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Read more Kate

If you haven’t yet read Kate’s latest piece on the Kevin Smith/Southwest Airlines debacle, get thee to Broadsheet, stat. It is definitive, and it is moving, and it will remind you of why you started reading Kate’s work in the first place.

Whenever the issue of whether larger people should be forced to buy two airline seats comes up — as it did this weekend, when director Kevin Smith was booted from a Southwest Airlines flight, and as it did last April, after United introduced a policy practically identical to Southwest’s — the first and only thing a lot of folks think of is that time they had to sit next to a fat person on a flight, and it was so uncomfortable.


Here’s the first thing I think of when this issue comes up […] The weekend my mom was dying.

Read the whole thing, and the next time someone concern trolls you about fat people flying, send them that link. If their heart’s not broken by it, they didn’t have one in the first place.

191 thoughts on “Read more Kate”

  1. A wonderful, thoughtful commentary. As always, Sanity Watchers points needed on the comments at Salon. I made it through the first page and said to myself, “you know what, Purple? You have enough issues with insomnia as it is. You don’t need to stay awake all night thinking of sizeist bigots.” Then I stopped reading the comments.

  2. ***wild applause***

    Nope, not reading those comments. I’m all too familiar with what those neo-Victorian Perfect People who comment there think. It never ceases to amaze me: Salon commenters never have too much to drink; never drink anything besides red wine and microbrewed beer; never have done a drug stronger than marijuana; never eat white sugar, white flour, or white rice, and always consume loads of organic greens and yellows every single day; never miss their hour at the gym no matter how sick, tired, or busy they are; are unfailingly helpful and cheerful to everyone’s face (even as they grump endlessly about their myriad inferiors in web comments); never spend money they don’t have or go into debt for any reason; are the BEST parents EVAR, whose children never, ever act up in public; never associate with any human being of any kind whose presence in their lives might not be double-plus good for them, because they know exactly who those people are at a single glance, and…yeah. They’re saints. Who of course never lie about their saintliness.

  3. Oh, and I forgot: None of them has ever smoked a cigarette either. Not even trying it out in eighth grade. Because even at age 13 they were sooper geeeeniuses.

  4. A powerful and beautiful piece of writing (and yours wasn’t bad either SM).

    Having read some of the comments I doubt your conclusion SM, it seems that there are a lot of people out there who don’t have hearts (or brains).

    Well fuck them (sorry for the swearing but this made me rage) I refuse to be bowed by the unending hatred, I get weary of it but I will never let them destroy me.

  5. I’d very much like to read the whole thing, but unfortunately Salon doesn’t allow access here in London. Any chance of mirroring the article somewhere for your international readers?

  6. I really need a button on Salon that just hides all the comments from me so I can pretend they don’t even exist.

  7. Y’all, if you have the impulse to read the comments on Salon — which is a fairly self-flagellating impulse — do us a favor and don’t come back here (or to Kate’s Facebook or wherever) to report back on what they said. We really have enough nastiness in our lives as is, and every time Kate writes something remotely controversial on Salon, well-meaning people end up repeating to her (and us) just what horrible things are being said about her there. There’s a reason we call it Sanity Watchers. We choose not to read those comments because we don’t want to put them in our brain. Please don’t force us to by reproducing them here, even to lament them.

  8. I have absolutely no intention of quoting any of them, I just glanced through, got a headache, and thought fondly of the moderation here. I <3 you guys. :(

  9. Catherine – I have never had a problem accessing Salon in the UK. What sort of a message are you getting?

    This is a wonderful article and it beautifully outlays the real problems here.

  10. A post of mine got lost in the internet air :(

    All I wanted to do was apologise if my earlier angry post was too much (I realise that my angry may not be the same as yours, I am a wuss).

    I had to say that to calm my anxiety, and now I am anxious that my apology is unwarrented, what is a woman to do?

  11. Thank you Sweet Machine and I would like to say again what a moving and poignant piece of writing (to Kate).

  12. I have a question…well, it’s more of a safety concern issue really. Do the moderators ever get to sleep? I’m just wondering if you are all kept in an overlit freezing cold box and poked cruelly with pointy things to keep you awake 24/7, because you never seem to sleep. I will knit for you if this is so. Well, I’ll try…I’m crap at knitting, but I would try.

  13. Ah insomnia a truly horrible thing to go through and possibly the only contender for unasked for, unwanted, woo filled advice that fatness has to compete with.

  14. @Sweetmachine. You poor wee lamb. Insomnia is a rip-roaring pain in the arse.
    Would an imaginary lemur pet help? I’ll give it a silly name for you?

  15. *high-fives Kate*

    Brilliant, beautiful post.

    And dammit, I’m determined more than ever to make sure that no-one of size is ever made uncomfortable sitting next to me on a plane. I’m only annoyed by the seat-kickers, anyway; if someone needs more space, I can scooch over. It’s a sardines in a can experience anyway, and I’d much rather share space with a fat person than someone with a cold (thanks, anonymous person who sneezed on me on the last flight).

    My father is 6’3″ and not particularly large, and he doesn’t fit in those damn seats, either – could it possibly be that they’ve shrunk the seats by 3 whole inches since the 1960s? Oh, it couldn’t be that, it must be that we’re fatty-fat-fat-faces. /sarcasm

  16. And meowser, what a perfect synopsis of the Salon commenters. I am amazed that they have the time to comment at all, they must be so busy collecting all those humanitarian awards for their perfect lives! :P

    I won’t even read them now; it’s like watching “Moulin Rouge”. When the curtain falls and everyone’s applauding, I hit the “stop” button and say “and they all lived happily ever after”. I get to the end of Kate’s wonderful pieces, and say “and all the comments are about how wonderful and wise Kate is” and click back here. :)

  17. Jennifer A…you are right about the unwanted advice on insomnia. I’ve yet to learn of way that solves it…it seems to just come and then gently go on its own when the mind sort of slips back into its usual place. Not pleasant at all.

  18. paintmonkey – didn’t you know that SM and the other mods are at the mercy of our tyrant overlord?

    But seriously – I retweeted Kate’s post yesterday as it was so beautiful. It makes me despair of humanity that anyone could read such a sad story of Kate’s sister desperately driving home to see her dying mother and not be moved simply because the sister is fat.

  19. @laura m: “I get to the end of Kate’s wonderful pieces, and say “and all the comments are about how wonderful and wise Kate is” and click back here. :)”

    That is so very wise, and I shall adopt a similar policy henceforth. *searches for brain bleach*

    Wonderful article. I hope Kevin Smith reads it.

  20. Holy shit, that article was awesome. The ending? PERFECT. Fuck you, indeed. That totally needed to be said, just like that. Kate, I love you and want to bake you dozens of chocolate filled baby doughnuts.

  21. Brilliant and moving and perfect. Well done, the divine Ms. Kate. You too, Sweet Machine.

    And thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  22. Love Kate’s piece at Salon. Love the discussion here. LOVE.

    Posted a link to the Salon piece at my blog (but not to here since I have some readers – not commenters – there that I DO NOT want to inflict on you) and also Tweeted it.

  23. I second the comment that the ending of the piece was perfect. It was satisfying, a perfect dropping of the f-bomb. These sorts of discussions and the kind of vitriol that Kate cited in her post do regularly leave me with no other words than that one. There comes a point when the only thing left at my disposal is “FUCK YOOOOOOOU” at the top of my lungs. And I’m embarassed that it works me up to that point, because it’s really not a very good or convincing argument. I envy your restraint, Kate, for being able to save it for the end, and fill the whole article so full of win.

  24. My dad just died in Ohio (where I grew up) and I’m in Scotland. My husband has terminal cancer and he’s got blood clots in his lungs, so he can’t fly – he can barely walk across the room without being completely breathless at the moment. It’s breaking my heart not to go to my dad’s memorial service tomorrow, but the truth is that even if I chose to leave my husband at home with friends and his family, I just don’t think that I could handle the travel stress. I would be sad about my father, completely petrified about my husband’s health, and I’m a very nervous flier at the best of times – I wouldn’t be able to handle the possibility of getting bumped or having strangers openly comment on my weight on top of all of that. It’s not the only or even the main reason that I’m not going, but it is just another hassle that I don’t need right now and makes the whole situation just too much for me right now.

  25. You know what is one of the most annoying things about this whole discussion? People are so fucking stupid, that they can’t contemplate another solution besides treating fat people like they aren’t human beings. Every time this topic comes up, people are like, but what are the airlines supposed to dooooooooooo? Like the only possibility is allowing the people next to fat people to be sat on, or kicking the fatties off the plane with a $100 voucher of fuck-you.

    It’s really, really easy. 1) get rid of the stupid “armrests-down” policy. It’s stupid. People can have their thigh touching someone else’s thigh. It happens all the time on public transit. 2) if the person truly can’t fit, even with armrests up, relocate the fat person next to an empty seat, if there is one. including if that empty seat is in first class. 3) if there is not a single empty seat on the flight, then give the person standby priority on the next flight, AT NO CHARGE.

    How fucking hard would that be? I mean, I get confirmed seats on the next available flight at no charge for no other reason that my lazy ass couldn’t quite make it to the airport on time. But noooo, for some reason the fatties have to pay. It’s sickening. When you’re a “regular” customer, they treat you like you deserve respect. But no, when you’re a fatty fat, they not only withdraw their barest respect, they serve you an extra dose of contempt.

    All those people who think that THEY can fit in the airplane seats just fine because they are Healthy Virtuous Good People can bite me. It’s LUCK. Just like I am lucky enough to fit in airline seats despite being a Major Bonafide Fatty because my body is shaped in a way that it just works (carry a lot of weight in the front–also means I can’t get any tray table even close to down and thus have stopped eating or drinking on the plane). It’s LUCK.

    Ugh. I want to just go around saying “fuck you” to people.

  26. @Ildeth -What an incredibly tough time for you . . I’m in northern england, so sending my very best wishes to you up in Scotland. XX

  27. Has anyone seen this little report on seating size from Indepedent Traveler? It mentions the 777 redesign that allowed for wider seats as well as the higher density foam that allows seating pitch to be decreased without taking away leg room. Not much, I know, but it gives me a glimmer of hope that we may see affordable comfort on a plane in our lifetime. In an industry that has struggled with solvency for over a century, I’m not suprised that airlines seem so callous and profit driven. Maybe the seatback pamphlet should have a cartoon about human decency towards your co-passengers. Really though, what can airlines do to accommodate us without raising costs for everyone? If we cut the number of seats in half, and double their size, wouldn’t that at least double our fares? I feel like I read this same story in the news a couple times a year, and I hear these complaints all the time. Less regularly do I see suggestions or solutions. I’m asking everyone here: What should we do?

  28. Oh Ildeth, I’m so very sorry to hear about your troubles. *hugs*

    Kate, amazing article. I started bawling halfway through, not gonna lie. Thank you. Although I regret reading the first few comments over there; I should know better by now.

