncomfortable, and it was cheap, and no one seemed to think that they had a “right to space”–’cause they didn’t. They had purchased the ride. And everyone, due to a culture where touching up against someone’s body was a fact of embodied human life and not OMG GROSS, dealt with it, and tried to make oddly shaped people (such as myself) as comfortable as possible (in return for me helping them get the goat off the roof rack).

  258. It isn’t enough to boycott an airline, you have to let them know. Even more effective than our protest letters is sending an email when they’re the logical ticket choice (price, routing, specials, etc.) and you fly something else because of their discrimination. Be specific. Name flights, name prices, tell them how many people in your party…

  259. And just to clarify; I am in agreement that we are not, in fact, purchasing space, but only transportation. When I referred to “my” armrest, or “my” space in my post above, I’m trying to shorthand because the entire narrative around this issue is put into these terms. The very reason there’s even any discussion about this is because a miniscule number of people have complained about “their” space being infringed upon. And if we’re going to frame the narrative that way, that it’s about one’s right to space, then in my experience, the worst offenders in the “taking up more than their fair share of space” category are the business doodz with the giant phantom schlongs, and sloppy arms, and wandering feet (and occasionally hands!) It certainly isn’t the fat people, who in my experience are overwhelmingly concerned that they *don’t* encroach, because of course if someone complains that another passenger is being fat at them, it gets taken seriously, but if I happen to complain about phantom schlong guy, I am told to just try to endure for the remainder of the flight. One group has privilege; the other does not.

  260. car, I am TOTALLY astonished that flights still even CONSIDER having peanuts on them! Every flight I’ve been on has involved little bags of (delicious!) crackers. No nuts. None. WTF? What airline was this, so I know to avoid it? :\

  261. From Kake: “MsChilePepper: In a sane world, the obvious solution to the situation you describe would be to have the smallest adult on the flight move seats to sit next to the large man. But that would require the whole “common decency” thing that Carla mentioned upthread.”

    Really? You’d just make an executive decision that, merely because of their smaller size, another humanoid who paid for their seat just like the larger one, doesn’t get to occupy all of that seat, and the larger person takes over a percentage of it? You think that’s SANE? Wow. That is EXACTLY the same level of discrimination.

    Maybe my experience does throw up the “straw fatty” as has been said, but that doesn’t negate the fact that my ass could not occupy my own seat and that I was injured because of it. Nor do we know what percentage of the complaints to United were about the sort of experience like mine, or about “lesser” instances of somebody “being fat at” somebody else. I’d like to see the stats, but what I do know is if someone writes a good letter of complaint, with facts and staff names and shit like that, they’re likely to get some sort of monetary compensation, so the airline is clearly following the money trail.

    Again I’ll say that the problem begins with the too-small seats and too-close rows that don’t give enough personal space. And while Latifah’s airplane scene in Last Holiday was obviously exaggerated for comedic effect, the reality is that if the passenger in front of you really wants to recline and they press the matter with the flight attendants, you’ll have to suck it up, because they are allowed to recline as far as the seat goes. Again, that’s the airline’s fault for putting seats so close together, but they’re not going to change unless forced.

    So I’ll ask again, how do we get our government to pay attention to the airline industry’s discriminatory practices? I do agree that women are likely to be unfairly targeted, so what feminist organization is most likely to help us out?

  262. @Big Liberty: I think you were reading the hip size off that chart, when the passage you quoted was talking about waist size–so according to that, you’d have to be size 26 to not fit into a seat. That strikes me as incorrect, though, and it seems a little strange to go by waist size when the body part in question here are the hips, as if everyone had the same proportions. Maybe the original article meant hips? I’m all confused now.

  263. Lampdevil, I have flown Southwest umpteen times in the last couple of years (I wouldn’t, but they are my only choice to get from my medium-sized city in a Western state to other large West coast cities), and they always have peanuts. I am amazed every single time. My aunt told me about how she would protect and try to prepare herself for when all the peanut packets would be opened (a surgical mask and a ready-to-hand inhaler were the parts I remember), and that was 30 years ago!

  264. MsChilePepper, I read Kake’s comment as suggesting that the sane and decent thing would be if a thin person *voluntarily* agreed to take the encroached-upon seat, since they would be able to fit into two-thirds of a seat a bit more comfortably and no one would have to end up with debilitating back pain. But that would be wicked hard to bring about in real life.

  265. I read Kake’s comment as suggesting that the sane and decent thing would be if a thin person *voluntarily* agreed to take the encroached-upon seat,

    This. I myself have done this on a full flight when someone else was bugged about sitting next to a large person who was wearing leg braces. The flight crew gave me free mimosas, which was nice, and the lady in the leg braces turned out to be a very interesting person.

  266. Lampdevil, I’ll have to check at work Monday if I can’t root it out from here, because it was my last business travel. I had thought they’d all switched too, and all I could think on each flight (two each way, same carrier) was DAMN, I was glad I didn’t have my allergic-to-nuts son with me.

  267. Yes. This. My anxiety level just inched up a few notches….it’s an international flight, no less.

    Oh, BL, I am sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you!

    I kinda meant that fat people would have just cause to sue the living crap out of an airline if this happened to them. And probably win. Maybe I should have said that.

    I mean, let’s be real. It’s not just that they’re trying to make fat people buy extra seats. That would be bad enough, but they’re trying to make fat people buy seats that don’t actually exist. Since empty seats on planes these days that are available at a moment’s notice are a stone rarity, and two contiguous empty seats available under those circumstances is pretty much unheard-of, where the living fuck are all these seats we’re supposed to buy?

  268. Maybe the ADA should be for differences including disabilities.
    The news is always saying 2/3 of adults are ‘overweight’ doesn’t that mean the average person is?

  269. Here’s a thought: if the seats on your mode of mass transportation aren’t big enough for the average adult in your country, build bigger seats. ‘Cause you know what? I’m a thin person, and my hips spread out under those damn armrests too.

  270. “You’d just make an executive decision that, merely because of their smaller size, another humanoid who paid for their seat just like the larger one, doesn’t get to occupy all of that seat, and the larger person takes over a percentage of it?”

    You paid for the ride, not the seat. Again: YOU PAID FOR THE RIDE NOT THE SEAT.

    “That is EXACTLY the same level of discrimination.”

    HAHAHAAAAAAA.

  271. AnnieF, Southwest is just making themselves less and less appealing to me. Discrimination against fat people, peanuts on the flights… I find myself gladder and gladder that Air Canada generally meets all of my travelling-through-the-air-in-a-big-metal-tube needs.

    And thanks, car. :)

  272. Unfortunately, I doubt any amount of complaints will change this policy. United is using those 700 complaints as an excuse. They’re looking for any reason to charge their customers more. The only/best advice I have is, if you’re flying with another person, buy two seats together, or three seats if both you and your companion will have trouble meeting United’s new policy. This crap will stand unless or until the government intervenes.

  273. My apologies to Kake; I did misread what you wrote. If somebody wanted to volunteer to give up part of their space, that’s their prerogative, but nobody should be expected to do that for a stranger.

    For all those who are saying buying a ticket is paying for the ride and not the seat, sure, that would be valid if planes were just one big open area, like the grassy areas at outdoor concert venues, or big wide bench seats like 70s-era pickup trucks with no armrests or consoles, but they’re not. As long as there are individual seats to which individual asses are assigned and since you can’t usually just move around arbitrarily, we have to work within that construct.

    Oh, and about those letters of complaint. As I said, we don’t know the stats regarding how many referred to situations like mine, versus someone just being annoyed at being next to a fat person and being a jerk and writing a whiny letter. We ALSO don’t know how many of those letters just said flat out, “Nobody is comfortable in these seats, they’re too small! You have to give us more room!” without any actual fat-bashing. But I’ll betcha the airline tossed them in with the first two types to bump up their numbers to help justify the “new policy” that affects the fatter fats.

    Can we demand to see the complaint records? I don’t know. I don’t know what the solution could be. But no matter how eloquent we are in our bloggy debating and decrying the issue, nothing will be changed without the airlines being forced to change.

  274. I was thinking about this issue on my way home from work today and what made me really mad is that our culture is really into shaming women about our wide hips. Models are encouraged to lose as much weight as possible, so that their naturally wide hips will be as much as tiny as possible. But the reason why women have wider hips is so we can give birth! When someone hip-shames women, they are shaming the whole human race, for without wide/fat hips, there would be no people!

  275. Here’s the deal: the world is a world of competing “rights.” Of scarcity. But some rights are prior to other “rights.” And some issues that are couched in the language of “rights” are mere preferences.

    The big right, the really big one, is the right of every human being to be treated with human dignity. Regardless of size, or color, or health, or disability, etc. That is a right. My desire for a comfy airplane seat, in comparison, is a preference. And when policies are implemented that sacrifice basic human rights to the preferences of the privileged, well, that policy, at the least, can, and should, meet with protest.

    Yes, there is limited space on a plane. And I prefer not to sit next to crying babies, or vomiters, or people who want to talk about their cat. But I exist in the limited world of the plane with these people, and their claim of “right” is equal to mine. By privileging my preference over someone’s fundamental rights, I have engaged in the ultimate act of arrogance.

    I believe the wise spiderman said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Those of us who can protest, should. And those of us who are abled to move to a middle seat when we see someone suffering indignity have a duty to do so–human dignity always wins. That simple.

    I have found that our culture has created this idea of “rights” as something that one can buy. No. One can buy, if one is able, a greater degree of satisfaction of one’s preferences. But no one has to buy human dignity. Period.

    /end rant

  276. With United adding to Soutwest, the situation isn’t changing with the current action. A quite stern letter writing campaign is not going to change it. I’m sure they are shaking in their boots.

    Rather, we should target and embarrass the companies that use these airlines. And the employees here whose businesses use these airlines should demand change with as much passion as they want to use writing the airlines. and if you write the airlines and the businesses, CC the media and your politicians. Otherwise, you might as well be spitting in the wind. I know. I once worked for an airline. If they provide an official count of letters, you can bet it is falsified to be whatever they want it to be.

    The airlines will not do anything unless embarrassed by the media or pressured by large business accounts or made to by the government. They will not be swayed by blogs or a stern letter writing campaign by large women. The seating will have to be government mandated, I believe, and if it is applied across the board, it is just the cost of everyone to do business. There is a big issue here of airlines having no competitiion and they aren’t forced to give up unused gates to other up and coming airlines as they reduce flights to cram more on fewer flights.

