Monday, November 12, 2007

Airlines and Obesity: An Expensive Proposition or Just Plain Discrimination?

Kim du Toit thinks it's unfair to pick on fat people on airlines. So do I. I recently flew and sat next to a man who was overweight. We had no problems, he was pleasant, talkative and friendly. He took up only one seat. Why should he pay more than me?



Blogger Wiz said...

If he took up only one seat, he wasn't one of the passengers who cause a problem. I've been stuck next to passengers who overflow into my seat, forcing me to lean out into the aisle. You can predict it's going to be a problem if the person asks to raise the arm rests because he can't fit between them.

I don't think it's discrimination to ask them to buy two seats if they're actually using two seats. I didn't feel it was fair to ask me to pay full price for a seat when I only got to use half of it.

10:41 AM, November 12, 2007  
Blogger TMink said...

"I don't think it's discrimination to ask them to buy two seats if they're actually using two seats. I didn't feel it was fair to ask me to pay full price for a seat when I only got to use half of it."

Sounds fare to me. (Sorry for the spelling pun.) Discrimination is unfair and prejudicial, big people (I am large myself) are, well, big! If we take up more room than is alloted, they should sell us a half price seat like they do for musicians who bring (or used to bring) their guitar abord. It is really not weight, it is size. And if it don't fit, it don't fit.


11:26 AM, November 12, 2007  
Blogger Da_Truth_Hurts said...

A private company should be able to charge whatever the heck it wants for any reason. If you do not the price, use another company.

I never want to have a man or woman who is so fat his or her rolls spill into the seat you paid for. Personality has nothing to do with it - its called common decency not to be so fat.

11:28 AM, November 12, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

You know, that's brilliant. I wonder if I could purchase all three seats next to the window for cheaper than I can purchase a first class ticket? I've never even considered buying more than one ticket just for myself. It would be more space than a first class seat, but perhaps not as much leg room.

12:25 PM, November 12, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always get the seats at the emergency exit door row. Either aisle or window, especially on longer than one hour flights. Much more leg room.
These days airlines are using MD 80's and 737's for cross country flights - fuel costs I suppose. Those planes are simply not designed for a person to be trapped in such a small seat for 4 to 5 hours. I spring for first class in that event. On the larger jets, the seats are also larger, so it is not such a problem.

12:35 PM, November 12, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


You might be able to purchase two seats or maybe three cheaper than first class. The problem is, I wonder if you could get the seats together? Often when you buy two seats or more now, they won't put them together and tell you that you have to make the arrangements at the airport. So your second and third seat might be in different locations.

Mateo g,

"its called common decency not to be so fat."

Really? What about people who have other problems, such as skin diseases or stomach upset and they sit next to you? Do you question their common decency? What about people who are not too bright or have Tourettes etc. and they kind of get on your nerves? Do you question their common decency? My point is this, some human conditions are just that, conditions, why is it okay to discriminate againt the overweight but not against other people who have other human problems? If a passenger produced a doctor's note that said that his or her fatness was caused by a faulty metabolism beyond their control, would that change your thoughts about whether or not the person was "decent?"

12:39 PM, November 12, 2007  
Blogger Danny said...

I think airlines ouhgt to make their seats a bit bigger to accomodate larger people. There are plenty of large people who arent fat. E.G: one of my close friends , a very fit guy, with about 10% body fat, who was a former Defensive lineman for the Michigan Wolverines. Dude is just plain huge. So should he, now a penniless graduate student, have to fork out for 2 seats.
I thin the airlines have, over the years, made the seats smaller, so that they can squeeze in as many people the ycan into a plane.

BTW, Iwent to an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant last staurday,and at 5' 7",and 200lbs, I was the one that looked like a anorexic person there!!!!:):)

12:50 PM, November 12, 2007  
Blogger Danny said...

Apologies for my poor typing and spelling mistakes!!:)

Oh, I have an excuse- English is not myfirst language- itis my 4th,and I have ADHD!!!:):) That should get me off the hook,and also maybe get me a free scholarship or something....

12:52 PM, November 12, 2007  
Blogger Dragon Hawk said...

I am overweight, but I do not 'stick out' into other people's seats. However, I was on a flight from Frankfurt Germany with a very skinny woman who put her feet inside MY foot area, because she had stuffed too much of her crap under the seat in front of her. She told me to shove my stuff over and move my feet because "You see, I don't have any room!". I had to do it, because that's an 11 hour flight, my friend, and I wasn't going to be sitting next to a hostile, self absorbed woman for 11 hours.

I'd have rather sat next to a fat guy whose hips stuck out a little, frankly. His feet, at least, would not have prevented me from moving my legs a little to avoid DVT.