  29. I second the comment that the ending of the piece was perfect. It was satisfying, a perfect dropping of the f-bomb.

    Thirded. It made me grin through my tears. Kate, you are an inspiration.

    Ildeth, I’m so sorry.

  30. Ildeth: You have my sympathy. I don’t have any advise, but I wish you the best in this trying time. Hugs to you. Unless your a no-touchy type, in which case, healing thoughts to you.
    Meowser: You crack me up!
    Kate: You always say it best. Whenever you write about a subject like this, where I feel very emotional about it, but can’t quite articulate myself, you always know just what to say, with just the right touch of wit, righteous indignation, & cool headed emotion.
    Everybody: I just want to say that I just started reading SP, I found it on a link to Kate’s classic FoBT post on an ED recovery site, & it is the Best Thing Ever. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the archives, & on the commenters blogs, & I’m just so so glad you all are here & writing & sharing your lives & experiences. In a sea of internet crazy, from concern troll commenters to pro-ana sites to nagging diet pop-up ads, you are lifeboats. Don’t ever stop!

  31. I just want to thank Kate, and everyone else here, for being brave enough to say exactly what needs to be said to a pack of frothing, hateful, misanthropes who have a disgustingly narrow definition of who gets to be treated like a human being. It’s so much easier just to cover up, hide, and avoid the ugliness. Thank you for speaking out for us all.

  32. Meowser, on Salon commenters: “…[they] never associate with any human being of any kind whose presence in their lives might not be double-plus good for them, because they know exactly who those people are at a single glance, and…yeah. They’re saints. Who of course never lie about their saintliness.”

    But they aren’t bigots! Oh no! Just because they can spot “those” people at a glance doesn’t make them superficial jackasses, oh no!

    Excellent skewering of a particular personality type I think we’re all too familiar with.

  33. I cried. I also entirely failed to obey the do-not-read-the-comments rule and cried some more. If only there were some way to read the *good* comments and not the bad ones, eh?

  34. PS people with Salon seeing problems: I get that on and off. Sometimes it just plain insists that Broadsheet doesn’t exist, and I have to come back a few hours later and try again. It does always work eventually though.

  35. I am not blubbing! I have dried jalepeno flakes that randomly fly around my office. Sometimes get into my eyes and nose.


    (Also, FWIW, I did look at the first 10 comments just now, and good peoples were slightly out-numbering the h8rs 6-4. Progress?)

  36. m_leblanc, WORD. I had a panic attack on a plane about a year ago — after boarding, while we were taxiing — and they had to let me off, of course, so I could be checked out by paramedics and so forth (since I had never had a full-blown one and didn’t know what the fuck was happening). I got a free flight later in the day AND GOT A WHOLE ROW TO MYSELF so that I could lie down after the seatbelt sign was off. I understand that not all flights have that kind of room, but every time I hear about a fat person getting kicked off and charged extra for it, I think of that time when I got a whole row to myself because I was obviously sick (and not fat). I mean, in terms of annoyance to other passengers, I rated high — the original plane must have taken off at least half an hour late because of me having to leave — but because they announced “We have a passenger who needs medical attention,” I got sympathy and kindness from fellow passengers instead of the evil eye.


  37. Gah! Against my better judgment I ended up reading the comments! *ahem* The article was moving and beautiful and exactly what should be said.

  38. Great article. Airplane seats have definitely gotten smaller over the years and more cramped, I’m short and being on an airplane is one of the few times I’m glad of that fact, since they give almost no leg room anymore. Why can people recognize the leg room issue but not the seat width change? Should they start charging more for people who have the bad luck to have long legs, who need to sit on an aisle or in the front row? So stupid.

  39. I have a rant about airlines charging for bags which ultimately infringes on my space, but this neither the time nor the place and I can only say that the airlines are clearly in need of a task force whose sole job is to work these problems out logically and reasonably for all people because the knee-jerk reactions they have to their own solvency is clearly not a long-term fix.

  40. Given that the average airline seat is 17.2″ wide, while the average office chair has a 20″ wide seat. I suspect that airline seats are too small for a lot of people.

    Certainly they’re too small for me. Or were when I last flew (November 2001) and that was with Virgin Atlantic who are generally pretty good about customer comfort. Sure, I could do the seatbelt up with some slack (and no extender) and put the armrests down, but there was not enough leg room — and I’m only 5’6″

  41. This was such a fantastic piece. I think it’s so frustrating for people to miss the bigger picture of people being stripped of their dignity because of this. It’s horrific, and it really needs to change.

    I bet if they had told the people on the place who he was, there would have been a stampede of folks wanting to sit next to him. Idiots….

  42. *wild applause*

    Just when I thought I couldn’t love Kate more, I do. That was such a good read. After reading some of the comments she quoted at the end, I’m even more thankful for the comments policy here.

  43. I read this yesterday and agree, it is a beautiful and heart-wrenching piece of writing. Thank you for sharing it, Kate, as I know it can’t have been easy.

    Wow, that is such an interesting point about how standby tickets are commonly provided for various reasons… I admit sometimes to not having a solution to the question of what to do if a person is truly too big to fit in their seat, and it is the only seat available. The standby ticket idea could still wreak havoc on someone’s schedule, but as a device for argument, it seems pretty effective to get people thinking about how they tend to give all kinds of things a pass–but not being fat. You NEVER get a pass for being fat.

    (Of course then it would be “NO I HATE THOSE LATE PEOPLE THEY ARE CAUSING EVERYONE ELSE’S TICKET PRICE TO GO UP” because in addition to everything Meowser mentioned, these people are always 100% punctual and never hit a traffic jam on the way to the airport, or whatever.)

    I sometimes think that if it is totally fine and dandy for airline seats to be tiny, then surely all of the trolls out there would have no problem with cutting the current seat size by about an additional third? That way the airlines can make even more money, and if you can’t fit in the new seats, well, I guess you just need to put down the fork, right? It’s even more “green” because the total passenger weight should go way down! (that’s sarcasm, I realize the passenger weight is not a huge percentage of the total weight) Anyway, who’s with me? Wait, you mean now you have a problem with it because you personally will not fit in the seats? Interesting how we all just mindlessly swallow the airlines’ conception of what a “reasonable” seat size is even though it is arbitrary and profit-driven.

  44. @lijakaca, I just saw your comment and totally agree about how people refuse to even ADMIT that the seats are smaller!! I didn’t have the 3″ smaller data that was referenced upthread, but I sat in a plane at the Henry Ford Museum that was from the ’50s (I think) and it was obvious to me that the seat was roomier than seats today. It’s like if they admit the truth (airlines will basically make you as uncomfortable as they can get away with until the lost profit from people not traveling exceeds the profit gained from overbooking planes and making seats smaller–I don’t even see why this is controversial to admit, they are a business, not some nonprofit that we should admire for its selflessness), the fatties have won. So frustrating.

  45. I just wanted to say one more time how much I love this site and every single person who comments here. Y’all are just so full of smart and awesomeness. Since discovering this safe place I feel like I have been unplugged from the Matrix…it’s incredibly painful some times, but oh so worth it.

  46. Kate: Best judicious use of a “fuck you” in print, ever.

    Ildeth: I am so sorry. That sucks. *virtual Irn Bru float or other thing of cheering color and bubblyness*

  47. Kate totally nailed them to the wall, and the fact is that their seating – like all the damn airlines – doesn’t fit *anyone*, never mind is it even possible to accommodate (humanely) outliers on any range of the size scale. There really should be a federal law that sets a minimum size for seats in an aircraft, and minimum clearances, because if they are calling it a ‘safety’ issue – and I don’t doubt that it is! – then they should have to put some of their profits where their ‘safety’ lectures are and actually allow enough room for people to exist on the fucking aircraft they’ve paid to travel on. Jesus.

  48. Add me to the list of people terrified to fly. I used to love flying, but between Security Theatre and the deliberate terrorization of the fat, I just can’t do it. I would dearly love to visit a friend who’s living in St. Andrews Scotland, but I don’t see how I could work out the time to travel shipboard, or the money to fly first class. At least I can take a train to go from Michigan to San Diego California for a conference I want to attend.

    I’m in the fatty-fat-why-don’t-you-go-die category who can put the armrests down and buckle the seatbelt (uncomfortably), and it further depresses me to read about Kevin Smith’s experience.

    Thank you for your article – it was moving and perfectly to the point. It’s so sad that there are so many commenters who evidently have forgotten how to be human.

  49. also: I now want all my baby-flavored donuts to be chocolate-filled ones.

    also: Ildeth, I am so sorry. If I had that teleporter I keep asking Santy for every year, you would be on the long list of people I would let use it for free.

    also: I live in a house that is 8′ by 20′, and even for space considerations here, I make the seating in here a LOT wider than 17.2″. If I can do it – and invite my entire immediate family with spouses and the two kids (so far) over here and we can all enjoy each others’ company in comfort? By god, the airlines can make a seating arrangement on a plane that doesn’t punish the vast majority of the people on it.

    I never have enough leg room either, and I’m only 5’6″ as well. But I have long legs, so. Also? Wide hips.

  50. Thank you Kate for, once again, saying what I’d like to say, but so much more eloquently.

    I’d like to add, there will (hopefully) be an economic toll for all of the sanctioned fat discrimination out there. Fat people have money too, and if we’re not spending it on traveling, flying, vacationing, going to movies, etc, these industries will start to miss us. It puzzles me that they don’t seem to care about that. After all, if our obesity epidemic effects such a large (pun?) percentage of people that they report it has, that’s a lot of money we won’t be putting back into the economy!

  51. Thanks you guys for your support! I went away for a bit to use my OCD as a kind of meditation (I wiped down all the bottles in the bathroom and scrubbed the floorboards with a toothbrush) and came back to find many lovely comments. Thanks, they’re very much appreciated!

  52. I’m flying from Albuquerque to Tulsa on Friday, with a layover in Dallas. I am bringing copies of Kate’s piece to tuck in the in-flight magazines, and leave in airport bookstores.

    I want to know where the corporate profiteering is. This is a great opportunity. I am waiting for some other US airline to take Kevin Smith as spokesperson: “Airline X believes all its passengers deserve comfort and respect! I fly Airline X!” After all, if 2/3rds of this country is overweight according to the bedamned BMI charts, then there’s a market.

    1. Treat fat people like actual, y’know, humans.
    2. (actually, there is no 2)
    3. PROFIT!!!

  53. Starling: Heck yes!

    Just like with plus-sized clothing, I find it incredibly illogical that companies conveniently ignore the potential markets that would loooove to give them money.

  54. I have a longstanding athletic injury. My right knee gets quite painful when I have to hold it bent for a long time.

    I’ve been taking those little Delta puddle-jumpers from Nashville to New York a bunch since I moved down here this summer. The flight is not that long — 2.5 hours one direction, a bit over 3 the other — but it’s too long for me. So, unless I get the aisle seat on the left side of the plane (it’s seat-seat-aisles-seat-seat in these things), I spend most of it quite unhappy because there’s no leg room. I’m a 5’7″ in-betweenie. Like half the population of the US is taller than me.