    This is very important issue and the media just frames it self-righteously against large people. You’d never hear the same demands made on charging babies for the same seat in a media show. I think they should and there are reasons – for one, the baby is a projectile in an accident. That is a fact, but I guess, as I said, it’s an acceptable loss to many. Discussing an extra seat for a baby, now that is not an acceptable loss.

    But this issue is more important than most can see and it could effect your employability for the years to come. Imagine being in a management or executive position at work and you miss the meeting for being visibly bumped in front of your peers. It’s hard enough to get promoted at work. Now, it would be just another reason not to employ and promote large people if this proceeds. I’m just betting that if you are a man in a suit versus a woman dressed casually (or a man dressed casually), the woman will be bumped most of the time. I can tell you from experience that the business travel accounts at corporations is the most curried customer and if you can get corporations to drop United as preferred airline, it will have a large, effective impact, so your demands at work will have a big impact if you can get them to drop United.

  277. Following up on JenWasHere’s comment… this issue speaks loudly to me about our cultural fear of flesh.

    The thought of being touched by my soft, rolling, quivering flesh is apparently so horrible that all considerations of basic human dignity and compassion fly out of the average thin person’s head? This is not just about assholes, it is about a cultural sickness, a failure to accept that our existence is an embodied, enfleshed existence. It is not a coincidence or unrelated that people are kiling and mutilating themselves with cosmetic and bariatric surgeries to avoid having any such “flesh”… Anorexic nation indeed.

    P.S. I am somehow both comforted and saddened to learn that there are others out there who are “afraid of flying” in the same way I am. How is it I can boldly and proudly go into other situations (dance class, tennis courts, public speaking, etc.) that fat women like me are not “supposed” to go into, but there’s something about being trapped with fat haters in a tiny space at cruising altitude that has me avoiding air travel altogether?

  278. Late to this party, but this issue is particularly annoying for me. As someone who used to love to fly, and now dreads it, here are some of the reasons why.

    Someone (Kate?) said earlier:

    “There’s just no other way to look at it without completely redesigning the airplanes. (Not that that would be a bad thing.)”

    The think is, the airlines already did this. That’s why the seats are so damned uncomfortable. Many of the planes we fly on are over 40 years old, and have been refitted. Part of the reason for this was to make flying more accessible to more people (by increasing the number of seats, it decreased the cost per seat). This has been taken to extremes. Not only have seat sizes been drastically reduced, but so have aisle sizes. Today, if the attendant is pushing a cart down the aisle, there is no possibility of passing them to get to the lavatory, for example. Many planes used to accommodate entire lounges that people could walk to at their pleasure, and this was not only available to first class passengers. While this is now considered a safety issue as well as an unnecessary luxury, the idea that people need to be packed in like sardines is pure greed; and to blame the passenger for this is something out of bizarro world. Aaaarrrrggghhh. Don’t know if I’ve made any sense here, but the whole thing pisses me off.

  279. Hi, I am derailing, sort-of-sorry.

    I love flying. There is the view and the roller coaster ness, and there is also the sense that I get to do something- me! – that loads of people, I think it is popes 1->187 or something, never got to do.

    And I am sorry that people are made uncomfortable by their seats and seatmates.

    And I have decided to try to be quieter on planes, and not bring up the pope thing.

  280. If I read one more person ONE MORE post and comment to whichever blog or post i happen to read about this topic, say “well I totally agree with it and I think it is good because it is an incentive for the fat person to lose weight” I swear I am gonna figure out a way to squoosh my massive fatness through the wires to their computer and stick my hand through the screen and throttle them.

    It honestly has me on the verge of screaming and throwing my mouse across the room.

    Really douchebag poster REALLY?!?!?! Shaming and humiliating me is going to motivate me to magically just lose the weight? Right cause I certainly have never ever in my whole life attempted to lose weight before. Nope. Not ever. In fact I am sure that the majority of fat people aren’t even aware that they are fat and not only will it magically motivate us to “do something about it” it will cut down on the total ignorance that all us fatties live in. What a kind, considerate, and helpful policy to instate then!

    Aww people we can chill they are doing this for our own good, out of the love and kindness in their hearts.

    GRAH, it just annoys the crap out of me, do they think I don’t get to deal with shame, humiliation, and abuse on a quite regular basis all my life anyway, it apparently is not the best body shaping plan out there. What that motivates a fat person to do is hurt themselves through way unhealthy and dysfunctional eating and/or killing themselves through over exercising. Just NO!

    And further more I am really sick of people bemoaning the poor thin or average person who paid for a seat only to have this horrid mean inconsiderate person come and just sit right on top of them reducing them to a lifesized flat stanely all the while giggling, scarfing down baby donuts, and sighing in utter blissful comfort.

    ummmm NEWSFLASH:
    It ain’t all daises and butterflies for us either, I can not name one plane trip in my whole life that has ever been comfortable for me. Even the one time I had an empty seat beside me and the arm all the way up it dug into my side and was very very far from comfortable. I can safely say that no fat person WANTS to inconvenience anyone or is totally comfortable not fitting into the seat, and probably already beats themselves up enough without others doing it as well.

    please know that I am not targeting and poster here on this thread, simply venting because of the multitude of posts I have read about this topic lately and the responses that have slowly stolen ALL of my sanity watcher points

    /rant

    I am going to go to bed and think up ways to zap douchecookies through my computer screen. That would be so much fun!

  281. MsChilePepper’s story pretty much reinforces my point: There needs to be a way to ask for a second seat in advance when one is required because of a physical condition, like having medical equipment or being fat enough that you really do take up part of someone else’s seat. And that seat should just be given to the person, with the proviso that a doctor’s note or some other documentation of said condition is provided on check-in. Like I said, we’re not talking about that many seats, where it’s actually going past ewww-they’re-touching-me-cootiescooties to literally squashing people. Annoyance because we’re being fat at people is one thing; actually being injured by your seatmate is another.

    But it’s the eww-cooties people who are the excuse for this nonsense, not people like MCP who have actually been injured. Maybe if MCP were thin, they’d have listened to her.

  282. @bigliberty – When someone in front of me reclines their seat it’s touching me and squishing/sometimes bruising my knees, and I’m 5ft2 1/2. OK so I have disproportionately long legs, but still. Why does no one ever complain about people who merrily recline their seats the second the plane is cruising regardless of the discomfort it causes others?

    This policy is incredibly stupid. The problem with squishing on airplanes isn’t caused by passengers being fat, it’s caused by the seats being freaking tiny. I feel totally squished in those seats and frequently disembark with back pain and leg cramps, and I’m 5ft 2 1/2 and a size 8, with a BMI of 23.5. Ie, significantly smaller than most Americans. If I don’t fit into those seats easily how the hell are most other people meant to?

    Also it’s a lot more pleasant being seated next to a fat person that a really tall person, or one with very broad shoulders. And it’s better to be seated next to pretty much ANY women than most men, given how common phantom schlong syndrome is. My most uncomfortable recent flying experience was when a tall, skinny man elbowed me repeatedly in the arm in an attempt to make me vacate the arm-rest entirely and pull my arms close to my body. He also spread his legs so wide it was like he was doing yoga and pressed my legs into a corner until I finally lost my temper and told him to knock it off. I guarantee that if I had been sitting next to a fat woman she’d have been a hell of a lot more considerate.

  283. I think perhaps part of the trouble for everybody, regardless of size/shape, is that it’s essentially impossible to actually be comfortable on a plane. It just isn’t going to happen, especially not in Economy/Coach. So what happens… everyone complains about every little thing. Frustration, pain, a sense of overwhelming futility tends towards that result. It’s called Cattle Class for a reason ‘eh!

    And it’s a systemic issue, isn’t it? If we’re all just a herd to be allocated fairly randomly then how can you blame one individual for your discomfort? Honestly, it seems a little laughable when I think about.

    I wonder what would happen if there was a mass, grass roots uprising? If a tour group of ‘fat’ people decided to all book out the same flight. Utter chaos but it might drive home a few salient points, no? OK, that’s a bit of a mean thought but nonetheless bring on the Revolution ;)

  284. The airlines will not do anything unless embarrassed by the media or pressured by large business accounts or made to by the government. They will not be swayed by blogs or a stern letter writing campaign by large women.

    Capitalist, will you quit being so friggin’ condescending if I tell you I’m going on CNN to discuss this on Monday morning, because of this piddly little blog post? OH LOOK, NATIONAL MEDIA ATTENTION. Turns out I’m doing my part. Would you kindly stow it now?

    You keep acting as though no one here has a background in activism and thus might just have heard your arguments before. Fat activists have been on the case for a loooong time. Alerting the media and getting the media to give a shit are two very different things. But you know one thing that gets their attention these days? Blog posts with 300+ comments from “large women” threatening to write angry letters and boycott the airline.

    ETA: To be fair, I completely agree with a lot of what you’re saying. I just can’t stand that you keep framing it in terms of the people here not doing enough or doing the right things.

  285. There needs to be a way to ask for a second seat in advance when one is required because of a physical condition, like having medical equipment or being fat enough that you really do take up part of someone else’s seat. And that seat should just be given to the person, with the proviso that a doctor’s note or some other documentation of said condition is provided on check-in. Like I said, we’re not talking about that many seats, where it’s actually going past ewww-they’re-touching-me-cootiescooties to literally squashing people. Annoyance because we’re being fat at people is one thing; actually being injured by your seatmate is another.

    This. It’s what Canada’s already doing. One person, one fare. A lot of people keep saying, “Why should I have to give up part of my seat to somebody else?” and the answer is YOU SHOULDN’T. But it should not be on the fat person to fix that problem (which let us not forget is also a problem for her). It should be on the airlines to recognize that they’ve created a situation in which some people cannot fly without encroaching on their neighbors’ seats.

    I just can’t fucking stand this, “Well, it’s rude of the fatty not to think of who will be sitting next to hir, so it’s appropriate to be angry at the fatty” line of reasoning. IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW MUCH I THINK ABOUT YOUR NEEDS, DUDE. DOESN’T CHANGE THE SIZE OF MY ASS OR THE SIZE OF THE SEAT.

