Monday, February 15, 2010

is it too fat to fly?

Director Kevin Smith was pulled off of a Southwest Air flight when told he was a safety risk due to his girth. After he was thrown off, he immediately found a seat on a different airplane -- another Southwest Air flight.

Southwest Airlines has a policy wherein a passenger that cannot fit into a seat and cannot comfortably pull down the armrests must purchase an adjoining seat. Smith usually buys two seats at a time, but on this standby flight, he only purchased one.

Smith insists that he had no problem fitting into a Southwest seat. He tweeted, "But, by their own guidelines, I was not, in fact, 2 Fat 2 Fly: the armrests came down & I could buckle my seat belt w/o an extender. So...?"

There's been a lot of response to Smith's situation. EVERYTHING i've heard personally is negative -- basically, it's his fault, he's obese, he should lose some weight, and Southwest was fine to throw him off. i heard someone say, "fat people are always so sensitive about their weight." you think?

this is a hard one for me. it's sort of a non-issue if smith did, in fact, fit into the seat. if he's not making the person next to him uncomfortable, his seat belt is buckled and the armrest is down, there shouldn't be any problem.

but what if he could not fit easily and his body crowded the person next to him. i've been in this situation, in a middle seat, with my seatmate's weight minimizing my space (and i'm really claustrophic to begin with. if i can't get an aisle seat, i'm already sweating.)

should my neighbor have been forced to buy an extra seat? what if he couldn't afford it. are you not able to fly if you're fat unless you're rich?

i don't have any answer. i was a very heavy person who feared taking up extra space on my daily bus ride. i used to curl myself in as much as possible, so i wouldn't touch the people next to me. i'd picture them complaining bitterly to themselves that my fat body was making the ride unbearable.

like i said, i don't have any answers. it would be nice if airplane seats were wider, but that's not going to happen.

it would be nice if overweight people could be treated kindly, just like everyone should be. is that ever going to happen?


  1. I think if someone cannot fit in a standard aeroplane seat then perhaps they should be able to purchase the extra seat for half price. It must be so uncomfortable for anyone overweight to have to squeeze into those small seats, let alone an obese person.

    I have read forums about this issue and I am always saddened by the negative comments that people leave about overweight people.

    Why has being fat become some sort of crime in today's society anyway? We may well have our own thoughts about how we view obesity but that does not give anyone the right to be nasty about it. I wonder if it because they fear going down that track anyway. It is not that hard to put on weight but it is mighty hard to get it off.

    I don't know the answer but I just don't think people realise how complex food issues can be and sometimes being obese is not just about being greedy.

    And why don't the planes have wider seats?

  2. Well, I can't really top what Linda said, she's always got such a gift for looking beyond the issue and getting to the true heart of the matter, and I love that about her.

    I've always tried to teach my girls sensitivity about overweight people, and it's not always easy. They have society to contend with, and K2, in her much younger child hood was the butt of some jokes as far as being overweight, when most kids are still losing their baby fat at that age.

    It is very hard to comment on an issue that is as sensitive as this one. No matter what, someone's going to be offended.

    I think it would be good if they offer a half price second seat. That way no one feels slighted for having to share their personal space with someone squeezing them out of their space, and the person doing the buying doesn't have to feel discriminated against.

    They really should have a section of the plane with bigger seats, to not only accommodate larger clientele, but also to accommodate handicapped people. These seats can be priced slightly higher so no one feels "gypped".

  3. Also, I just noticed that my comment never showed up on your last two posts. I made sure not to click out of the page this time before it was verified that my comment showed up.

    I hate when that happens.

  4. linda; i agree with karen and you about everything. i/2 price seats, wider seats -- something that recognizes overweight people as human and equal

    i don't know why being overweight has become a crime. no one's harming anyone. i don't hate people who smoke cigarettes, i just hate the smell of the cigarette. AND that the smoke isn't good for me either.

    karen; you and linda are such lovely, sensitive people. what can't everyone be like you two?

    sometimes i think it's innate -- survival of the visit, everyone wants to be top dog so we bash others to promote ourselves.

    who knows, but it's sad.

    i notice that my comments don't show up ALL THE TIME. thanks for commenting on those two posts!

  5. This is a really tough issue. What's terrible is the dehumanizing and embarrassment. There MUST be a better way to deal with this situation. I've heard people suggest weight limits (like if you weigh over a certain amount, you have to buy a second seat), but that just sounds humiliating. What are they going to do --weigh people?? I understand there are safety and comfort issues so it can't really be ignored. The half-price seat idea is a good one.

  6. "it would be nice if overweight people could be treated kindly, just like everyone should be. is that ever going to happen?" - IMO, no, it will never happen. No one outside of the range of average of any human characteristic is treated kindly.

  7. kim; it IS a tough issue. and it does feel dehumanizing. could you imagine -- you take off your shoes, unpack your laptop and jump on a scale?

    and why are there safety issues, as long as a person is buckled in (ugh, it can't be fun to ask for the seat belt extender)? why can't an airplane manage a couple of extra pounds? how safe is the plane anyway if one chubby person throws everything out of whack?

    i was on a plane recently where they came on and said we were over our weight limit and would someone please get off. a very small, thin woman volunteered, and then we were told we were fine. it was a little creepy -- could the departure of one 100 pound woman really have made enough of a difference to cover the weight issues? i don't actually think that the whole plane travel thing is well thought out.

    i still vote for wider seats.

    harriet; you are so right. sometimes i wonder if it's innate to put each other down. survival of the fittest. everyone wants to be top dog.

    i guess all i can do is be nice to everyone i encounter. sometimes, my knee-jerk opinions aren't as kind as i wish they were. i think it's because i am insecure and don't think i truly measure up to anyone. hmmm

  8. I fly sporadically and I've sat next to folks who didn't quite fit in their own seat. Is it uncomfortable? Yes -- for me AND for them! I don't blame the fat passenger for encroaching on my seat; I blame the airline for increasingly narrowing seat widths in order to maximize profit at the expense of customer satisfaction. Southwest has one of the narrowest seats of any domestic and international airline and while that helps them keep costs low, it also increases the frustration and discomfort of ALL its passengers: fat, thin, tall, disabled, etc... To give you an idea of how narrow their seats are, my 17-inch laptop is as wide as Southwest's seat, including the width of the two armrests!

    I agree with Karen in that just like movie theaters, airlines should make available at least a row of larger-width (coach) seatsto accommodate larger bodies and maybe charge a modest premium for them. I'm sure that tall, thin folks or people who are disabled or who have small children might also be interested in purchasing these seats, so they'd be benefiting several different customer demographics beyond fat people.

  9. rachel; thank you for writing. i really appreciate your thoughts. yes, wider seats would be nice for many people. i'm kind of claustrophic and those tiny seats don't help!

    you sound like an excellent problem-solver!

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  11. I heard about this on NPR and just shook my head. I almost feel sorry for SWA, since they obviously didn't realize that they had booted a big time Hollywood director known for his big mouth (and big size). I think that being that overweight and needing extra room should be treated like someone who needs extra room on a city bus because s/he has to use a wheelchair to be mobile... both sets of folks are physically challenged. Kevin Smith and those of similar size should have special seating. And we wouldn't charge a physically challenged wheelchair-bound person extra money for that seat, would we? We shouldn't charge physically challenged people struggling with weight for their needs either. I get so upset when I hear people tearing into Smith (and others) for their size. As if anyone WANTS to be that big? As if it was some evil, nefarious plot to take up room on the airplane? Come on.