    And the kicker is, it’s an athletic injury. I exercised a lot — you know one of those things that will save you from the DEATHFAT — and now I can’t be comfortable on a plane.

  55. Thank you, Kate, for a stunning essay that explains what’s wrong with arbitrary and sizeist airline policies to people who haven’t thought about it before. I think you’re awesome and I would like to proofread your dissertation for free.

    And thank you, SP mods, for running a site where the dialogue visible to the rest of us is thoughtful and productive. The more I read elsewhere, the better a draconian comments policy looks.

  56. Really, think of the good press. Any airline could could do it without spending a penny on actually making us more comfortable. Even without any adjustment to the seating or any other changes, the airline (say, Delta, or some other airline with good national flight coverage) just has to make a public announcement and a corporate policy that customers are customers. Period. There will never be fat-shaming, harassment, asking people to get off the plane, tolerance of complaints from other passengers, nothing.

    I’d never use any other airline. Their frequent flier programs can’t get me to spend an extra $20 to take a certain carrier, but I’d gladly pay the extra to be assured of an ethical and consistent policy.

  57. I think the fact that in a time of economic troubles the total lack of entrepreneurial interest in cultivating markets that cater to fat people shows just how deeply ingrained society’s hatred of fat people really is. Companies would rather turn their noses up at more profit than be associated with fat people.

  58. Touching and timely.
    I just flew to and from Cincinnati for my grandfather’s funeral.
    Fortunately there was a lot of open space on both flights so I didn’t
    have to deal with this issue in addition to the family stuff. It would
    have been more than I could handle.
    But it does make me think of the folks that are not as fortunate.

  59. m_leblanc, that was one hell of a fierce comment. Especially this:

    When you’re a “regular” customer, they treat you like you deserve respect. But no, when you’re a fatty fat, they not only withdraw their barest respect, they serve you an extra dose of contempt.

    All those people who think that THEY can fit in the airplane seats just fine because they are Healthy Virtuous Good People can bite me.


    Ildeth, I’m so sorry to hear about your father and your husband. I’d like to echo what Sweet Machine said – I hope you find some small comforts during these hard times.

    laura m, do you have a link for the fact that plane seats have become 3 inches smaller since the 1960s? I’d love to be able to rub that in people’s faces.

  60. Also, Kate’s piece was wonderful, as usual, but I feel like I’ve already said that because I’ve been linking to it like crazy :)

  61. I made the mistake of reading the Comments over there. I think I burned through several months worth of Sanity Points in the process.

  62. I’d totally invest in the “treat fat people like people” business plan. May I suggest a slight modification?

    1. Treat fat people like actual, y’know, humans.
    2. Treat other people like actual humans, too.
    3. PROFIT!!!

    I’m gobsmacked at how often fliers are treated like problems to be managed. Information is withheld, even when it would make the difference between getting home and not. This adversarial relationship between customers and customer service agents is poison, and affects employees of the airline as much as people buying tickets. And, of course, the customers’ simmering rage and indignation rarely lashes out at the management, but at the unfortunate souls at the front line – check-in agents and flight attendants.

    Also, I’m short and have stubby legs, and there’s enough leg room for me – even (almost) if someone leans their seat back. I cannot get down to the floor to get out my notebooks and books, however. Perhaps I’m unusually inflexible, but isn’t the point of underseat storage accessibility?

  63. I read your piece yesterday, Kate, when it was linked by a non-fat-acceptance friend whom it made rethink some assumptions. Know that you’re slowly getting through to some people! (I did burn several Sanity Points on the comments, though.)

    And irene mentioned it on the other Kevin Smith post, but it was late enough in the thread that I don’t think anyone noticed – my favorite late night host, Craig Ferguson, devoted most of last night’s monologue (and a short part of one of the interviews) to what happened. He’s not perfect, but I still love that guy.

    – 2:00 to end

    – the whole thing

    – 3:20 to 4:02

  64. I wept while reading Kate’s post and cheered at the very end but then I made the mistake of reading the comments. I am truly a masochist. Meowsers was right on point about those commenters – apparently they fart French perfume, too.

  65. I emailed about this yesterday with a thin friend who was trying to understand. She asked me “What’s the solution? Because you can’t just tell people to ‘get over it.'” (Her email was actually a lot longer and more thoughtful than that one sentence, but it is the pertinent part.)

    My answer was simple: Actually, you absolutely CAN just tell people to get over it!

    I have such a hard time believing, based on all our collective efforts when we fly to NOT encroach on our seatmates, that people being so large that they literally cannot help but take up a good chunk of their neighbor’s seat is really that big of an epidemic that it needs all these crazy, humiliating policies.

    I figure if a person flies five times a year, and maybe one out of every five of those flights has to sit a bit uncomfortably next to a fattie….well? SO WHAT. Why can’t they just be grateful that they probably haven’t had to go through even a tenth of the shit that the fat human being next to them has had to go through in life, suck it up, and…wait for it…get OVER it.

    And that one out of five is a high estimate. I have flown probably twenty times in the last couple years (forty if you count the individual legs) and have been seated next to a fellow fat maybe twice, maybe three times out of forty. And even then only once have I sat next to someone bigger than me that made things a little tighter on my side. And it was not a big deal at all.

    Why can’t people just deal, the same they would if they sat next to a crying baby or a Smelly McGee? It enrages me!

  66. I cried, too. My Nana waited for her daughter to get home to a little town outside Cork, Ireland, from a little village in the middle of nowhere, Pakistan, before she said goodbye. They do wait, nearly always.

  67. That was beautiful, and I love Starling’s idea to print it out and put it into the airline magazines.

    @CJ; the biggest thing the airlines can do is support the research for jet fuel alternatives. Unfortunately, there are very few businesses with the money and inclination to lobby for more funding for that sort of thing. Rising oil prices have resulted in sky rocketing jet fuel prices, which has certainly played a role in the cramming of more people onto each flight. There’s actually some very promising technology involving mutating algae to produce jet fuel that Boeing recently tested. Until that tech matures, though, I think Sarah’s suggested “suck it up” policy would probably be the best we could hope for. It won’t matter if you get more people who want to fly on your airline with larger seats if you can’t seat enough passengers to pay for the fuel. Although I bet if airlines had a handful of planes with larger seats for their most popular flights, they could easily charge more for a seat on those planes and fill them. It wouldn’t totally solve the problem, because not everyone could afford higher prices, but it would help.

    @hallie; there are FAA regulations to cover everything, but the any seat size regulations are (I think) based on “can the passengers all evacuate in case of fire” rather than passenger comfort. Their job is making sure the passengers don’t die, not that they enjoy their flight. As money has gotten tighter, aircraft are designed closer and closer to those minimum requirements.

  68. I admit sometimes to not having a solution to the question of what to do if a person is truly too big to fit in their seat, and it is the only seat available. The standby ticket idea could still wreak havoc on someone’s schedule, but as a device for argument, it seems pretty effective to get people thinking about how they tend to give all kinds of things a pass–but not being fat.

    I think they could just do what they do when flights are overbooked for any other reason and offer a voucher for a free ticket to anyone willing to move their flight back to the next one. Not only is this a minimal cost to the airlines – clearly, they’re willing to do it every single day merely because they overbooked a flight (which they could have avoided doing) – it might even net them business in loyalty and the fact that many people fly with a so or child who they will purchase a ticket for when they use their voucher. There’s no reason this couldn’t apply to a plane overbooked because someone needs two seats as well as a plane overbooked because there’s an extra person.

  69. Starling, I think it’s a fabulous idea to print this out and sneak it into on-flight magazines!

    I read Kate’s piece yesterday and thought it was wonderful; I actually posted this on another blog:

    I think one of the biggest problems is that people see weight as something that is easily changeable, whereas height is not. So if a tall person’s knees are constantly bumping the back of my seat, making me uncomfortable for the duration of a flight, it’s not the person’s fault, because s/he can’t help being tall. But that fat person’s weight is all his/her fault, and s/he should just go on a diet and lose weight – then s/he deserves to fly! Because so many people see weight as the fault of the individual, they feel justified in discriminating against fat people.

    Just look at all the comments about fat people over on Flights from Hell. The descriptions of fat people are very often replete with adjectives that are associated with fatness (like smelly, odious, disgusting, oozing, waddling, scarfing, etc.) as an undesirable or hateful quality. These descriptions are completely dehumanizing.

    I strongly believe that airline policies should all be one person one fare.

  70. My big accomplishment of the day was not reading the comments. Usually I read them and regret it. Today I realized I did not have the SW points to spare, and didn’t. I’m very proud of myself.

    Is it wrong of me to wish hypothyroid conditions on all of the mean “put down the fork and then you can fly” commenters? (Ok, so I read the first few before clicking away. But usually I read them all and feel awful. Reading three or four was a huge improvement!) I would like them to get fat and not be able to change their weight through diet or exercise and have people tell them how easy it is to be thin, they just have to want it and stop eating so much! I’m not usually spiteful, but when it comes to people treating each other so terribly as they do about weight, out comes my vitriol.

  71. Brava, Kate!

    And to someone brilliant who pointed out earlier that they should deep-six the armrest on the window, seat, I TOTALLY AGREE. I always book a window seat, because sometimes you get a window that lines up with the seat and there is a little pocket of space inside it which means I can lean my upper body there and not be cheek by goddamn jowl with whatever unfortunate soul is in the middle seat.

    Man, after I typed that I realized how much total BS flying is.

  72. The article closing: “Forgive me, but sometimes there’s no other way to say it: Fuck you. That’s what I think.”

    God bless the internet, because an honest and well-deserved statement like that would have never made print in most regular newspapers. Well said, Kate.

  73. Ildeth, please accept my condolences about your father and virtual hugs about your husband. That all sounds very, very rough.

    Kate’s article was great. I don’t have much more to add. What her sister went through is appalling. I had to rush to my mother’s side a few years ago and it was one of the hardest weeks of my life – I cannot imagine adding the stress of worrying about airline-induced humilation to the mix.

    As for the crazy and toxic commenters, my coping method (when I do read the comments) is to tell myself that there is a specific number of nutjobs out there (my number is 100) who spend all of their time trolling the interwebs for a fight and that all the toxic comments come from just those 100 people. Yeah, I know it’s not true, but if you look at the letter count for some of the cranks on Salon, you do see that they spend an awful lot of time posting bile … so it could be true.

  74. Speak It Grrrl! Yah!

    I’m a chubby chick and at 160 lbs Southwest seats are stoopidly small – and uncomfortable. I feel for anyone 200+, or 300+. I just cant imagine. I dont blame “fat people” I blame the industry. It isnt as though larger people are a new phenomenon. What have Airlines done for the last 50 years? NOW all of a sudden it is an issue.

    The reality is that as a species we are getting taller and wider. Look at vintage clothing from the 30’s! I Swear EVERY woman was a size 0. It is time for the Airline Industry as a whole to reconfigure how many cattle they can stuff in their conveyances.