    This is why I go into a black rage every time an airline employee says, “We know you have a choice in air travel, and we do appreciate that you chose X today” or whatever. NO, I DO NOT FUCKING HAVE A CHOICE, AND I DID NOT CHOOSE YOUR AIRLINE FOR ANY REASON EXCEPT THAT EXPEDIA BUNDLED IT WITH THE HOTEL I WANTED. HOW COULD I HAVE A CHOICE, WHEN YOU ALL SUCK ENORMOUSLY, IN EXACTLY THE SAME WAYS?

    If I had a real choice, I would not be sitting in a 17-inch seat with up to three strangers in my personal space more than I like my husband to be under normal circumstances, hoping I can maneuver my arms just enough to read the tedious in-flight magazine (tm OTM) while I sit around on the tarmac for two hours waiting for take-off clearance, after sitting around in the terminal for another hour or two, waiting for the plane to actually show up sometime on the same day it was scheduled to leave, after finding out my husband and I couldn’t get two seats together even though we booked ages ago and chose seat assignments online, after taking my shoes off and dissassembling my carry-on baggage to get through security, after paying $25 a bag for the privilege of having clothes and a toothbrush with me where I’m going, and all of that after paying hundreds of dollars to even get in the fucking door. WHEN I ACTUALLY DO HAVE A REAL CHOICE, I TAKE AMTRAK.

    (Mr. Stewardess, if you have any power at all to change that script where you work, even just when you’re the one reading it, please axe the “We know you have a choice” thing. I have so far gone 34 years without a full-blown air rage episode, but I swear, that will be what pushes me over the edge someday — after we’ve landed!)

    And that goes back to what I like about what Capitalist was saying — airlines don’t need to compete, so none of them are offering a better experience in the same basic price bracket than any others. Setting aside the fact that coach travel is already prohibitively expensive for many, let’s pretend I’m a balls-out capitalist only concerned with my own needs for a minute here. Given my personal circumstances, I could and would pay $50, maybe even $100 more for a bigger seat and better services. What I can’t/won’t do is pay more than twice the coach fare to get 50% more seat and a tiny pot of warm nuts to keep my head from exploding when they announce that we’ll be on the tarmac for two hours. (Under normal circumstances, free booze would go along way toward improving my mood, but I don’t like to drink when I fly.) And there are no options in between. “Business class” is a thing of the past, afaik, and economy plus is useless to me, because legroom is the only thing I don’t need more of on a plane.

    Someone brought up Midwest Express way upthread — and I’m bummed to hear they’re sucking now, too. When I was going to school in Toronto and my parents lived in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, I used to fly ME all the time — the catch was, I had to fly into Milwaukee, but it wasn’t that much farther from my parents’ house than O’Hare. As I recall, their prices were usually anywhere between $30 and $60 more than coach on other airlines (in the mid-’90s), and for that you got a wider, cushier seat and a complimentary glass of the cheapest, shittiest champagne known to man. I WOULD TAKE THAT DEAL IN A HEARTBEAT EVERY FUCKING TIME I FLY, if I could. (And these days, I fly a whole lot more than I did back then. In the past four months, I’ve been on 8 flights, and I’m about to go on a goddamned book tour.)

    But nobody’s giving me an option of extra value for extra money that exists within the range of my ability/willingness to pay. Thus, I’m stuck in coach, and if you’re stuck in coach, you are going to get a virtually identical shitty experience on almost every airline. Which means there are exactly 2 reasons why anyone flying coach picks one airline over another: they have a frequent flier account with that airline, or that airline offered the cheapest fare by a few bucks. The total lack of competition in terms of value and services pretty much means they are only competing on price now, which means they have to keep making the whole experience more and more miserable for the customer in order to keep prices down. All of them. Something has got to fucking give.

  286. Which means there are exactly 2 reasons why anyone flying coach picks one airline over another: they have a frequent flier account with that airline, or that airline offered the cheapest fare by a few bucks

    Exactly. And whether the fare is a few bucks cheaper is often related to geography: which hub are you “lucky” enough to travel to, and are you near a tiny airport or a major one. When I lived in Eugene, OR, I had to take the train up to Portland to fly to anywhere on the East Coast…or pay at least $100 more to fly into Eugene on the one airline that would go there. If you live in Atlanta, say, you’re probably going to fly Delta more often than not, because you’re the freaking headquarters. It’s a false choice.

    And capitalist, yeah, what Kate said. Also: fuck you.

  287. I love that capitalist has styled hirself as the expert on fat activism, yet cannot bring hirself to use the word “fat.”

  288. I’m a Gentleman of Magnificence (aka a fat dude) and this has happened to me, a few years ago, on Continental. I booked my flight, and got ‘seat changed’ into a middle seat. Then they announced the place was overbooked and anyone who wished to be bumped would get a $300 voucher. I volunteered immediately, bumped from the noon flight out of LAX to the 3 PM flight.

    They gave me a window seat, and I decided to just deal with it. So there I am, and this woman comes up the aisle to inform me that someone has ‘complained about someone my size in the area of the plane I was in’, and that I would have to disembark and buy another ticket on the next flight – the red-eye from LAX to EWR – and if I complained about this on the plane, I would be ejected from Federal property.

    I submitted, due to the threat. Then she tried to charge me the *full price* of my round-trip ticket for the second seat. I noted that was the round trip price, so we’d start by me paying half of that for the one-way. Then she told me they couldn’t take my voucher, that had just been issued. I’m sure you can imagine my outrage at that little bit of information.

    I had a six-hour wait for the next available plane. Thankfully, some friends of mine in LA came to get me, took me for food, and generally defused me.

    When I got on the plane, I went to my seat, and then someone showed up claiming to have the seat next to me. The attendents told me to let the woman have the seat and they’d work it out.

    “You’d better,” I said, “Because I don’t want to have to sue for theft of services.”

    It did get sorted out.

    When I got home, I wrote a letter about my issues to the CEO of Continental and sent it Signature Delivery – the addressee had to sign for it in order for it to be accepted. Which is why the next time I flew to LAX, it was first class and cost me a lot less.

  289. Oh, how I hate “We know you have a choice…” No, I really don’t. To get anywhere that’s within 2 hours of where I live, I can fly Southwest. To get anywhere farther than that, I can take United or American. That’s not choice.

  290. And whether the fare is a few bucks cheaper is often related to geography: which hub are you “lucky” enough to travel to, and are you near a tiny airport or a major one.

    There is one, single, lone, solitary airline that goes to my parent’s neck of the woods, and they still do the “we realize you have a choice” thing.

  291. Mephron, that’s awful. I was thinking of just that yesterday, too — I know people have said on other threads that they’ve proactively paid for two seats, only to have their second seats assigned to someone else when they got there. How is that remotely fucking legal?

  292. Gentleman of Magnificence </i.

    Love this. Love it.

    I just wrote to United pointing out that although we have flown with them frequently in the past, we’ll be driving to Canada this year because of the petty indignities associated with air travel. And my husband is thin so his opinon really counts.

  293. Gentleman of Magnificence

    Love this. Love it.

    I like it best because it’s followed up by “aka a fat dude.”

  294. Hey, capitalist, maybe you could just write exactly what you want people to say and think and do. Let’s see, *this* wouldn’t be the appropriate place to do that, seeing as how people seem to find it tiresome… soooo… hmmmm…. Hey! maybe you could set up your own web-based presence of some kind, wherein you write daily… gosh, let’s call them “posts”… arranged in reverse chronological order.

    I also think it’s awesome that your concern for safety issues related to babies in laps on planes, has primarily to do with the baby becoming a projectile and hitting you. Ho-HO, way to Tell It Like It Is. Goddamned babies, amirite?

  295. I haven’t really heard here (maybe I missed it) the idea that the airlines are actually regulated (deregulated to a large degree, but can be re-regulated) by the government. I think this is definitely one route worth exploring for activism. Why should a corporation listen to the exact population it has just disinfranchised? Our elected officials, though, surely can’t be reelected by only their slender constituents.

    Aside from (in the U.S.) your U.S. representatives and senators, there’s this web site for consumer complaints about airlines, which may be an excellent place for activism:

    http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/DiscrimComplaintsContacts.htm

    I think that making the case that it is gender discrimination that a woman and man with the same BMI would be subject to different fares on the same flight.

    FYI, the mission of the Department of Transportation is to:
    Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.

    The secretary of the DOT reports to the president.

    High speed trains may come someday, but in the meantime, we need to get from place to place in a “fast, safe, efficient, ACCESSIBLE and convenient transportation system” that “enhances the quality of life for the American people, today.” Not just the American people who fit comfortably into the airline seats, but all American people.

  296. Sorry for the multiple posts.

    It’s taken a little while for me to think about my response to this whole thing. My feeling has been, why would United listen to me when they’ve already written me off?

    I’m really suffering from a lack of understanding law, government and regulations here. I suppose that my job is to let my elected representatives (including the president) know my opinions, and their job to sort out what to do about what I’m opining about.

    It seems to me that if a group of people are experiencing discrimination, the goverment’s job is to offer protection against that discrimination. It’s interesting and problematic to think of ourselves in this way, us fat people, but the evidence of discrimination is not difficult to see or establish. The people responsible for desisting from the discrimination’s responsibility is to figure out how to prevent it (because there are financial penalties for not doing so). In my opinion, this type of regulation is good.

    I’ll be thinking about what I want to write to my elected officials and the members of those subcommittees, but a petition might be even better. I wish I had the time and brainspace and research at my fingertips to do this myself, but I will happily sign a petition and forward it to friends and family that someone else puts together.

  297. Hey! maybe you could set up your own web-based presence of some kind, wherein you write daily… gosh, let’s call them “posts”… arranged in reverse chronological order.

    STOP MAKING ME LOVE YOU SO MUCH IT’S THREATENING MY MARRIAGE THAT IS ALL.

  298. Kate, I will continue to be – as you name-called “friggin'” because this is a “friggin” serious issue.

    Take it on personally if you like, although it was not intended to be so, because if it were, I am unafraid to have used your name and would have done so.

    Sorry I can’t keep my lady white gloves on and behave nicely in the schoolyard.

    Glad you can go on CNN. This issue and that appearance will probably help your career. And I hope you go full-on “friggin” for us all. I hope a lot of people use the word “full-out friggin'” about your appearance, because, frankly, it’s a compliment to not be a well-behaved woman. Set the world on fire. Be large and loud, even, without apology.

    I won’t apologize, however, for being large and loud and “too” something for you, Kate.