    You are right, I got yer back. They can Suck it.

  75. @ Stacey Stardust:

    Annoyingly enough, I can’t find the data on the intarwebs – but I’ll keep searching. The data I had was that the largest seat size in the 1940s and 1950s was 20″, but a British study done in the 1950s determined that 18″ was the minimum acceptable width for seats. Boeing (who is eeeeeviiiiil) made their seats 17″, and the other airlines followed suit.

    Hence, three inches. You can still find 20″ seats in First class, but cattle class? Forget it. The best you can hope for is maybe 17.5 inches.

    I’ll keep looking (no link, no proof!), but that’s the basic data.

  76. To piggyback on Sarah’s comment about how maybe a person who flies five times a year might sit next to a person whose body overlaps onto another seat maybe once out of five times, I’ll note that in the last 15 years I’ve easily flown about EIGHTY times, and only ONCE did I experience sitting next to–actually between two–individuals whose bodies were large enough that my seating experience (as an inbetweenie at the time) became uncomfortable. One was the friend with whom I was travelling, the other was a friendly woman.

    I had to sit sideways in the seat in order to even fit in between the two other passengers, but did I start screaming “OMG their fatty fatz are touching meeeee?” Uh, no, we actually all started laughing about the situation, because it just seemed silly, and then the steward gave me an empty seat elsewhere on the plane. My friend and the other lady were left to be comfortable with three seats for the two of them, and nobody was charged an extra dime.

    Yep, only once out of 80 times did I experience discomfort b/c of other people’s bodies on a flight, and it was easily resolved (and this is when the economy was good and during high-traffic vacation season). I have to wonder, then, at the angst of some people around this issue.

    If I’ve only been uncomfortable (for this reason) on an airplane ONCE (and for only about 15 minutes before I was re-seated), and have myself been flying several times a year as an inbetweenie/fatty for YEARS (and as such am more likely to be touching/touched by others than thinner folk), then what flights are these people on where OMG they are CONSTANTLY having to struggle with these fatties touching their thighs OMG?!

    Yeah, this is more about hating fat people and seeing fat people in public than any actual discomfort coming from sitting next to fat people (esp since, as others have pointed out, we’d see as much vitriol directed at tall, wide-shouldered people on plans as we do at fat people).

  77. Oh, Ildeth. Your comment just about broke my heart. I wish there was something I could do for you, but as I can’t think of anything at the moment, I can only offer my virtual hugs, and real prayers, and sympathy along with everyone else’s. I am so, so sorry, honey.

    Kate, what a beautiful piece of writing. People who can’t relate to that are heartless assholes, pardon my French. I think you executed it wonderfully, with your eloquent prose and the big ol’ fuck you at the end. You are amazing, and I bow to you.

    This whole thing is so ridiculous anyway, because as so many people have pointed out, airline seats are effing tiny whether or not you’re seated next to an OMGFATTEH or not! Last year, flying back to Colorado from Washington D.C., I was seated next to a gentleman who was probably about 6’6″ tall and built like a football player-not “fat”, just broad-shouldered and big boned with biceps the size of my head. He tried to be considerate of my space, but there was a limit to what he could do, and so there was bumping or brushing every time either of us tried to shift or pick something up. I didn’t regard it as a “horrible experience”-he was lovely, and we had a laugh about the whole thing. I would have felt exactly the same way if he was fat and had the same nice attitude and courteous disposition. It makes me mad that, despite the fact that as a very large, muscular man he “infringed on my space” by virtue of his size, no one would ever have thought to kick him off or insist he buy two seats for “making another passenger uncomfortable” because his bulk was distributed in a socially acceptable manner. It’s funny how fast people are to relate bad experiences flying with “fatties” or “screaming brats”, but drunk people on a plane are eighty billion times more unpleasant but you don’t hear people screaming about how airlines should totes kick them off! One of my chaperones on a trip to England was seated between two people who were beyond sloshed on the flight back, and the airline kept serving them alcohol and refused to consider moving my chaperone. I guess they thought it was worse for the poor lushes to be stuck next to the fat lady than it was for the nice, sober woman to be stuck next to jerks who were loud, obnoxious, and spilling drinks all over her.

  78. Wow, I just realized something. My sanity points are MUCH lower when I’m on pain meds. Bad Karen, don’t read the comments! LOL

  79. I’m not sure if someone else has brought this up, but it seems obvious to me that Southwest sees their unclear two-seat rule as a way to boost revenue.

    On most flights, these seats are expensive, particularly if you buy them at the last minute. What Southwest is doing ought to be illegal.

    Put yourself in the plus-size traveler’s position. She needs to fly, she bought her ticket for $400 or so, and then she goes to the airport, boards the plane, and is told that, in order to take the flight she’s paid for / committed to, she has to pay another $400, maybe more b/c it’s a last-minute ticket purchase.

    At the point where they tell her she needs to buy a second ticket, what is her alternative? She can get off the plane, ask for a refund and do what exactly — buy a ticket at last-minute prices from another carrier or cancel her plans? Neither of those is practical so she’s got to pony up that extra $400 or more. That’s basically extortion and it’s being perpetrated against people who are too embarrassed to stand up and argue about it.

    Kudos to Kevin Smith for bringing this to light, but I don’t think it’s just about rudeness. It’s about revenue. Do we even know if SWA employees are getting commissions based on these last-minute seat sales?

  80. I know from reading the other Kevin Smith thread that some of you are wondering which airlines are “safe” to fly. Well I don’t know about airlines’ policies or attitudes but I have found these SeatGuru comparison charts that might be helpful: http://www.seatguru.com/ It tells you the seat pitch and seat width as well as other things such as the type of video system.

  81. Jamie,
    Actually, the only time I’ve ever been really really pissed off about someone in a plane infringing in my space was my last flight, in which a very intoxicated young man insisted on explaining in the loudest possible way to everyone that we [presumably white Anglo persons] have to do something about immigration because, y’know, Albuquerque has all those Spanish street names. And all those people who speak Mex’can! (On a flight to Albuquerque. Really.)

    I am all about ejecting racist assholes with a bad command of history who are infringing on other passengers’ Sanity Watchers points. There’s a safety and comfort issue–that young man was thisclose to getting a beer bottle over the head and a long lecture about the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

  82. I get that Kate’s piece was coming from an emotional place, and was intended to humanize those of us who are so often dehumanized, but I wish that she had written more and had gone on to emphasize that fat is not a “lifestyle choice”, that there is health at every size, that the policy is a result of discrimination, that airlines could do a variety of things to ethically and effectively address the issue. I did read through several of the atrocious comments on Salon, and I found myself wishing that some of the above information had been included. I know that wouldn’t stop everybody’s ignorance and hate, but I still wish that Kate’s article had been longer and delved further into the issue. (I know maybe that wasn’t possible due to length restrictions, etc.) Anyway, several comments address these issues in positive and informative ways, but few people would want to wade through the small-minded vitriol to get to them.

    The funny thing is that before the Kevin Smith scandal I hated flying only because it’s so uncomfortable–I had no idea it was possible to be asked to purchase an extra seat or risk getting kicked off. I fly a few times a year, usually on American or Jet Blue, and I just had no idea this policy existed because these carriers don’t have one. I’m 6’0 and 315lbs, and I’ve never needed a seat extender–although some belts are a very tight fit–and, depending on the aircraft, I usually don’t *have* to lift the armrest, but sometimes it helps to raise it just an inch or so, to let my hip have some a bit more breathing room. Anyway, airlines like Southwest and United might just deem me too fat to fly in one seat, and that’s surprising and distressing news to me. I will certainly avoid those airlines, but that doesn’t in any way solve the universal problem or prevent it from spreading to other airlines.

    It makes me angry that airlines feel entitled to discriminate against fat people with some rather bogus reasons (please, fat people who can’t get out of their seats fast enough pose a “safety risk” but the disabled, the elderly, and children don’t?). And it’s so significant that airlines have chosen to target fat people, not the really tall people whose knees push into the seat in front of you, or the children who scream and cry, or the inconsiderate people who invade your space not by virtue of their size but because they’re selfish and/or feel the need to sit as if they were hung like a horse.

    I think that one solution might be to create a free “special needs” section in the aircraft that you’d have the option of reserving when you purchase your flight. There could be at least six extra-wide, extra legroom seats to accommodate heavier, and/or taller passengers, disabled, and/or parents traveling with children on each plane. Passengers would have to fill out a form briefly describing their special needs situation whne checking in at the airport in order to confirm the seat.

    It’s not a perfect solution–it still requires that people speak their difference as their truth; it’s still disciplining, and still potentially humiliating. But it seems both feasible and a bit fairer and more humane. I would fly on SouthWest if they had a free, easy-to-book “sepcial needs” section like this one and not feel too bad about myself.

  83. I sometimes think that if it is totally fine and dandy for airline seats to be tiny, then surely all of the trolls out there would have no problem with cutting the current seat size by about an additional third? That way the airlines can make even more money, and if you can’t fit in the new seats, well, I guess you just need to put down the fork, right?

    Oh yes, yes, yes. “So how small should they be allowed to make the seats, given that they’ve been making them smaller and smaller?” is an excellent question. I think a lot of people just don’t even know that the seats have shrunk, they just think Those People (TM) are getting fatter and fatter and fatter because they can’t control themselves. They seem almost disappointed to be handed proof that that’s not true, although applying even a little bit of logic should tell you that there’s not a dramatic difference in weight across the population from 1997 to now.

  84. This stuff makes me afraid to fly. I mean, really. I fly very rarely, but the policies being put into effect make me afraid that I will be targeted, and I’m not sure I can assert myself in that situation. Total kudos to Kevin for standing up for himself, but I don’t know if I could do it.

  85. This is kinda OT (maybe), but it’s been mentioned several times here, so I’m wondering – why have the airlines made the seats smaller on the planes? I thought the 2 rows of 3 seats (for domestic flights at least) had been the standard for decades? I mean, even if you make the seats narrower, you can’t fit any more in a row. Or are people referring to diminished leg room? Because I can see how they could put the seats closer together front to back and add a few more rows. But I don’t understand how they could make the planes any narrower without just getting all new planes.

  86. That was a profoundly moving article. It’s writing like that which gives me some hope that people’s attitudes will change. Hopefully, in my lifetime.

    Which, of course, will be very short because I have the Deathfat. (:

  87. Missed this part of scg’s comment the first time:

    in addition to everything Meowser mentioned, these people are always 100% punctual and never hit a traffic jam on the way to the airport, or whatever.

    Right, because they only need five hours of sleep a night and therefore are never strapped for time, and are flawless drivers even on chronically short rest!

    And Ildeth, I too am so sorry. Damn damn damn.

    I swear I’m going to make up a t-shirt for the next time I have to go to the airport: “If you’re so much more awesome than I am, why don’t you have your own plane?”

  88. Hsofia, two-across seating on planes (with more width per seat) used to happen quite a bit. From Size Wise: “If you have the option, travel on a DC-9 or MD (series 80) with a 2/2 configuration (two seats on each side of the aisle). These seats are 23″ wide.” Read it and wept.

    I just wonder how it is that they’re not noticing that flying “for pleasure” in America has taken a nosedive, and that most Americans only fly (especially in coach) when they have to, and FAA foofooraw is responsible for only so much of that. And if they think having thin-only flights is going to solve that, they’re not paying attention.

  89. I swear I’m going to make up a t-shirt for the next time I have to go to the airport: “If you’re so much more awesome than I am, why don’t you have your own plane?”

    Love it. Please make one for me as well.

    Love Kate’s piece too, natch. Hate the comments. Hate most of the world.

  90. Meowser – I’m not familiar with Size Wise; is it saying that these DC-9 and MD series 80 planes are older? So if I book on an older plane, the seats will be roomier? I know the plane info is listed on flights (maybe not if you book through Orbitz or Priceline, thought), so maybe I could look it up before I book my next flight.

    I used to enjoy flying when planes were more empty. I flew quite a bit in the few years post-9/11 and it was great! I usually had a whole row to myself. But with fewer planes in the air, now they are almost always full, it seems, and that dreaded middle seat is occupied. It’s better for the environment, but it sucks for personal comfort.

    Generally speaking, it seems unlikely to me that seats will get significantly wider or planes only 2/3 full without a corresponding increase in fare prices. Not sure if people are willing to pay more for more space.

    I’ve come to expect that flying is going to be an unpleasant experience because it’s cramped, the air quality is bad, it’s cold, there are few amenities and crabby gate attendants, flight delays, etc. But I can travel 2000-3000 miles in 7 hours – A trip that would take me 80 hours by rail, or two-three days (of almost nonstop) driving by car. That’s pretty amazing. I wish the people spewing this hate at Salon would sit and think about that for a minute. The #1 goal of the airplane is to transport you to your destination. If you want to feel luxurious during transport, that’s what First Class is supposedly for (I wouldn’t know; I’ve never been seated there). Scapegoating fat people and other people is just ridiculous! A plane packed with skinny people would still suck.

  91. It is definitive, and it is moving, and it will remind you of why you started reading Kate’s work in the first place.

    Yes, yes, and yes.

    Meems, exactly! I kind of want to found a political party based on that revolutionary concept.

    And to reiterate what others are saying, I have flown long haul to the US and Asia, I’ve flown within the US and India and the UK, I fly Glasgow-Belfast return maybe five times a year…I must have taken 50-100 flights, on three continents (soon to be 4!), and I have NEVER — that’s never — sat next to a person big enough to take any space on my seat. It just cannot be happening that often.

    I mean, it wouldn’t matter if it were — people’s right to be hateful bigots would still be non-existent — but it seems like people are up in arms because once or twice in a lifetime of flying they’ve sat next to someone they felt was fat enough to cause them discomfort. Once or twice in a lifetime you’re going to sit next to someone who causes you discomfort on a plane designed to pack us in like sardines, and I don’t see you campaigning against the overly chatty or the armrest-hoggers. What is this sense of entitlement? Get over it.


  92. In an industry that has struggled with solvency for over a century

    Over a century? Airplanes have barely existed for a century.

  93. Forgive me if this too far OT, but all this talk about passenger “comfort” on planes has me thinking about Phantom Schlong Syndrome, and how in impinges on the comfort of countless commuters everyday, with barely a word spoken about it.

    I recently watched an interview with the cast of Jersey Shore (don’t judge me! I make good fudge!). It was a perfect example of how PSS affects its victims.
    A female castmember was seated between two male cast members. Her legs were crossed, and it’s fair to say that, by the way she was sitting, she seemed to be taking up as little room as possible, be it intentionally or unintentionally.

    The same cannot be said about the castmate sitting on her right. He was sitting with his legs wide open, beyond hip width. taking up as much room as possible, with nary a thought to the comfort of his seatmates, who were squished into 1/3-1/2 of the couch.

    Nary a thought. At. All.

    PSS affects everyday people. And everyday people can put a stop to it!
    *Runs off to draft PSA or “awareness” chain email*

  94. I’m not familiar with Size Wise; is it saying that these DC-9 and MD series 80 planes are older?

    The >em>Size Wise book is copyright 1997. Obviously, given what everyone’s been saying in this thread — namely, that coach seats today average 17.2 inches or so, and even first class seats only run about 20-ish, those roomy coach seats have gone the way of the brontosaurus. (Size Wise said most coach seats were running between 18.5 and 23 inches then, whereas nowadays, only Jet Blue seems to have seats on domestic flights as big as 17.8 inches.) It’s possible that on international flights they’ll be a bit more generous, but if you compare what’s on seatguru.com to what’s in this book, you’ll be stunned by the change. I’m just amazed that nobody seems to be talking about that except for fat-acceptance bloggers.

  95. Perla, please do share when you’ve drafted that PSA! If I get stuck next to someone with PSS again on a plane I want something to hand them.

    The last time I flew to the States I got stuck by someone with a bad case of PSS – and on a Delta flight to boot, which meant I already had negative legroom. I was in the middle seat and had nowhere to shift, because the guy on my left was 6’6″ at least and the poor dude was already folded up like an armchair, quite literally, and I couldn’t see being rude to him by taking his space. But then there was this guy on my right, in the bloody aisle seat and sitting there with his legs wiiiiide open.

    Fortunately, I’ve got a little more effectively curmudgeonly since then and am more likely to tell those types to budge up and make room, but it’d be nice to hand them something if I’m on the last leg of my trip and barely coherent!

    I notice time and time again when the subject of fat people comes up, whether it be health care or flights, that the people railing against our evil adipose tissue also go on and on about how fat Americans/North Americans are with the insinuation that ONLY Americans/North Americans have any statistically significant number of fat people. They’re doing their damnedest to shame their fellow countrymen and -women, but it’s so LAUGHABLY IGNORANT.

    Same with the “Well just DRIVE there” – they fail to realize that there are thousands upon thousands of miles, some of which can be entire OCEANS in the way of some destinations. Or don’t understand why anyone would want to leave the continent. Or don’t understand that there is, in fact, more than one continent, really.

    It makes these trolly types even more bizarro world to me than they normally are, which would be funny if they weren’t so completely serious about it.

  96. @Renatus: To be honest, I don’t know if I can be impartial enough on the subject of PSS to draft a PSA. I’m only 169cm, but my legs are kinda long for my height. PSS-affected blokes shorter and stumpier than me putting their seats waaaay back/taking up much more than a seat’s worth of leg room? The rage. It is strong in me.

  97. @Perla “The rage. It is strong in me.”
    You sound like a Jedi Knight. I pity the PSS fool that crosses your path.

  98. @Perla, I understand. I know I couldn’t be impartial! I’ll just have to practice taking up just as much room as I take up instead of trying to squinch myself smaller and turning my curdmudgeonliness to 11 to keep that space in the face (er, legs?) of those who inflict their PSS on us.

  99. This whole thing worries me so much… Though, I’m glad we have people fighting against the discrimination.

    See, my boyfriend lives in England. I’m 5 foot 6 inches tall and weigh anywhere from 280 – 310 pounds. I went to Virginia a couple years ago, a 4 hour flight. I was pretty unhappy the whole time, though, not impossibly uncomfortable. The shortest flight to England I can find is around 15 hours. I can barely scrounge up the money to go visit him, let alone pay for two $1,200 coach seats.

    So, who wants to join me in inventing the first Fatty Instant Transporter (FIT)?

  100. I get to the end of Kate’s wonderful pieces, and say “and all the comments are about how wonderful and wise Kate is” and click back here. :)

    laura m – I am going to start doing this. It’s the “and they all lived happily ever after” which I shall add to all of Kate’s pieces about fat on Broadsheet.

    It would be great if the airline regulators would make a rule on this. If we had a standard regulation that one passenger = one fare (and as many seats as are required), then the very real anxiety a lot of fat people feel about flying could be avoided. The airlines clearly aren’t going to sort it out on their own, not when they can continue to profit from fat people buying two seats and fat-haters directing their anger about being uncomfortable at fatties rather than at the airline’s poor seating arrangements. I mean, if we can manage to pass planes safely from air traffic control tower to air traffic control tower thousands of times per day, it must be possible to sort out this confusion over whether a ticket buys you the right to a seat or the right to passage.

  101. Man, that really was a thing of beauty. And the ending was perfect.

    Kate, I’m so sorry your family had to go through that. And Ildeth, I’m sorry for all you’re having to go through, as well.

    I’m sorry ANYONE has to go through stuff like this.

  102. Hi, that was a heart rending article, like you said.

    Someone here wrote about the public transport dilemma, discussing whether people of size should take up two seats or if people of lesser size should get annoyed if they do; and the conclusion was “if there isn’t space for you to sit, whatever size you are, you have to stand”.

    Shouldn’t that apply here too? If there isn’t space for you to fly safely and comfortably, then you need to get a different flight (or pay for more space).

    Here in the UK there was a case a while back where someone was awarded significant damages because the airline was daft enough to try to squeeze her next to a person of size, and there patently wasn’t enough room for both of them, and she suffered major injury (I don’t mean discomfort; she had damaged nerves and was hospitalised) (it was a long haul flight)

    That of course was the fault of the airline for trying to get two people into a space that didn’t fit them. and they had to fork out damages – I wish they’d had to compensate the bigger lady for the discomfort she suffered too!

    I’ve had a good idea: airlines should not be allowed to put people in spaces where they don’t fit. If a larger person is in the seat first, then tough, the other person doesn’t get to sit there (and vice versa) (that is what I thought was being touted in the blogpost about buses/public transport – first come, first served)

    Personally I would go out of my way to *not* scowl, sigh etc if I was in limited space next to someone bigger. They prob feel harassed enough without my making it worse.

    (It’s like travelling next to someone with small children – not ideal in a perfect world, but we should be tolerant of each other and a little kindness goes a long way, and one day it might be me needing a little more space than I’m allocated, or having a grumpy toddler on my knee: we feel bad enough about it without people making it worse)

    I’m new here, and open to correction if I’m being “ist”.

  103. PS I have had some really uncomfortable journeys next to thoughtless/irritating/downright creepy people who stick their legs practically up my skirt or sneeze into my food. Airlines should concentrate on these kinds of travellers. . .

  104. Kate, that was a wonderfull piece of writing.

    I am just trying to be an ally regarding fat-acceptance (underweight through no action on my part), but still, reading about these things makes me want to avoid flying. Add in the security theatre and all the ways it is ableist, racist, transphobic and otherwise fucked up, I know I am not going to fly again any time soon if I can avoid it. If it is bad enough to give me sympathy-anxiety (and honest-to-maude stomach cramps), I can not even imagine how much worse it has to be for those who have to deal with being treated in such a horrible manner, instead of just seeing it being done to others.