    As a watcher I must say, the criticism you’ve dealt out to me ….well, people have said the exact thing about your responses. Tamping down passion because the woman is not ladylike as you’d like…that is a feminist issue. It’s curious to taking it personal because I expressed the opinion blogging and letter writting won’t effectlively change the airlines. The only thing that has has been the threat of loss of large bookings or potential government action. I know…I know… if I were more ladylike, more apologetic, more…I don’t know…cute and flattering and one of the girls…then that would make it okay to have this opinion.

    I do not discourage anyone from being “friggin” about this issue and my point being that it will take more than a stern letter writing campaign. I have worked for the airlines for years at the corporate headquarters.

    Sure, as you admit, Kate, Southwest was not impressed by your singular boycott. But believe, me, they would be by corporations dropping them as preferred corporate provider. It would be far more effective to persuade employers to switch and for the readers here to pressure their workplaces with letters and media attention. Gay protesters have done this effectively for years, but it does mean “coming out” to your employer as a large person who intends to vocalize their value. Listing companies who use United as their preferred airline here would be effective too. Singular letter writing is not effective, when the airline has economic incentive to ignore it and neither is a comment on a blog.

    If you write a singular letter, be sure to CC your state paper, representatives, and an airlines advocacy organization for better impact. It is a little harder to ignore letters when they are CC’d. Still, the MOST effective action is to get the carrier dropped as preferred corporate airline where you work.

    If I could make an appearance on CNN, I’d make this point: what will businesses do when their people and consultants are missing from meetings by being dropped from the flight? I’d also directly ask the large people watching to get their business to drop United as preferred corporate carrier. Do this ask. Lead the social change. Be “Friggin’.” United will be most concerned about that. A letter writing campaign…not so much…..

    I know, I know in terms of business… most people don’t imagine that large people can hold important jobs. But this makes it a more serious issue than mooing at large women and men who could not possibly be important. Yeah, I know…Steve Wozinack and Rush Limbaugh could not possibly be important. Fat people cannot possibly be key to a business’s success.

    And what will happen if you ever have to apply for a consultant job, where you fly, or have a job where you must travel…will the employers have more reason to discriminate as this flight policy expands? Yes, I’m talking to you. If you don’t work, what about your spouse or kids? This isn’t just an issue about fat women and men in sweat pants who couldn’t possibly require respect. This is more than just hating on fat chicks. I would be sure to point that out to the audience.

    I would also be courageous enough to mention that babies are not charged for an extra seat…when clearly it’s a health issue for them. But to do so, I warn you, you would not to been seen as the nicest girl ever if you do this. But it’s funny that “extra space” is a dramatic issue for thin people and they claim even, “health” morality….except when it involves buying an extra seat for infants…when they are, without a doubt, a projectile in an accident.

  299. aww but guys it is a sweet policy only put in place for our own good because this might give us the incentive we need to “do something about themselves”

    We should be thankful to ALL the airlines, they are really only doing this for our own good.

    I am feeling rather stabby

  300. Hilarious indeed. You know, I’m still stuck on this babies-as-projectiles thing.

    Specifically, I’m trying to imagine a scenario where the plane crashes, but it’s not the crash that kills you, it’s being impaled by a projectile baby.

    I’m also trying to think of the implications for the baby-flavored donuts.

  301. rofl .. well done Kate lol.. honestly I couldn’t quite figure out what capitalist was on about for some of their post , though I am sure the same can be said about me sometimes so i hold no grudge hee hee.

    I do think that someone may need to explain to capitalist what friggin actually means as I do believe it was a little to much to wrap their head around and they got a wee bit confused.

  302. A Sarah, contact me for my address so you can send me the new keyboard you owe me after “impaled by a projectile baby” made me spew sparking water all over mine.

    Thank you.

  303. Wait, but baby-flavored donuts are non-allergenic, so I think we’re onto some possible synergies with projectiles and airplane snacks…

  304. Oh, BL, I am sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you!

    I kinda meant that fat people would have just cause to sue the living crap out of an airline if this happened to them. And probably win. Maybe I should have said that.

    Meowser, you didn’t scare me, I’m already scared — I can just envision a scenario where I’m spending the next four months after a 3-week long, nearly 24/7 work experience, paying back my company for an extra seat. And being clucked at, berated, and thought less of by my manager (a naturally thin woman who seems convinced that eternal youth can be swallowed or run after), and a CEO who has always “struggled” with weight and who I had to hear pontificating about how he now runs meetings *whilst running on his treadmill* to keep that paunch off. :P

    As for the measurement chart, yes, I know the article was talking about waist size, but the article was by a man and I think waist size would be a more relevant measurement for a man, and hip size for a woman.

  305. I am so angry. I just called United and politely asked if I had to have two seats and how would they know it… They said yes blah blah blah. Then I asked what about a person in a wheel chair that takes up a lot of space…would they have to buy two seats as well? He said no. I then went on to say if I got a wheelchair, then I would not have to pay for two seats? He said that was correct. I then lost it. I am shaking with rage right now.

  306. Also, bigliberty, another possibly reassuring thought. IME the seats on international flights are usually a little more roomy than on domestic flights. Not what you’d call comfortable for anyone who’s not approximately the size of a hobbit, but still, there’s a little more room avaliable than on a domestic flight, so you should probably be fine.

  307. I do think that someone may need to explain to capitalist what friggin actually means

    Not to mention “singular.”

    And, apparently, the rest of the words we use here, at least in combination.

  308. I’m not nearly as friggin since I went on the anti-depressants. Pity.

    I’m looking forward to seeing Kate on CNN!

    I fly a fair bit for work. And, while I’m fat, it’s arranged in such a way that I haven’t needed an extender so far. I’ve sat next to fat people, and people with small kids, and drunks, and pretty much any group of humans who can and will get on a plane. The only ones who’ve been a problem are the ones who assume I want to listen to them blather on for three hours straight. Please, seat me next to a quiet, polite fat woman instead. Fat doesn’t tell me about its bunion surgery while I’m trying to read. Fat doesn’t assume I care how much the plumber charged them. Fat has never, ever told me about its daughter’s pregnancy hemorrhoids.

  309. It occurs to me…what’s going to happen when this policy starts making corporate types late for important meetings? Or when they miss the meeting completely, or things have to be rescheduled because they were bumped off a flight? One possible angle to use in fighting this could be that it’s in the interests of large corporations to have their employees get to where they need to be in a timely manner. I used to know a sales guy who would possibly have run into problems with this kind of policy, and if he hadn’t made it to meetings on time his company would have been seriously pissed (and quite possibly made important clients unwilling to keep doing business with them). There must be a way to leverage the need for companies to get their business travellers to where they need to be on time to oppose these kinds of policies.

  310. Kate, will you tell us when you’re supposed to be on CNN? (If you know, that is.)

    Monday morning, supposedly around 8 a.m. EST, but I’ll have a better idea about the time tomorrow night.

  311. As someone with both restricting and binging disorders at different times, I’ve been every size from 6-20 in my adult life. I’ve noticed that it’s at size 16 that I feel squished in an airplane seat. Right now I’m a size 12 with 40-inch hips. On a lark, I decided to sit down on my tape measure and see what I came up with. Apparently my hips squoosh out to 19.5 inches when sitting. Even when I weighed 50 pounds more than I do now I could put the armrests down and I didn’t need an extender, but I still might touch the person next to me. Still, if at size 12 my hips will squoosh out an inch on either side of the seat, there’s something wrong with those seats.

    Last time I flew, I was with my brother. Though the last time we sat that close was in the backseat of the car as kids, whining, “Mom, he’s touching me!” it was a relief to know I wasn’t going to have phantom schlong guy or smelly perfume lady next to me. Well, at least not on both sides. Since my brother is bigger than I am, I let him have the window and I took the middle.

    My favorite flight ever was a 7 am Wednesday flight from Dulles to Detroit. The plane was one with two seats on the left of the aisle, three on the right, and was about 1/4 full. I was in a window seat on the left, and was wearing about a size 16 at the time. Another inbetweenie woman was in the seat next to me, and yes, our fat hips were touching each other, which was the usual plane-uncomfortable but still better than a lot of plane experiences. As the door was being closed and we realized how empty the plane was, I suggested to my neighbor that one of us could move and we’d each have a row to ourselves. She agreed and moved to the row in front of us. There were still two or three more empty rows between her and the next patrons.

    A thin woman with a lap child came up to my former seatmate and said, “The flight attendant said that my son and I could have this whole row. You’ll have to move.” My former seatmate said fine and moved up to one of the many other empty rows. Why the thin woman had to have THAT seat, I do not know, unless it was purposely to inconvenience the larger woman for being fat at her. Maybe she thought she could make us sit squooshed together, because fat women are too stupid to see all of the other empty rows? Because if we asked the flight attendant for new seats, she would have refused us for the crime of shopping at Lane Bryant?

  312. great post, kate! I hope that the CNN segment will be posted :D

    I just have to say, if the WORST thing that happened to me on a flight was that a fat person TOUCHED ME?? THAT WOULD BE THE BEST FLIGHT I EVER TOOK.

    And i know she’s already been properly snarked, but i love how cortney uses examples of when she should “stand up for herself” to be: a ten year old kicking her, and a man “touching my stuff”- which are both CONTROLLABLE. (i’m assuming by “touching my stuff, she means, you know, a dude pawing through her bag. the mere act of being “touched” on public transportation isn’t going to cause anyone to leap to your aid, and if she means a fat person existing near her book or something, well wow, EMERGENCY)
    … meanwhile, her whole ARGUMENT is about fatness, which people CANT control, and what exactly are you “standing up” for in that regard? public transportation = a ride. ever been on a bus? subway? please.

    perhaps airlines should just roofie passengers and just shovel us into a pile on the ground. or provide E… no better way to ease those cootie-fears! ;)

  313. it’s dangerous for the baby to be on a lap. even during turbulence, the child could be injured, perhaps even seriously. It’s not really a safe policy, this lap child thing. but not because anybody is in danger of impalement. :P

  314. Anastasia- I was on a flight once where I was seated next to a lady who was holding a tiny baby. We hit light turbulence and she LET GO OF HER BABY AND GRABBED ME (she was scared). Luckily the turbulence was short and she grabbed her baby again, but… perhaps babies should have to ride in car seats? The “hold your baby on your lap” rule just seems kind of antiquated, like smoking areas on planes (and everywhere, really!)