    The only problem: My not wanting to fly with those airlines probably doesn’t bother them at all. Maybe there should be something like a mass email campaign? Everyone who doesn’t want to fly with these airlines sending an email on the same day, telling them why they are loosing a customer. Get as many allies as possible to join in. Combine it with anti-ableism activists. Maybe if they get that many at once, they can not write it off? Or is this just wishfull thinking?

    (Also, letting the airlines know that people are not flying because of fear of horrid “security” measures. Corporate interest got security measured lowered before (the whole “cigarrete-industry gets them to allow lighters”-thing), so maybe if they have to fear really losing buisness, they will speak out against those horrid body scanners and the likes?)

    (I am trying to convince myself that there are some people in positions of power who are not complete assholes. I just really want there to be something one can do to change things)

  105. Kate-thanks for putting a poignant personal face on the issue-and taking the backlash for us. Ildeth-sorry for your troubles, too.

    But-I am soooo glad this issue is coming forward now. Getting ready to leave my hotel for the 4th flight this week. Not comfortable reading/posting about this on my corporate laptop….lurking in the hotel biz center. For those of us career fatties who fly every week-it is a real fear to have to request two seats on the plane. I’ve only once had trouble with my size in the workplace environment ( they were jerks anyway-it was the most convenient vector in my case), but the flying while fat issue is really becoming oppressive in terms of the possibility of real job discrimination.

    I saw a segment on I think CBS morning show today-kudos for trying to humanize the issue a bit with a “live demo” of actual fatty in a seat. Pointed out NO ONE is comfortable. Who was this great, cute, and brave blogger who appeared? She got in a few good licks on BMI and the professionals who fly fat regularly and how it may affect us. Made my day!

    And Starling- your ideas for ‘re-education’ are pretty appealing! I only have one and occasionally two airlines to choose from at my local airport, but boy would I love to give my considerable ( 50,000+) miles a year to some airline who actually WANTS my fat ass!

  106. I am a regular contributor to The Women’s Colony, where Kate so graciously agreed to share her original piece. I had thought, despite having a few annoying trolls over there, that the audience would be largely sympathetic. Boy, was I shocked at the comments section, where I eventually couldn’t stop myself from going in and offering a big FUCK YOU to those people who clomped unabashedly along the last-socially-acceptable-prejudice dirt road. These small, sad, angry people laid their ugliness out for all to see, though ironically enough, they did it from behind the safety of anonymous screen names. Those cowards.

    Kate: We at the Women’s Colony stand in solidarity with you and Kevin Smith and Rubenesque humans–hell, with humans of all size, shape and color–everywhere.

  107. Since some people are discussing this, I think they factor the seat width also with what distance the plane will generally be going. The boeing 777s I take to and from japan have minimum 18 inch seats, usually 18.5 (economy) because that flight is something like 17 hours. Yet there are 777s that have as little as 16.5″ seats but they’re often used for short domestic flights, like say tokyo to seoul (3 hrs)

  108. Because I am a fat flyer:
    -Your comfort is more important than mine
    -Your money is somehow worth more than mine
    -It’s my fault that airlines have made their seats smaller to accommodate more flyers
    -I have caused the airlines to lose money
    -The angst you feel about flying should be solely directed at me and not the airline
    -You are better than me in every way
    -The location you need to get to is more important than mine
    -You will not eat your peanuts/meal because you may look like me
    -You will have something to watch and critique while on your boring trip, making mental notes of all my “offenses”
    -The weather delays we face will be my fault
    -You will police your armrest with a fervor, even though you wouldn’t give it a second thought any other time
    -Every discomfort, including back aches, headaches, your sciatica, lack of leg room, lack of schlong room, etc. will be my fault
    -The screaming baby was crying because I was on the plane
    -Your drink became warm because my body heat melted your ice
    -The drunk talking loudly near you won’t stop talking and let you sleep
    -They ran out of blankets and pillows
    -You might have to touch a complete stranger
    -You got that cold two days into your vacation
    -You’re going to miss your connecting flight
    -The airline overbooked the flight you are on
    -Your luggage will end up in Shanghai
    -They ran out of pretzels
    -The line for the bathroom is too long
    -Your knee/elbow got bumped by the beverage cart 6 times
    -The flight attendant won’t have enough change for your cocktail purchase
    -The plane will have more turbulence
    -Your ride will be late picking you up at the airport
    -Your headphones won’t work
    -The movie will be one you’ve already seen
    -Your overhead fan won’t work
    -The guy next to you will have air sickness
    -That kid kicking your seat won’t stop for the entire length of the trip
    -No one will make you feel special

    Have I left anything out?

  109. but I wish that she had written more and had gone on to emphasize that fat is not a “lifestyle choice”, that there is health at every size, that the policy is a result of discrimination, that airlines could do a variety of things to ethically and effectively address the issue.

    Issa, Kate has written extensively about those things here, at Salon and Jezebel, and in a book. No article can be every article, you know?

  110. *Applause*

    Does anyone have any links they can drop for me on the issue of how, if the seats were made to fit everyone, we’d all have to pay more to fly? Or, rather, how that’s not true?

    I’m in the travel industry, and I keep trying to patiently explain to people with whom I am debating about airlines that the airlines’ seats have been getting smaller and smaller for years and that HASN’T upped their profits, and that ticket prices are lower now than they have been because the airlines are trying to make more money, not because of space per se, but I don’t really have any studies or whatever to prove my point. I’m trying to make the point that less space does not necessarily equal more profit, and that even if it did, more profit would likely lead to higher ticket prices anyway because at that point obviously demand would be high…

    This smacks of the “my health care premium is paying for your fat” argument (which I can debate by dropping the links I find in this blog about how the actual amount of fat on your body isn’t related to health), but I haven’t been able to adequately explain my position to people who want to use that line of argument re: airlines.

  111. @Meowser said: “So how small should they be allowed to make the seats, given that they’ve been making them smaller and smaller?” is an excellent question.

    I posed this question on my blog. One commenter at 5’11” and 220lb (which makes him clinically obese on the BMI scale) yet because he can fit into an airline seat, he doesn’t see any problem with the current situation. I pointed out that if they reduced the seat and legroom by another inch or two, I’d still be reasonably comfortable but he’d no longer be able to fit. He seemed to think the market would take care of it and he’d just find another airline.

    I’m actually quite happy with the comments on the post so far. Some of it might be a bit 101 since it’s a general travel blog not a fat acceptance blog, but I haven’t had anything abusive yet. It’s on full moderation but I haven’t had to delete anything yet.

  112. @KristinAnne I don’t have a direct link for what you need but you could look at the comparison charts on SeatGuru for seat size and then look at the company’s publicly stated profits and see if there’s any correlation.

  113. hsofia, they did in fact retrofit a lot of planes with 2-2 seating to be 2-3, by shrinking seats and aisles. And yeah, they also put all the rows closer together to squeeze in a couple more rows. Sardines, indeed. The bad air quality is also a cost-saving measure — they now recycle a larger fraction of the air in the cabin instead of introducing fresh air, because heating outside air from 30,000 feet uses a lot of energy. Hence everyone getting sick from that one person 20 rows away.

    I mean, the proposal I might make certainly isn’t to cut the number of passengers in half. But if you reduce the number of passengers a moderate amount and raise the fare a moderate amount, you aren’t going to lose money: most people will pay a little more if they have to. And you might even gain some loyal customers because you started treating them like human beings. ADVICE FOR AIRLINES.

  114. @Ildeth: I’m so sorry for your troubles.

    @Kate: Awesome post.

    I’m very fat, 400lbs+ I think/dress size 6x, and I’m tall too. I require a seatbelt extender when I’m on an aircraft, and the armrests dig into my sides. I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the world by air, for work and pleasure, with big airlines and small, on crammed flights and half-empty ones. I’ve never been kicked off a plane; never had a bad word said to me or a dirty look directed at me on a flight by anyone, staff or fellow passenger; never had any hassle beyond the physical irritation of uncomfortable seats (the most uncomfortable seats are on American aircraft, I have found), and forced inactivity on long-haul flights. I always ask the check-in staff to seat me by an empty seat if there is one and they always help if they can. The only eyebrow-raising experiences I have had re: flying were the Nepalese security guard who giggled while she was frisking me before I got on a plane, and the Lao cabin crew member who didn’t have a seatbelt extender and therefore told me not to worry about not being able to fasten my seatbelt!

    I mention all this for two reasons. Firstly, I’d like to encourage people who would like to or need to fly but understandably feel threatened by the hostility often shown to fat people. While I deplore the injustices done to people like Kevin Smith, and, an even worse case, Kate’s sister — and I’m not minimising the trauma caused when one runs up against some mean person or policy — in general, it’s not as bad as you might expect out there. If you want to fly, I urge you to go for it. Secondly, I’d like to point out that if someone as fat as me can travel all over the world and not have a single bad experience on a flight, then when someone does have a bad experience, it is caused by bigotry on the part of fat-haters, or greed on the part of the airline, or (even more revoltingly) both.

    Being treated like rubbish just because of one’s fat (or any other individual characteristic) is not an intrinsic part of air travel. There is no reason for anyone to not enjoy flying, or at least be able to tolerate it. There is no motivation for treating fat people badly except profit or the twisted pleasure of putting someone else down. There is no excuse for bad customer service or a company such as an airline not fulfilling the task we the customers have paid for, with the same degree of comfort and convenience for everyone. I realise that it’s easy for me to say this when I have been so lucky, but it’s still true that we fat people shouldn’t let ourselves be cowed by the bigots and the money-grubbers, especially when we are paying freaking customers. And IMHO we should boycott the crap out of companies like Southwest Airlines.

  115. Thinking about this some more… Women in general have broader hips than men. A man and a woman of equal height, weight, and body type will have noticeably different hip measurements, all other things being equal. So a seat a man might well be comfortable in, could well be too narrow for his female counterpart.

    Marilyn Monroe was 37-23-36 (or so the studio said). I bet she’d have had difficulty fitting into a 17″ wide seat, well, she’d fit into it just not have any wiggle room. And she was by no standard any where near fat!

  116. You know, all these troll types talking about their horrific experiences flying next to a fat person made me think. I don’t remember any specific instance of flying while seated next to someone who was even larger than me where I was in some kind of existential agony the whole time because legs and arms were touching sometimes. Random contact happens in a space that small. Most people are polite about it, and nothing particular stands out.

    What I do remember? Is the woman with the uberstrong perfume who gave me a migraine on a short flight.

    I remember the couple who brought a laptop and watched a movie without headphones on a cross-country flight, so that everyone in our section had to listen to their entertainment choice. I could hear it over my headphones and MP3 player on high volume.

    And I really remember the hairy guy with the thick gold chains visible because of the unbuttoned top of his shirt who took over the armrest and used it to jab his elbow into my breasts for over an hour, until he leaned forward and I brought my elbow down to block him and then couldn’t move my arm again the rest of the flight.

    People are uncomfortable on airplanes. Rude people, who come in every variety, are a FAR FAR BIGGER PROBLEM than fatties (pardon the pun).


  117. I’m in Canada, and our Supreme Court recently issued a one-customer-one-fare verdict on this very issue. I know from someone working at an airline company that all Canadian aircraft will soon be required to provide between four and six seats per aircraft (depending on the size of the craft) for larger people to use.

    Yes, every other customer will have to subsidize this. To the tune of about $3/ticket. And then everyone gets to travel in comfort and dignity.

    It seems like a fair solution to me. I’m not a large person, and I’m looking forward to this policy so that when the seats are not being used, I can snag one and curl my legs up under me and read a good book.

    Everyone wins! I think so, anyway. Curious to know what others think. Is that a good solution?

  118. @DRST I do have a story where I was sat next to someone who was (slightly) bigger than I am on a flight from LHR to LAX that ended up being delayed. We made jokes about being the big girls stuck next to each other, but we were both highly uncomfortable.

    But there were extenuating circumstances.

    That flight was delayed 2 hours out of Heathrow and we had already been boarded. The air conditioning stopped after they cut the engine and so the other woman and I were smashed up against each other, thighs pressed together for over 13 hours all told once the flight actually landed. We were sweating on each other. It was pretty icky, having someone else’s sweat on your, but we were BOTH in that position. Two fat bodies smooshed together for 13 hours in stale air in seats not designed for fat bodies doesn’t really make for comfort. (It should be noted that we could get the armrest down between us since that is the measure of “comfort” for Southwest – ha!)

    Not for a minute did I blame her being bigger than me or myself for being big at all though. That situation was created entirely from the air industry, bottom up. Seats too small, poor information about when the plane would actually be taking off, poor climate control, etc.

    We left the plane pretty good friends though since we sort of HAD to be in that situation.

  119. @meowser: Thank you! That was what I was looking for, no wonder I couldn’t find it on the intarwebs! :)

    The older planes then were bigger, because even though Boeing started putting the 17″ seat width into production immediately, the older planes were still in use (heck, the SST was thirty years old before they retired the fleet).

    I remember flying to Yugoslavia (today Croatia) in planes that were two seats-aisle-two seats, and how my mother arranged us so that we were in front of each other. I also remember the flight attendants distributing boiled sweets to the children to suck on to equalize the air pressure in our ears during take-off. Alas, I do not remember the airline.

    Today I fly British Airways for most international flights, because they don’t charge for amenities like earphones. I’d fly Virgin if I could afford it (but then, I’d fly first class if I could afford it).

  120. KristinAnne, go to your public library and ask the librarian to show you the “Academic Search Complete” article database (I’d bet that almost any public library would have it). Put in this search: airline* seat* size* profit* and it will search for articles with keywords that are variations of those root words, like “airlines” or “seating”. I found a list of articles about the mathematics of seat inventories, the different prices they charge for different seats. Those articles might help.

    I also found an article that talked about charging more for an exit row seat, and how HORRIBLY UNJUST! it is to charge tall people more for more legroom! How awful to treat them differently! ^eyeroll^

  121. @O.C. Thanks!

    I am thinking I should actually write that blog post if I get the time to do the research.

  122. @Regina T:

    Your drink became warm because my body heat melted your ice

    Your whole list made me lolsob, but this one makes me want to carefully arrange that you sit next to me on all flights from now on – I get damned cold on those flights! :)

    Joking aside, I’ve never – never – had a bad experience sitting next to someone even much larger than me on a flight. My experience has been that larger people are so painfully aware of their size that they do much more to be polite to their seat-mates than most fliers, who will angrily co-opt as much of my space as they can, and woe betide me if I take more than the fraction of an inch they have allowed me on our shared armrest. I am reminded of the man sitting next to my SO on a flight to the UK who ate all his snacks and meals with his arms out at a 90 degree angle, so that SO got an elbow in his side or face approximately every three minutes.

    I am lucky in that my SO an I usually travel on long flights together, so I can lean on him – and he’s large (and warm). I have travelled extensively up to MA from Wash DC with a larger friend (edging into the OMGDEATHFATZ size, according to society), and we never have problems. It’s this effing sanctioned shaming that makes hateful people lash out at the person who will not call them on it.

    Bullies. Bullying because they feel small (ha!) and weak, and the solution in their minds is to make someone else feel horrible. A concern troll got loose on Pandagon’s post about Kevin Smith, so I posted a list entitled “I would much rather sit next to a sweaty (the troll kept talking about KS sweating) seat-encroaching Kevin Smith than these people”, and it definitely included such delights as the person who pours half a bottle of cologne on themselves and the guy who thinks I am sitting next to him purely for his amusement.

    I want to sit next to Kevin Smith! *pout*

  123. KristinAnne, you and the woman next to you on that flight clearly have a great deal more grace and class than many people (the vast majority of Salon commenters, for example. ;) ) From listening to some people talk about THAT TIME they were on a plane next to THAT FAT PERSON, you would think they encountered ten times the level of inconvenience you experienced in Heathrow. In reality, of course (in most cases), they probably only barely touched the hip or thigh of the person next to them, and elevated it in their heads to full-scale Obesity Panic because the person they were next to happened to be larger than themselves.

    My thoughts on the matter are thus: the level of entitlement required for a person taking a form of MASS TRANSIT to be obsessively paranoid about the possibility of bumping kneecaps with an Inferior Being is precisely what FIRST CLASS was designed for. Quit your futile bitching and upgrade, already–we certainly won’t miss you.

  124. @dray – that sounds great and I think it’s a good idea. I just hope they don’t put them all together (because fat people don’t always travel in packs). Also, I think four or five is probably not enough.

    I’ll just wait for the day we all travel in individual containers, in cybersleep (like in Pitch Black).

  125. Fat is not the “last socially acceptable prejudice.”

    It may be the most blatant one that a certain category of Liberally Progressively Liberal Dudes And Ladies feel comfortable admitting to, but it’s far from the only one given society’s silent sanction.

  126. And Regina T., that list was epic awesome! It needs to be on a T-Shirt, maybe the backside of Meowser’s “Why don’t you have your own plane” shirt. :p

  127. @hsofia, I want that too. Heck, I’d settle for capsules like I’ve heard they’ve got at the Tokyo airport.

  128. @hsofia – you know that is an excellent point. I’m going to pass that on to my friend who is part of the engineering team that is designing the seats. I’ll bet she never thought of it.

  129. Also: Nobody is stopping you from buying a second seat (or even a third) to have lots of room around you if you have to keep a minimum distance from the OMGDEATHFATS!

    Seriousely, why are the fat people requiered to pay when they are not the ones complaining and insisting on needing to keep their distance (because fat is catching, I guess?)

    I think different sizes of seats would be great. I also think there should be accomodations who really do need a cartain distance from other people (all other people) for health reasons. But people who only complain because they are being forced to interact with people who are “gasp” different from what they consider to be the acceptable nore- yeah, if you do not want to sit beside a fat person, go buy yourself an entire row of seats.

  130. argh, my keyboard hates me:
    There should be accomodations for people whoreally do need a certain distance from other people for health reasons.
    different from what they consider to be the acceptable norm

  131. Off topic of the immediate topic but on topic for the broader (tee hee) focus of the site: Has anybody seen this crazy study?

    According to this study of teenage exercise, it seems like young people who are thin have an entirely different metabolism that is affected by what they do in entirely different ways than young people who are fat.

    Read this and other stories in the pages of the medical journal Duh.

  132. I am a regular contributor to The Women’s Colony, where Kate so graciously agreed to share her original piece.

    Wait, what? Thank you for the kind words, but no one asked me if they could reprint that, and I did not give permission.

    ETA: I see the site has taken the creative commons license as permission, and technically, I suppose it is, although most people who aren’t running spam blogs quote part of a post and link, instead of reprinting the piece in full. But the above sentence remains true, and I’m not loving the implication that someone asked. I’m also thinking that creative commons license is not what I want anymore.

  133. There are showers at Singapore Airport (my favourite airport) and also free foot massage machines and free internet, a free movie room, free butterfly room, free cactus garden etc. Plus really good shopping.

    Sydney Airport also has free showers.

  134. Off topic also, but related to Alexandra Erin’s off-topic comment above, in that it is also about recent research —

    Perhaps one of the fabulous SP bloggers might be interested in responding to this study: “A ‘Novel’ Intervention: A Pilot Study of Children’s Literature and Healthy Lifestyles”. From the abstract: “Thirty-one girls were randomly assigned to read the intervention novel, which describes an overweight girl who discovers improved health and self-efficacy, and 33 participants were given a control novel to read.”

    “Intervention novels” and “control novels.” Just…wow.

  135. @KH – You may want to do a quick check with your attorney re: what is and isn’t permitted under the CCL.
    Lots of people find out it can be a series of twists on the Princess Bride quote, and doesn’t quite mean what it first looks like it appears to mean.
    In the funhouse mirror.

  136. My idea for airline seating is that it should be bench seating with sliding armrests. It’s statistically unlikely that there would be 3 deathfat fatties all seated next to each other and if there were, the attendants could move them around. Then, since airlines seem to think that just squeezing the armrests down is ample space, the attendants would come along and slide the armrests to give each passenger that much room AND ONLY THAT MUCH room, no matter how thin they are. After all, people seem to think I should be comfy as heck with the armrests right against ME, so they’ll be fine when it’s that way for everyone, right? Heck, if the airline happens to hit the statistical jackpot and ends up with 3 thinner people in a row, they could add another. It’s a winner for the corporate bottom line!

  137. I swear I’m going to make up a t-shirt for the next time I have to go to the airport: “If you’re so much more awesome than I am, why don’t you have your own plane?”

    Ha! That is truly awesome.

  138. @Cassi – the trouble with sliding moving parts is that they break. If one arm rest broke, the airline would probably need to replace the whole seat. That’s an expensive proposition. Individual seats are easier to build and maintain to the standards required. Besides, larger seats are already used, in first and business class. It’s just a matter of making sure that the new bolt configurations don’t interfere with anything under the floor. My friend specifically deals with heat and electricity, and moving even a fire extinguisher can have huge implications.

    It will be interesting to see how it plays out in Canada, and whether there will be an impact on flights from international destinations. The Supreme Court has basically said it is illegal to discriminate on the basis on size. We would not allow a plane that segregated by race to land, so will we allow planes that discriminate against size?

  139. Here’s an airline going the other way – probably of most interest to Australians, of which I know there are a few among the SP readers.

    Qantas is reconfiguring its cabin to fit more seats onto the plane. Sounds like bad news? It’s not – they’re achieving this by getting rid of first class cabins on all but two routes, and they’re actually going to make economy seats wider! http://www.news.com.au/travel/news/extra-seats-wont-mean-less-comfort-says-qantas/story-e6frfq80-1225832045013?from=public_rss

  140. @DRST
    You know, all these troll types talking about their horrific experiences flying next to a fat person made me think. I don’t remember any specific instance of flying while seated next to someone who was even larger than me where I was in some kind of existential agony the whole time because legs and arms were touching sometimes. Random contact happens in a space that small. Most people are polite about it, and nothing particular stands out.