  315. As a young woman who has flown a lot in my short life I do NOT care if someone’s hip, arm, shoulder or leg kind of touches me. (No (s) because having someone’s hips, arms, shoulders and legs touching me would me a little much you know?) I know you can’t catch the fatty bug, or the XY parasite. In fact it has happened a few times with people of all sizes and ages.
    Kate, I would gladly be in the same row as you as long as you don’t mind me gawking a little bit.

  316. It’s not really a safe policy, this lap child thing. but not because anybody is in danger of impalement.

    What if it were a sharpened baby?

  317. Oh dear you guys, I just noticed, in the comments from the poll that was included with the sun-times blog post, that they are on to us.
    James says, and I quote
    “These bloggers are amazing. They’re morbidly obese and disrespectful, as well. They are the complaining obese. Disgraceful!”

    Dang, and here I thought we hid it so well.

  318. All About Planes And Babies, by me.

    I’ve only flown with babies and children within Europe, but here, a lap-child is given a seatbelt which attaches to the adult’s belt. It’s horrible, but I can see that it would stop a baby becoming a dangerous projectile.

    It’s possible but complicated to buy a baby a seat which can have a carseat fitted, and not all carseats fit in all planes, anyway.

    The proudest I have been of my travelling children was on a runway at Heathrow, where the seatbelt light was on and the plane didn’t move for over two hours. Neither child (aged 4 and almost 2) complained much even when the older one wet herself (because she wasn’t allowed to leave her seat to go to the loo, though mysteriously it was ok to leave her seat to change into dry trousers).

    There were several Very Important Men on the plane with far far worse manners than my kids, that day.

    The time I flew with two kids (2y and 8m) when I was in a wheelchair came close, but more for in-airport behaviour than on-plane behaviour.

    (The main reason I’ve bought a carseat seat on a plane was to transport the carseat; I don’t trust baggage holds to keep them usably safe).

  319. not all carseats fit in all planes, anyway.

    Are you saying that some carseats are just morbidly obese complainers and should be financially penalized?

  320. Are you saying that some carseats are just morbidly obese complainers and should be financially penalized?

    Well, sure. Otherwise we’re just encouraging them.

  321. Are you saying that some carseats are just morbidly obese complainers and should be financially penalized?

    We-ell, having seen some of the SUVs people use as urban strollers nowadays…

    A.
    (Possibly just jealous because they won’t fit through my front door, even if I did have space in the house for them)

  322. These comments are making me nervous. I’m scheduled to fly Southwest in July with a 400 lb. friend. It’s a quick one hour flight and I’m willing to sit in the middle and let her have some of my seat… But I worry that Southwest will still make her pay for a second seat (which I would pay for.) That they could bump us and make us miss our event never occurred to me. Should I play it safe, cancel our flights and drive? I really don’t want to.

    Size is a funny thing. I’m “only” a size 8 but my big womanly hips sure fill those teeny seats. It’s like the seat sizes were designed with unusually small people in mind. I only fly within the country but I dread the thought of a long international flight and I cannot imagine how anyone endures such discomfort. From shoulders to legs to bellies to hips, it’s got to be a small percentage of the population that feels well-accommodated.

  323. I’m just coming back to this thread after a few days away…

    It seems to me (a balls-out capitalist, as Kate would say) that the only thing that’s going to make United change their policy is market forces. I don’t believe that the CEOs at United just woke up one day and decided to fuck over fat people because they could. The best thing to do is to vote with your wallet and fly another airline. Ideally, either airlines will accomodate fat people or someone will see this as an opportunity and create an airline that caters to people who don’t like being crushed like sardines.

    For better or worse, United has no obligation to accomodate fat people…they’re going to do what they see as advantageous to their bottom line. No one is going to be able to strong-arm United into forgoing profits. If people are serious about changing the industry, they’re going to need a carrot, rather than a stick.

  324. perhaps airlines should just roofie passengers and just shovel us into a pile on the ground. or provide E… no better way to ease those cootie-fears! ;)

    I L’dOL. So did my husband. Apparently that’s what airlines want.

    And I’m so glad that someone covered the fact that no one really has a choice of airline. I live in the Cleveland area, and we’re a hub for a really expensive airline (Continental) that, fortunately, I’ve never had to fly.

    My 45-inch (size 10 US) ass takes up about 19 inches laterally, which makes me too wide to fit into an airplane seat. (No, I cannot explain how I can get 45 inches of ass into size-10 pants, either. I think it defies the laws of physics.)

  325. Can’t make it all the way to the end of the comments just yet, but something that I though y’all might appreciate – this thread made me curious as to how big the ‘excessively narrow’ seats on the Concorde were. Thin friends complained to me about them, and I never got a #. According to this: http://www.samchuiphotos.com/Concorde/ConcordeTripReport2.html (only thing I could find), their seats were 17.25″. United’s smaller seats, and all of Southwest’s seats? 17″.

    We’re all getting screwed by the airlines, and there aren’t easy answers. Compassion is the best first step, and then working with people to try and figure things out as issues come along really is the best way to deal with all of this. Flying has gotten to be such an artificially stressful experience that we’re all primed to be über-defensive before we even get to the gate; changing expectations so that all passengers are assumed to be rational, welcomed customers would help everyone out. (And would make dealing with the problems easier, too, since you’d have goodwill from all of the rational folks on your side.)

  326. Oh, and a shout-out to Mr. Stewardess. I hereby request that you rewrite all flight attendant training and customer service policies (getting gobs of cash for it, of course.) I’ve def. had some awesome flight attendants in my day, but being assured that that was the baseline? Friggin.

  327. what’s going to happen when this policy starts making corporate types late for important meetings? Or when they miss the meeting completely, or things have to be rescheduled because they were bumped off a flight? One possible angle to use in fighting this could be that it’s in the interests of large corporations to have their employees get to where they need to be in a timely manner.

    CassandraSays: what’s most likely to happen is that companies will stop sending their fat employees to meetings/be even less likely than they are now to promote fat employees to positions where they’d be needed at meetings. And/or pressure their fat employees to lose weight. Even more than they currently do. At no point will they consider trying to make the airlines change anything about the way they operate (unless the fat employees are in seriously senior positions and aren’t stuck in the self-loathing it’s-all-my-fault mindset, a la Oprah).
    Basically, what I’m trying to say here is that in the grand tradition of fatphobia, almost nobody will apply Earth Logic to this situation.

  328. Not that any of this is about this, but please rest assured that I make friggin fabulous announcements, and in 14 years of flying, I have never once even uttered the phrase “We know you have a choice of airline…” (Partly because if you REALLY had a choice, you would be unlikely to be flying with us. That wasn’t always true, but these days, alas…)

    I lifted the aisle-side armrest for a guy today (there’s a bit of a trick to it) who, while he probably technically “fit” in the seat, had no hope of breathing comfortably even once otherwise, and in doing so (thinking of this conversation all the while), I may have discovered a loophole!

    Let ‘em have it on CNN. I look forward to getting the subsequent update in my mailbox at work that we have rescinded this policy.

  329. For better or worse, United has no obligation to accomodate fat people…they’re going to do what they see as advantageous to their bottom line. No one is going to be able to strong-arm United into forgoing profits.

    No, see, you might be a pure capitalist (not going to use the gendered description there), but the solution to this almost certainly won’t be free-market driven because not enough people are going to boycott. That’s often what happens when it’s a serious issue of social injustice that is nontheless not followed by most of the population. (That people don’t care and don’t understand doesn’t make the injustice any less serious, of course.) As Kate said, there are those of us who have been boycotting Southwest for years, and it hasn’t made a difference; capitalist might be right that we have to be FRIGGIN’ and less solitary, and get companies to pull their money, but I’m skeptical that that will happen given the usual business culture towards fat people.

    The solution to a social injustice problem that is not getting rectified by society at large, and in fact which the free markets and general society are making WORSE – is regulation. Sorry since you have balls out and everything, but the government has to step in and require that the airlines stop making seats that are completely inaccessible to like half the population. It’s unacceptably discriminatory, and that’s one of the things government is for.

  330. After reading Mr. Stewardess’ comments (bravo!), I found my manager’s hat appearing on my head and started to wonder: and exactly what kind of training are they going to provide for the flight attendants who are going to end up shouldering the responsibility of enforcing this policy?

    It reminds me of a situation at the company which I worked for as a manager when they tried to institute a policy that if you “suspected” an employee of illegal drug use, you could require them go to counseling. All us managers became very alarmed (<– understatement) because it would all be opinion and prejudice and supposition and if the person wasn’t, we could easily be sued. We basically demanded training for our own protection.

    Fortunately the company did not have its head all the way up its ass at that time and removed that line from the management handbook pretty quickly.

    Unless they provide solid training, they’re leaving themselves wide open to potentially huge problems later.

    (And you’re all right, no, we don’t have a choice. I live near Denver, a United hub. Over 90% of the time it’s United or stay home.)

  331. not going to use the gendered description there

    Since you brought it up twice, I want to make sure it’s clear that I used the phrase first. Which doesn’t make it right (I use a lot of gendered slang that I probably shouldn’t, and am still working out my official stance on various phrases/training myself not to use them so much) — just saying, that’s on me, not the commenter you’re arguing with.

    Otherwise, awesome comment as always, Volcanista!

  332. now i am mad at youuuuuuu!! nah, actually, i’m not trying to be super sensitive to that stuff, but these days i notice it more and more and it distracted me for a second. i am a balls-out fiscal liberal, myself.

  333. It amazes me that airlines so focus on the obese and skirt the issue that the seats are indeed too small for *anyone*

    It reminds me of a flight I took from KL to Amsterdam once. I ended up between two tall, muscular men and at 5’10 and 190 lbs I’m not exactly tiny myself. These poor men couldn’t actually fit their legs properly in the space provided without turning them to the sides – meaning at any point during the flight at least one of them had his knee stuck into my thigh.

    Letting the market resolve this is most definitely not the solution here. I don’t have much hope that companies will ever bother to accommodate different bodies as long as it suits their bottom line not to do so. Smaller seats = more fares per cabin. Government regulation is needed to force the issue, because in this situation the people who are being marginalized have no power to move the market. Most of them have to just put up with it and fly anyway.

  334. actually, i’m not trying to be super sensitive to that stuff,

    OMG, STOP BEING SO PC.

    No, seriously, it fully deserved to be called out. I just wanted to make sure that was directed at the appropriate party — who, unfortunately, was me.