    I just had a thought: I bet the Horrific Experiences are often caused less by an ACTUAL increase in contact than by
    A) Confirmation bias: if someone’s thin, bumping into one’s leg must be an anomaly and they will forget about it by the end of the flight, but they will expect and remember any contact with a fat person
    B) Legs brushing against each other when it’s a normal person is no big deal. But fat people are “gross”, “smelly”, “sweaty”, so the EXACT SAME CONTACT is OMG so horrible.

    Incidentally, my boyfriend was saying that the weird perception that fat people are smelly is similar to how people get it into their heads that snakes are slimy, and it seemed right on to me. (Poor snakes. So misunderstood…) It has no basis in objective reality, and yet, somehow people get that association into their heads…

  141. Also, I read the salon piece, I cried, I started to read the comments, realized horrifyingly few had a similar reaction and just put down the window and came back here. Thank you, Kate, for sharing your story.

  142. @Paula, I just wanted to thank you for these words:

    … apparently they fart French perfume, too.

    … because today at one of the blogs I read regularly – or did, up until today – but don’t feel comfortable participating in, it was Glibertarian Open Season on the Disabled, Fat and Poor, and just when I was about to either cry or toss my laptop across the room, I thought …

    ‘These folks really do think they fart French perfume,’

    and I laughed instead.

  143. Thank God and gods and FSM for Kate and her insight, compassion, and brilliance. That story broke my heart, and it took me a day to recover. I have absolutely no SW points right now, so I avoided the comments.

    @ Meowser – It’s so funny that I haven’t ever encountered one of these flawless Salon commenters in real life, even though there seem to be so many on the internet. Hmm… there’s no way that these perfect people are being slightly less than honest.

    @ ldeth – Blessings to you and your family. I am so sorry for the choices you’ve had to make, and wish you and your beloved husband well. I recently lost my Babuji, and could not fathom the sadness of not being at his memorial.

    @ m_leblanc – I think you’ve got some good solutions, and as someone who’s lived in New York my whole life, I’ll say there’s a heck of a lot more body contact on a rush hour uptown 6 train than on any airplane flight I’ve ever taken, and honestly, we all just deal. NYCers don’t give a crap – we live in studios, we ride subways, and we’re good to sit next to on planes.

    @Tehomet – What airlines are your favorite? I think all of us would like to know!

    @ AlexandraErin – I can’t get your link to work, and I am V. Interested in that article. Where can I find it?

    @ Another Sara – ::Bonk:: What?! Not only is that study totally unscientific with a nearly 50% non-retention rate of participants in an absolutely tiny sample size, but that anybody can pull a correlation out of that dreck is absolutely offensive.

  144. I wonder if a fat person sat beside their friend on a flight would the airline still care about size? I don’t think my wife would mind sitting beside me. I know its irrelevant to the argument Kate is making, but I would be curious as to the airline’s view on this. Two fat people could also buy a third seat together and share it. Again, irrelevant to the argument, but a way to beat the system a little bit.

  145. @The Other Caitlin: That’s great news! I don’t fly often, but I’ll keep Qantas in mind for next time.

  146. My partner and I are very, very cozy—if there’s an option to do so, we almost always choose to sit so that we are touching, even leaning into each other a little bit. In addition, he’s a nervous flier, and likes to stay extra close during takeoff and landing, including hand and/or forearm clutching. Even with those considerations, on our return flight we were THRILLED that there was an empty seat in our row so I could be on the aisle and he at the window…and we didn’t even have to angle our arms to, like, 45 degrees for there to STILL be ease of hand/forearm clutching for the takeoff. I’m an in-betweenie and he’s very slim, so this was just one more indicator for me–even for us, who are ALWAYS TOUCHING— that the lack of space is somewhat absurd.

  147. @laura m: Your whole list made me lolsob, but this one makes me want to carefully arrange that you sit next to me on all flights from now on – I get damned cold on those flights! :)

    Are you me? Until last December, I’d never flown any time except the summer, and I absolutely froze my butt off on every single flight. And Regina T, excellent list. You did forget one thing, though-you, as a fat flyer, totally give me the headaches and stomach cramps I get when I fly. You see, um…umm…looking at your huge fatness strains my eyes and thinking about your sweaty grossness makes me sick to my stomach! It’s not altitude sensitivity, no siree, and even if it was, it’s still the fault of teh deathfattiez because they totes make the altitude change on the plane!

    (Even writing that reasoning down down made me feel unclean. BRB, taking a shower in boiling bleach.)

  148. According to this study of teenage exercise, it seems like young people who are thin have an entirely different metabolism that is affected by what they do in entirely different ways than young people who are fat.

    As a former extremely thin teenager (we’re talking doctors telling me to gain weight) who used to sit down and eat an entire large pizza on a regular basis, then have a bowl of ice cream, I could have told them that.

  149. @closetpuritan I agree with you re: bigotry and confirmation bias. I wrote a long rant over on Living400lbs about how my large but not fat husband hardly ever takes crap from seat mates even though he absolutely intrudes on “their space”. He just does it in a socially acceptable body. He has wide shoulders, I have wide hips. My wide hips are the result of genetics, his wide shoulders are the result of hours of work and drinking his weight in protein shakes (that is to say they really honestly are HIS FAULT, he does it ON PURPOSE!) but still people hate sitting next to me, but smile at him (and are frankly utterly confused when they realize we’re together). Airline employees regularly go out of their way to accommodate him, often moving him (free of charge and with a conspiratorial wink and the occasional folded note with a phone number on it *wink*) to any available seat in first or business class. It was actually seeing how well he’s treated that opened my eyes to how piss poorly the rest of us are treated. This has nothing to do with size or personal space or who is at fault or anything else other than that some people think fat people are icky.

  150. @Dray
    I’m in Canada, and our Supreme Court recently issued a one-customer-one-fare verdict on this very issue.

    Wonderful! I’m in Michigan, so it’s just a hop over the border to Canada. Maybe I can fly a Canadian airline to visit my friend in Scotland. Thanks!

  151. @The Other Caitlin – don’t forget about the game rooms in the Singapore airport! (PS3s and XBox 360s and computers for gaming in rows and rows of awesome)

    There’s also a rooftop sunflower garden and a candy store.

    Sigh…I love Changi airport…

  152. @Krishji: Malaysia Airlines have the best customer service I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve travelled with a lot of different carriers. British Airways, Aer Lingus, KLM, Lufthansa, and Quantas are also excellent. The most uncomfortable flights I’ve ever been on were with American Airlines, from Florida to Lima last year. The staff were polite but the seats were very uncomfortable, even for the inbetweenie friend I was travelling with.

  153. @Jae Walker, I believe the Canadian ruling only covered domestic flights. Also, there was something where one had to get some sort of certification from a doctor or some such (not part of the actual ruling, but added to the airline rules in order to ‘qualify’ for the free second seat). I’m not in Canada, so take all that with a grain of salt, but double check before you bother to re-arrange any travel plans.

  154. I’m late to the party as usual, but I noticed this:

    You know what is one of the most annoying things about this whole discussion? People are so fucking stupid, that they can’t contemplate another solution besides treating fat people like they aren’t human beings. Every time this topic comes up, people are like, but what are the airlines supposed to dooooooooooo? Like the only possibility is allowing the people next to fat people to be sat on, or kicking the fatties off the plane with a $100 voucher of fuck-you.

    I’ve been really surprised at the places I’ve found this attitude. Like a friend who’s usually quite an advocate of social justice — we agreed that it’s an industry-wide problem, but the basic implication from him was, “but you can’t possibly expect all the airlines to change their seating configurations to better accommodate fat customer.” Ummmm, yeah. That’s exactly what I expect. I don’t think they’ll do it voluntarily — I think people need to be loud and emphatic and persistent about the need for change. But isn’t the general point of being an advocate for various other social justice issues the idea that change can happen? Women can get the vote, the civil rights movement can happen, gay marriage is, if not permitted everywhere, in such a different place politically than it was 10 years ago? I get that none of this happens overnight, and these examples aren’t on the same scale as airline seats, but, why, yes, I DO want to see the airline industry change to better serve their customers and act less like jackasses. And if we can change the world in all these other ways, I don’t understand why so many folks treat the size of airline seats like it’s so written in stone, and nothing ever changes, and you can’t expect corporations to cater to customers, etc., etc.

    It’s such a weird attitude.

  155. I hate the airline policy. I am always on the side of fat acceptance. They should leave fat people alone, give them aisle seats and if the flight is not full put them beside an empty seat. Be as accomadating as possible.

    But I think the seats are small because the airline industry has been unprofitable over its entire existence. Sounds unbelievable, but it is true. They barely hang on. Research it. Right now only rich people fly. In 20 years only the super rich will fly. Never buy stock in airlines. Airlines may have some profitbale years, but downturns wipe it all out and then some. Even if airlines wanted too, they could not make seats much bigger. Of course they could make the seats bigger and charge more for tickets, but would people buy them?

  156. A bit of somewhat OT concern (but not of the trollish variety!) for those who are always cold: have you had your thyroid checked lately?

  157. Of course they could make the seats bigger and charge more for tickets, but would people buy them?

    Yes. The ones who could buy them would buy them. Since that was the business model a decade or two ago, and it was not especially worse for business than torturing customers for lower fares seems to be today, there’s no reason they couldn’t go back to that.

  158. Not sure anyone is still reading the comments, but Meowser, I salute you. Excellent takedown of the typical Salon commenter!

  159. I fly two to three times a year for my graduate research and conference meetings. One of the most uncomfortable flights I’ve taken in a long time was from Vegas to Cincinnati where I was seated next to a thin women. This women couldn’t have weighed more than 100 pounds but the majority of her body was literally in my seat….the armrest was down by the way.

    Meanwhile I’m sitting with my arms folded against my chest and barely moving because I don’t want offend anyone with my fatness or risk what Kevin Smith went through.

    Perhaps I should have suggested she buy another seat since she clearly preferred to fly horizontally.

  160. Yes x a million to fat people are people too, but I’d like to also add that the airlines size policies are likely built to cover their asses but succeed most as fearmongering. Most fat people who are afraid to fly are afraid of surprise cost or humiliation – there is no dependable decision making criteria (Kevin Smith says he had the arm rests down!). The fear of surprise humiliation and cost is essentially unavoidable. It is not if you weight ___ lbs, or are ___ tall, or if your measurements are ____ you must purchase another seat (as if there ever is one – I can’t recall the last time I flew and the flight wasn’t full of overbooked) – it is if some random other person complains, shifting the power in such a random and uneven way that it is upsetting to say the very least.

  161. Exactly, Roxarita.

    And, Tehomet, I just wanted to say thank you for your comment – I’m flying for the first time in 5 years (and 50 pounds) on Saturday and I’m so anxious it’s ridiculous. Not even about the humiliation of “what if they turn me away” – i’ll just turn around and go home, I hate flying anyway, screw this vacation we’ll stay home – but because my super weight-obsessed mother-not-in-law is going to be dropping us at the airport and if I get turned away, she’ll know.

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