  335. My complaint to United…..

    ——————————-

    Dear United,

    Back in December 2008, I flew for the first time – ever – in my 31 years of life. I had avoided it up until that moment because I had been able to make do with alternate modes of transportation, because I’m fat and I was terrified that I would be ridiculed and ashamed for daring to fly. But in December I was flying back to visit my family for Christmas – and I had to fly because I had limited time and I had moved 3 states away from them.

    I researched different airlines extensively and chose yours because the information that I had been given made it seem that you were a Fat-Friendly airline. And during my trip, you were. Not only did the Flight Attendants on all 4 of my flights offer me a seat belt extender without being asked and did so unobtrusively, they also managed on two of my 4 flights to find alternate seats for the people next to me so that they wouldn’t be so squished. They were all very nice and polite, and I had a very positive flight experience. I have also since recommended your airline to two of my friends who are also fat.

    So imagine my complete shock to find out about your new policy that forces people to be bumped off of a full flight and pay an extra fare to get a seat on the next flight that isn’t full, if they meet certain criteria (as I understand it, not being able to lower the armrests or buckle the seat belt with one extender are the criteria). Are you serious?!?!?! All that goodwill that you’ve built up with your customers over the years, and you’re going to just throw it all away to meet the demands of a vocal minority who (gasp!) are seated next to a person who has a visible difference that can be complained about that is not currently protected under federal law from discrimination?!?! In this time of recession where business is down across the industry?

    Really?

    Wow. Smart thinking there, United. Way to- er – go. I certainly won’t be flying with you guys again.

    -A formerly thrilled customer who is now thoroughly disgruntled.

  336. This whole thing has had me losing some sleep — not because I won’t fit in the seats myself (although when I was larger this was likely true) but because it’s just… so… wrong.

    Volcanista said so well what I was trying very hard to say upthread:
    …the government has to step in and require that the airlines stop making seats that are completely inaccessible to like half the population. It’s unacceptably discriminatory, and that’s one of the things government is for.

    What worries me is that nearly everyone in this thread seems to think that somehow, regulation is bad or impossible. To which I say, Yes we can, people.

  337. As a airline employee I can tell you that the vast majority of line staff don’t relish having to enforce a ridiculously subjective policy thought up by a bunch of MBAs with no real world experience. However, I would encourage everybody who doesn’t like this policy to complain to the right people. I’ve seen a few commenters suggest that they would complain to the gate agents, flight attendants, etc. That doesn’t do any good. They didn’t set the policy and more than likely, they don’t want to enforce it. Complaining to them just ruins their day and yours. Write letters to the corporate office and the marketing folks, they track this kind of stuff and if they get enough response, they will reverse the policy. A few months back United decided to sell meals on International flights. Due to overwhelming negative response, they changed course. The same can happen here.

  338. @Line employee: interesting and helpful. Thanks!

    I bet the second clause at corporate (the unpublicized one) is a policy to shrink the seats half an inch per year until they can charge EVERYBODY extra. Wooo!

    There was something along those lines with cell phones a while back when they were floating the notion of allowing them. It was going to be all right because they would have phone-free zones, which would cost only a bit extra!

    There’s also the problem of what happens if you’re huge, you book a ticket months in advance, you lose a bunch of weight, and you’re a different size at the ticket counter. I’m sure they have automatic refunds all worked out in that case.

    So when do we start a movement? Human-sized seats for humans! (You want a definition? 36″ seat pitch and proportional side-to-side.)

    And air. Don’t forget air. Enough with the 8000′ oxygen levels suffocating the passengers. Give us air you can think in.

  339. Oh, that gives me an idea – I want compensation if the person next to me has overly large lungs and is breathing more of my air! There’s only so much on the plane at any given time, you know! Their big lungs are hogging all the good air.

  340. Honestly, I don’t think I’d rather have full brain function when I fly. Good point. I’ve never been unzonked enough on a plane to realize that.

    And another thing: Mr. Stewardess: I love you. Which flights do you work? I’m never flying any others.

  341. Cortney, if you’re still reading — in your most recent post, you talk about how it’s natural to be annoyed. Which I think everyone agrees with. But in your first post, the one that got you snarky responses, what you actually said was:

    I’m sorry, but someone is not automatically an asshole if they complain on an airplane- whether the complaint is about babies, smells, bratty kids, or someone encroaching on their space.

    Being annoyed is not a problem. Complaining is. (Not in every situation, of course. But we’re still talking here about being inconvenienced or annoyed by something no one can help, right?)

  342. Is it really 8000’? I thought it was like 6000’! 8000′ is WAY too thin, that’s ridiculous.

    And yeah, Mr. Stewardess, I only want to fly on your flights from now on.

  343. Has anyone else gotten a reply back? I did! But it’s terrible and it doesn’t mention any of the points I made, which I guess is not surprising.

    “Please understand that we sincerely care about the comfort and well-being of all of our guests and have implemented this policy with best intentions to help ensure that everyone’s travel experiences with United are safe and pleasant. Your candid feedback is appreciated, and I will register your comments with our senior management.

    Even though you are upset over this policy, we hope you allow us the privilege of serving you in the future. Your business is important to us.”

    So now they’re making it a safety issue? Fatties are now dangerous I guess.

  344. Ahem. It needs to be said, but… to certain and many commenters here: your abled privilege is showing. You might want to deal with that before asking other people to deal with theirs.

    Seriously.

    I could not fly if I had to be touching someone next to me – physical contact with other people gives me panic attacks unless I know and/or trust the person touching me *very* well. Even my father can’t hug me. I can’t pay more for a seat since because I am disabled enough to be unable to work, I have no income other than welfare.

    As I say. Check your own discrimination before you start on about other people doing it, otherwise you will not endear yourself to people who might otherwise have been allies.

  345. This is certainly a thought-provoking conversation, but I end up where I began: someone who has bought a seat on a plane is entitled to their FULL seat. S/he or should not have to spend hours squeezed into even less space than allotted to them because their seatmate is taking up their seat as well. Should seats be larger? Yes. But until then, the onus is on the person taking up more than ONE seat to pay for more than ONE seat.

  346. “”someone who has bought a seat on a plane is entitled their FULL seat.”

    I think what has been said here SSShayne is that the fat person, is entitled to a full seat too. No one is comfortable on these planes. And no one is getting what their are “entitled” too on the planes, because no one is is relly getting a “full” seat to begin with.

    We are all enitled to a full seat. No one is getting what they want. So, who should pay more for getting what they want? What is being said here, that forcing fat people to pay is disrminatory, because, what is really the underylying motivation of picking this particular group of people to pay? Why not the complaining person? What makes one’s annoying situation more worthy of fixing than the other, since both people are in a bad, annoying situation? We are saying that because of fat discrimination, it is “obvious” to the execs at United to pick the fat people, because apparently, sitting next to someone who is fat so so heinous, as to make the fat person pay.

  347. Tria, it’s unrealistic to expect no one to touch you in economy-class transportation, on a plane or elsewhere, unless you make special arrangements. The default is that people will have to touch because of the nature of travel. If you have a disability that requires additional space, I DO think it makes sense for the airline to have to provide you with that – just like any other disability that requires more room. Canada has it right, just like Kate said. In the context of ridiculously small seats compared to average adult bodies, much of the population is disabled simply on account of having bodies, so the same argument applies.

    These points aren’t in opposition. I’m really not sure why it’s discriminatory against disabled people to say that airlines should not be fucking over fat people.

  348. Tria, the point is that it’s not just obese people who are likely to be touching you. Small squirmy children, people trying to be comfortable with babies on their laps, people with broad shoulders, people with long legs – all of them will encroach into your space as well, yet only one group is being singled out and financially penalized for it. Imagine if you were to be told “Sorry, we understand that perhaps your disorder isn’t your fault, but we are going to force you to pay for two seats whether you like it or not to make sure that no passengers next to you complain that you’re freaking them out.” That’s what’s happening here.

  349. (And if they can’t do that for financial reasons or because they burned all the old seats that were bigger than the modern ones, it is THEIR responsibility to provide accessibility compromises that allow all potential customers to ride on their aircraft.)

  350. car, totally. those things are exactly parallel. Tria, fat people are being told exactly that: if you need additional space, you have to pay for it. We’re saying that’s unjust and discriminatory. If you, Tria, need more space because of a disability, I also don’t think YOU should have to pay for it.

  351. I’d add, Tria, that we would all absolutely support your right to ask for accommodation — to request that you be seated alone if possible, to request to change seats with someone who is sitting on the aisle or next to a child or other small person, etc. (And, as car and volcanista said, you shouldn’t be charged for that either!) What we don’t support is anyone’s right to say that others should be penalized, across the board, because of the possibility that they might encroach on your space. Especially when, as Kate points out, only a small fraction of the people who encroach on your space would be affected — this would essentially impose penalties on people without making things any easier for you.

  352. “These bloggers are amazing. They’re morbidly obese and disrespectful, as well. They are the complaining obese. Disgraceful!”

    Are you a proud member of the Complaining Obese Society? Membership is free, and the only obligation is to be disrespectful.

    Call 1-800-FATTY-FAT-FAT-FAT for more details!

  353. I wrote to United, and here is the response I got:

    “Dear Ms. Clark,

    I am sorry that it was necessary to apply our current seating policy.
    Thank you for giving us this opportunity to respond.

    It will not be left for a flight attendant or salesperson to arbitrarily
    decide whether this policy applies.
    Effective April 15, 2009, for the comfort of all of our guests aboard
    United flights, we decided to align with other major airlines in
    adopting a seating policy relating to guests who are unable to: fit into
    a single seat; properly buckle the seatbelt using a single seatbelt
    extender; and put the seat’s armrests down when seated. Our policy is
    that any guest ticketed on a United or United Express flight that is
    unable to meet one or more of these criteria must either purchase a
    ticket for an additional seat, or purchase a ticket for an upgrade to a
    cabin with seats that eliminate the seating issues. The seat purchase
    or upgrade must be completed for each leg of the itinerary. If a
    customer meeting any one of the described criteria chooses not to
    upgrade or purchase a ticket for an additional seat, he or she will not
    be permitted to board the flight. Further details about the purchase of
    an additional seat can be found at United.com.

    Please understand that we sincerely care about the comfort and
    well-being of all of our guests and have implemented this policy with
    best intentions, to help ensure that everyone’s travel experiences with
    United are safe and pleasant.

    Regards,

    Clint Stone
    United Airlines Customer Relations”

  354. Last time I flew United, there was a guy so drunk he had to be dragged to the bathroom (belligerently) by two flight attendants, a woman with twins who screamed the entire flight, and a woman sitting two seats over from me on her way to a funeral who sobbed audibly for most of the flight. I figured I paid coach and was going to be sandwiched between whoever happened to be around…at least, this time, it was neither someone wearing half a bottle of terrible perfume nor someone who tried to grope my ass while I was half-asleep with my seat back. Apparently it’s not offensive to stink, swear, or make enough noise to keep the entire plane awake, but fat is so offensive that it requires its own policy of discrimination. I’m so disgusted I can’t word a letter to United.

  355. Here’s my letter to United. I’ve been asked by friends to make it a bit more generic so they can sign it too. That’s been tricky. Anyway, below you’ll find the only decent sized vessel I could find for my fury over this.

    Thanks,
    S

    ***
    Dear United,

    I am writing to express my disappointment and disgust with your decision to institute a policy of discrimination and humiliation against passengers of size. It astonishes me that you don’t see how wrong this is. Are you really going to capitulate to a small, fat-phobic percentage of your client base?

    Sadly, it seems the answer is yes.

    So, I’m curious. Are you going to start charging pregnant women for having the audacity to fly with their fetuses? Will you be instituting similarly insulting policies against overly buffed-out gym rats? Against people who shift in their seats constantly or who knee the people in front of them for the duration of their flights? How about guys who sit with their legs spread apart or who try (very deliberately) to get just a little too close to their female seat-mates? I find all of that more uncomfortable and difficult to tolerate during the average flight than I do being near someone who is overweight.

    Oh, United. Clearly you just can’t resist the opportunity to marginalize this particular segment of your customer base.

    I assume you can guess that I’m not the skinniest person on my block, just as I’m fairly certain you’ll use my size as an excuse to dismiss my opinion of your sad new policy. Flying isn’t incredibly comfortable for me all the time, but I’ve never knowingly encroached on anyone’s space more than most other people I’ve flown with. Frankly, I think I’m a pretty pleasant and respectful person to travel around–as, I suspect, are the vast majority of the air travelers who will be humiliated and marginalized by this pap.

    United, as long as you have this cruel, ill-conceived, and idiotic policy in place, I’m afraid I won’t ever be able to give my business to United again. Please understand that I mean to boycott United whether I lose weight, gain weight, or stay at my current size . I simply cannot risk the harm to my self-esteem and my soul that being emotionally abused by your crews and your airline would undoubtedly cause.

    And then, of course, there is the larger question: How could I willingly give up my hard-earned cash to a business that clearly thinks I’m beneath their contempt because of my body type and size?

    I’ll be encouraging everyone I know–fat, skinny, short, tall, childless or pregnant, coach or first class fliers–to vote against your inanity with their money as well. I’m sure Jet Blue and US Air and their compatriots won’t mind extra business.

    United, I hope that your employees hang their heads in shame every time they are forced to embarrass or bump an overweight traveler, but I suspect this will be more of a license to behave like bratty, catty high-schoolers than corporate representatives. Frankly, I can’t wait to read about the first lawsuit to come out of this insipid crap. I hope you lose BIG.

    Good bye, United. Your new policy makes me wish I had a barf bag handy.

    Sincerely,
    SB

  356. @Sarah Bee: this particular employee will not hang his head in shame, as he has no plans to EVER enforce any angle of this policy, nor to stand idly by in a situation where another employee (and the catty brats are out there, how well I know it!) takes it upon themselves (sic) to embarrass or bump an overweight traveler.

    Having said that: Let ‘em have it. Your preemptive references to emotionally abusive crews notwithstanding (I can literally not conceive of a situation in which I would be emotionally abusive to a passenger, and can list in about ten pages the ways in which passengers have behaved abusively towards me just in the last couple weeks, but this isn’t about that dynamic), an excellent letter. I say the blunter the better (is that a word?) and I hope that as long as United expects shame to be a central tenet of this policy, letters like yours (and TV appearances like Kate’s) will shame them into loosening their grip on America’s Last Nickle and standing down from this (couldn’t have put it better myself) “cruel, ill-conceived, and idiotic” policy.

    re. the phantom schlong and armrest hogs: do y’all know, grown men regularly ring their call lights to ask flight attendants to referee fights over the armrest. Grown men! It makes the whole space situation seem rather hopeless to me, the only possible solution (and here we are again) being for the airlines to one day reduce the number and increase the size of their seats. The most obvious and universally beneficial solution is one I fear we will never see.

  357. These two parts of that reply letter are directly contradictory:

    “It will not be left for a flight attendant or salesperson to arbitrarily
    decide whether this policy applies.”

    and

    “If a customer meeting any one of the described criteria chooses not to
    upgrade or purchase a ticket for an additional seat, he or she will not
    be permitted to board the flight.”

    If it’s not an arbitrary decision on the part of the check-in/gate staff, how can they not allow you to board the plane so that you can SIT IN THE SEAT AND SEE IF YOU FIT??

  358. (I can literally not conceive of a situation in which I would be emotionally abusive to a passenger, and can list in about ten pages the ways in which passengers have behaved abusively towards me just in the last couple weeks, but this isn’t about that dynamic)

    This is part of what’s so upsetting about the policy — essentially it requires you to do emotional violence to people. While I can’t imagine most flight attendants I’ve encountered being anything but polite and professional, I also can’t imagine a situation where they have to ascertain whether someone’s butt fits within plane-defined parameters without allowing them on the plane that doesn’t involve publicly shaming them, deliberately or no. As kind as you may try to be, and I have absolutely no doubt that you are the vast majority of your colleagues really are, enforcing this policy will in practice mean doing things that at least some people will experience as emotionally abusive.

  359. You’re quite right about that, Fillyjonk, and I guess that’s part of my visceral opposition to the policy. I abhor the fact that, at an airline that specializes in rewarding bad behavior, where the Straight White Male can do NO wrong (that’s United bashing, folks, not SWM bashing), and where the Complaining Jerk is King — in other words where there are so many people truly worthy of being punished for their BEHAVIOR — it instead singles out individuals for punishment and public shaming based on a subjective physical characteristic (which, in addition to being inhumane and undignified, screams UNAMERICAN at such a high volume that I have to cover my ears). And I hate the fact that if I were to somehow become embroiled in the enforcement of such a policy (and allow me to reiterate that I will not willingly do so) I am (or another employee is), as you say, required to inflict emotional violence. That I would ever, even unintentionally, do that to anyone, especially to a fat person just for being fat, horrifies me even in principle.

    I still cannot conceive of a situation where I would willingly or knowingly be emotionally abusive to a passenger, but your point that my (one’s) intentions may not prevent an abusive outcome is well-taken.

  360. Would I sound like less of a dick if I said I would not willingly or knowingly be emotionally abusive to ANYONE? Because that is, of course, what I mean.

  361. Hi folks. First-time poster brought here by this issue. Thanks to all for taking up this cause. Here is the letter I sent to United, my state senator, and my state rep yesterday. No responses as of yet.

    Mr Tilton:

    As a 35-year leisure and 15-year business travel customer of United’s, I am writing to express my disappointment in the changes to your seating policy.

    I have never required a seat belt extender, but have noticed a large variance in my comfort level from one aircraft to the next. Occasionally I am sure my thighs have encroached on someone else’s seat, just as their elbows, arms, hands, legs, knees, feet, and shoulders have encroached on my space.

    Focusing on a certain class of people — and let’s face it, this policy targets women far more than men, by virtue of the average size of a woman’s hips and thighs — diverts from the real issue, here: your seats are uncomfortable for tall people, short people, fat people, people who need back support, people who need to stretch their legs. Before flights became more “efficient” and ran mostly full, we used to occasionally catch a break and have a seat free next to us, but those days appear to be over. Nowadays, outside of first and business class, there are very few people, fat or thin, who are going to tell you they were comfortable and enjoyed their flight.

    Your press department said that these changes were made after receiving 700 complaints about this issue last year. Sir, you know, and I know, that 700 complaints are a drop in the bucket for any major corporation. My small company’s offices receive 1000 – 2000 pieces of correspondence each month. I can only imagine that United’s monthly correspondence must be in the tens of thousands. How many complaints have you received about this new policy, to date?

    I haven’t pulled out the measuring tape, but I assume I am probably right on the line to “qualify” for your policy to impact my travel. I simply cannot and will not have my itinerary altered, my T&E budget blown, and my ability to do my job placed into question. I will not put myself at risk for humiliation by fellow passengers and by your flight and gate crews (who must be overjoyed about singling out, removing, and double-charging “qualifying” passengers on overbooked flights). I will not support your company as they inconvenience, gouge, and humiliate others.

    For decades United was my airline of choice. I’m sorry to say that those days are over, as long as this policy exists and is enforced in this manner.

  362. @just me: *slow clap starting*

    @Mr. Stewardess: thank you for sharing about your experiences with the airlines. It makes me feel better to know YOU might be the flight attendant on my next flight.

  363. Would I sound like less of a dick if I said I would not willingly or knowingly be emotionally abusive to ANYONE?

    Dude, you so completely the opposite of sound like a dick.

  364. Why is it that the lovliest people so often worry that they sound like dicks, while the total dicks never, ever worry about that?

  365. I have just written a letter to my union, objecting to the company’s inclusion of ensuring compliance with this new policy in our safety responsibilities. If the union voices a similar objection to the policy on “safety” grounds (namely, What Safety Grounds?), it could be an important first step towards the “revision” of this policy.

  366. Kate & Fillyjonk: I am so grateful that this blog is here. The letter I posted yesterday was the first time I’ve really spoken up publicly on the internets about issues of size. Thank you for alerting us all to so many matters that concern us, and for inspiring me to finally take a stand.

    Mr. Stewardess, what a vote of confidence it was to read your response. Thank you. You sound like a pretty amazing flight attendant, and the people you encounter are lucky you’re there. While I have witnessed some shocking passenger behavior from time to time, I can only hope that all of your passengers treat you with the same respect you so clearly are showing them. (I will be thinking of you whenever I board planes from here on out, that’s for sure.)

    Now, off to edit my personal letter into something signable for them as want to sign a thing…

    xo, SarahBee

  367. my conversation continues with a customer service employee. i can only hope my emails are getting forwarded to the right people.

    a link to my blog post transcribing emails, so as not to spam you all with the numerous emails.

    i did call them on their crap about “700 complaints.” by their own admission they fly “millions” of people each year– 700 works out to less than 0.04% of their customer base for one year alone. is that all it takes for them to make a policy? they also claim they do not condone (and outright prohibit) discrimination “of any kind” and yet they’re clearly discriminating against fat people. (i pointed out canada’s new policy about fat and disabled people on airlines, as well as Michigan’s own anti-discrimination policy which includes weight as a protected characteristic.)

    hope hope hope this changes.

    one thing: United is claiming in their emails that they are not the only airline with anti-fat policies. I can’t find anything. Does anyone know of any specific policies like United’s, or were they pulling my leg?

  368. fibrofatty, unfortunately, they’re right. Southwest was, I think, the first, but not the only. Somewhere in one of these threads there is a list of them.

    But I think United is still the only one with the double-plus-ungood-standby clause.

  369. Haha fibrofatty,

    I read your email transcripts, and I love how in response to your well thought-out and specific criticisms, you are getting some totally random and unhelpful responses that read like a bored customer service employee copy-pasting barely relevant sentences from a customer service manual. Seriously, what a douche. LOL
    Keep up the good work!

  370. “First, I was totally amazed the first time I saw him do that, because I was like, “Wait, you can DO that? You can just say, ‘Hey, I need that space,’ like it’s no big thing, instead of suffering in silence? God, I wish I was a guy sometimes.””

    I’ve done that.

    I’m not 6’2″, but apparently my proportions are such that if my above-waist were proportionate to my leg length that I’d be 6′. (Why yes, I do look as if I were put together by kindergarten Lego specialists.)

    More to the point, I’m also not a guy, but I’ve apparently amazed other friends of mine sometimes by merely asking for something for us in a public space.

    It’s really okay if you’re a girl to ask for what you want.
    As American women, IMO we’ve just been actively socialized out of it.

    But no Social Order Avenger has leapt out of a dark alley at me, threatening death if I do it.

    So far. :-)

  371. Thanks for the compliments. :)

    So, I just got the same old standard bs reply the rest of you did. OBVIOUSLY this is all about safety. Right. And when they say “other major airlines” they really mean other major airline Southwest + Ryanair?:

    ______
    I am responding to your email addressed to Mr. Tilton. I’m sorry to learn of your disappointment with our new seating policy.

    For the comfort of all of our guests aboard United flights, we decided to align with other major airlines in adopting a seating policy relating to guests who are unable to: fit into a single seat; properly buckle the seatbelt using a single seatbelt extender; and put the seat’s armrests down when seated. Please understand that we sincerely care about the comfort and well-being of all of our guests and have implemented this policy with best intentions to help ensure that everyone’s travel experiences with United are safe and pleasant. Your candid feedback and viewpoints are appreciated, and I will register your comments with our senior management.
    We value your business and hope you allow us the privilege of serving you in the future.
    Sincerely,
    Charles Johnson
    United Airlines Executive Services

  372. PS — I took their Lousy Customer Service survey and should I win that vaunted $400 gift certificate (not likely) I will poll you all about what we can most constructively do with $400 services from a company I don’t intend to endorse or support. :)

  373. I got the same generic bs response to my letter as everyone else. It’s so disheartening that I’m not really sure how to respond. But I’ll figure something out.

  374. I am sorry that I came across this blog post so late. I am not in the U.S nor have I ever flown with a U.S airline, but I’m still extremely tempted to complain.

    “…just that when you take the number of people whose bodies don’t meet that particular standard and subtract the number of people who already routinely buy two seats, fly first class, or find alternate transportation, how many are actually left? My fat gut says probably not that many.”

    I agree wholeheartedly with this comment. I’m 190lbs and I find fitting into seats uncomfortable. And the LOOKS you get for having the audacity to need to extend your seatbelt fully to fit over your stomach (I am gut heavy) are enough to put anyone off if they’re not strong of heart like me :-P I really don’t know that many people that find the seats comfortable in any way, and that says to me that airlines really need to consider having differently sized seats to reflect the size of most passengers.

    If the average passenger finds the seat uncomfortable and some passengers are PREVENTED from flying because of their size…well they’re just doing it WRONG! The airline should cater to a MAJORITY of people and not a minority., especially if they want to stay in business.

  375. If one imagines the distribution of sizes as a Gaussian about some average, some of the figuring done above is that a woman at about a size 16W would potentially not be able to fit into their seats as per their definition (with variation based on body shape, of course). The average size of a woman in the US is 14W.

    So start in the center (peak) of that Gaussian, move a bit forward from the peak, and then shade everything to the left of that point. Those are the women airlines are looking to charge singly. The 40% or so remainder, the section to the right of that point, will be charged doubly. What a boon for UA, eh?

    If I end up being prevented, harassed, etc in any way in the course of my travel back and forth to Italy this summer, I will post about it, and note it in these comments. I am one of the people who could have employment-related consequences to being a member of the 40% or so of women who will be affected by this policy. I could potentially travel quite a bit, and each opportunity means a lot to my career in the long run.

    If fat people on average make less than thin people, this kind of policy will only widen that gap. How is that okay?

  376. “You know what else? Suppose you’ve got this compliant and well-heeled Fattie who
    conscientiously buys his or her two seats, and the plane is oversold. You just know that the gate
    agent, and anyone else who’s aware of the situation, suddenly starts looking at her ANYWAY
    because my GOD she’s taking up TWO SEATS and why should she get two seats when other
    people have none?”
    Ah, this. When my grandfather and grandmother would fly they would always splurge for a third seat(and I do say ‘splurge’ because grams has a tendency to overspend) Many a time they would have been sat down waiting for the rest of the passengers to settle in and someone would come along with a flight attendant asking “what about this seat, it’s open isn’t it?” Well, my grandmother would whip out the three tickets and explain that this seat has been paid for and NO, you can’t have it.

    I am curious though, for those who have in the past bought two tickets for themselves, have you ever considered putting another name on the second ticket to see if anyone notices. For instance on ticket 1-Jane Doe and on ticket 2-My Fat Ass, or, to highlight the stupidity of the airline’s policy, ticket 1-My Fat Ass and ticket 2-You Dumb Asses. Of course, without any sort of ID to prove that I am in fact My Fat Ass I wouldn’t even be able to get my fat ass pass security.

  377. My mother in law is a large woman, and slightly claustrophobic. She always buys two seats (by choice), preferably by the bulkhead, to keep from feeling closed in. On a 2007 trip (American Airlines) the flight attendant asked her to give up the empty seat next to accommodate another passenger. She explained to the flight attendant that she had paid for both seats and would not be giving up her assigned seats. The flight attendant continued to pester her for 5 minutes with the other passenger chiming in with whiny begging. They finally left her alone but she heard other passengers making rude comments about her for the rest of the flight.
    I expect this would happen with any second seat rule on Untied too. Any airline would love to get paid for the same seat twice!

  378. @daxxinn — I used to know a cellist who would buy a second ticket for his instrument, under the name “Cello Jones.” This was years ago, but I assume if they allowed that they would allow “My Big Fat Ass” to buy a ticket too.

  379. This was years ago, but I assume if they allowed that they would allow “My Big Fat Ass” to buy a ticket too.

    I sincerely doubt it, after 9/11. :(

  380. “Untied,” hee hee. That’s what I used to call United Health Care when I was with them.

    I’ve been going back and forth on this with someone on Alas who thinks anyone who could conceivably touch someone with their icky sweaty flesh should have to be charged double. I’ve been trying to explain that there might be ten or more such fatasses on a a given plane, who have the saddlebags issue but are not in a position to actually injure our seatmates, and that we really can’t win. If we don’t buy the second seat, we’re subject to ejection if F. jerkwadius is our seatmate and zie complains. If we do buy the adjacent seat, flight attendants look over the plane and say, “oh, looky, we’ve got lots of empty seats,” and march bunches of people on to the plane to take up the seats we’ve paid for. (Any one of whom might be one of F. jerkwadius.)

    And if we refuse to give them up, WE are the bad guys. Either I’m too fat for one seat or I’m not. It can’t be that I’m too fat for one seat if I haven’t bought one, and not too fat for one seat if I have. I mean, come on now.

  381. So start in the center (peak) of that Gaussian, move a bit forward from the peak, and then shade everything to the left of that point. Those are the women airlines are looking to charge singly. The 40% or so remainder, the section to the right of that point, will be charged doubly. What a boon for UA, eh?

    Jeebus. That is a huge group of people UA can now gouge for little reason.

    I wonder if United is willing to let these double-charged passengers take on twice the amount of luggage and get twice as many complimentary in-flight snacks. After all, they did pay twice as much as anyone else on the plane.

  382. Perhaps you are simply unaware you are injuring those around you.

    I have Lyme disease and I’m in a lot of pain. I’m on disability, I can’t pay for first class, it’s just not an option. And I’m tall and thin so I don’t fit in my seat either, but I do wedge myself into my allotted area as best I can and I make sure I’m not hurting someone. I expect those around me to not lean on me our continuously hit, kick, or bump me the whole flight. It’s been both fat men and women who do this. And the occasional large business man usually it’s broad shoulders that cause a problem.

    And most of them are completely unapologetic about causing me a great deal of pain. I’m sorry if you’re too big for your seat, but that doesn’t make it ok to sit *on* me in my seat. I’ve had bruises afterward for weeks after such encounters. So I am pretty sure I’m not just a whiner. Being unable to sit next to me without sitting on me, and causing bruises is I think a justifiable reason to make someone pay for an extra seat.

    Really I’d just like to survive the flight without physical injury.

    I’d love to have a larger seat. A longer seat. And I fly as little as possible. I skip things like weddings and funerals because it’s just too painful to fly.

    Airlines don’t give you bigger seats because you’re disabled. At best they wheel you between gates, and when they absolutely have to they will carry you onto the plane. If you know you’re really sure you can’t walk. It’s completely humiliating to be disabled and fly.

    So I would just ask that if you find that you are “touching” your fellow passenger, you make sure you aren’t hurting them even if it seems like to you it’s not a problem. And if you can’t put the arm down, make sure you aren’t continually bumping it and whacking the person next to you with the seat arm. That can leave painful bruises.

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