So, which person should pay more? I think that woman should have had to buy the entire row. But of course she was skinny, so it's never gonna happen.

12:58 PM, November 12, 2007  
Blogger Cham said...

I watched a program last week about airlines fueling their planes with only the fuel they need to make it to from A to B and not a drop more. More fuel makes a heavier plane and costs more to fly. Therefore, one could assume, more weight from the passengers means more fuel costs.

If planes had large seats that would mean fewer paying passengers meaning an increase in ticket prices. Perhaps airlines should invent some sort of seat that grows and shrinks based on how much seat area one buys. I'm very happy with the current size of the airline seats.

The last time I flew 2 very large/fat people decided to use an interesting ruse to get more, they purchased the aisle and window seat in a row figuring that nobody would want to sit between them and that unsuspecting person would change their seat. I was assigned to that middle seat in a completely filled plane. One member of the couple quickly moved to the middle seat and then someone they knew moved in to sit in the aisle seat and gave up their seat to me a few aisles down. It worked out, it was nice that the group had a contingency plan in case the plane was filled.

1:14 PM, November 12, 2007  
Blogger 64 said...

On a 14 hour flight from Tokyo to LA I got stuck next to a Chinese guy who started picking his nose while we were on the tarmac. One of his boogers landed on my pant leg. Later in the flight, his kid (wearing open crotch pants) leaned over the seat and drooled on my leg. Good times.

1:52 PM, November 12, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

matthew..a booger? Man!

I hate it when someone nearby had chili the night before - or similar. We've all had to put up with that, too.

Flying has become one of the worst experiences. The additional crap one must go through to get through airports, customs, TSA. I drive whenever possible. Flying is a last resort, when time or distance won't allow.

Then, I can simply roll down the windows, and flick and flatulate until the cows come home.


2:24 PM, November 12, 2007  
Blogger Bruce Hayden said...

I think that the level of fatness is what is at stake here. If they can't fit mostly in their one seat, I do believe that they need two of them.

I have flown at least 500 segments in the last 12 years, and in that time, have only been in that situation a couple of times - though most of my flights were as a very frequent flier (United Premier Exec), where you get the bigger seats and have the middle seats assigned last.

Usually, if you put the arm(s) down on the seat, and they can still fit in, then they aren't too fat. Also, do they need a seat belt extender? (Ignoring the Flying Immans who got them to test out security).

3:13 PM, November 12, 2007  
Blogger TMink said...

Fatness is not necessarily the problem, it is bigness too! Size is the variable, the reason for the size is immaterial.


4:58 PM, November 12, 2007  
Blogger TullimoreDu said...

You know, I'm 6'0" and I weigh 265, and I'm always uncomfortable in airline seats. And my weight has little to do with my frame size. I was almost as uncomfortable as when I weighed 190.

For awhile TWA (and I think other airlines have done this) offered more legroom, which to me was always meaningless. I wanted/needed more shoulder room.

I don't like air travel, and I avoid it when I can. But if you get stuck in a center seat next to me and you don't like the idea that my size is crowding you, complain to the airline, not me. And keep in mind that I don't like it any more than you do. My choices are limited: to refuse to travel is career-limiting.

Most of my travel is on company business, and when IRS begins allowing business class travel as a legitimate business expense, and when my employer permits me, I'll be happy to travel in a wider seat.

And for those of you who think that I ought to lose weight just so you can be more comfortable, put it where the sun doesn't shine. After all, I'm not asking you to be less whiney, am I?

5:46 PM, November 12, 2007  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Are they going to ask anorexics to pay less? If not, then it's an airline logistics and scheduling problem. If so, then I'll believe we're paying for our share of cubic space and fuel.

Just as an aside, I just took an "international" flight from Taiwan to Guam with some Chinese friends ... the stereotypical (and largely false) tiny 100 lb women. They complained that the "cattle-car" seats on the flight ... the same that Americans are subjected to in economy class ... were too small to the point of discomfort, and *smaller* than other flights they've taken. Makes you wonder just what dimensions the airline is fitting these seats for, and what their goal is in doing so.

From my point of view, I try to avoid domestic US flights entirely, preferring those non-US airlines that consistently put them to great shame. The airlines in the US are pathetic, and there needs to be some common public demand that they shape up. This issue of forcing people to pay for more space because their management decided to use Barbie as the image of their ideal customer seems like a reasonable rallying cry, since we've let them get away with a quasi-apologetic "oops" for the hours we spend languishing in airport and on tarmac. If we could possibly get the tofu crowd to perhaps acknowledge that Rubens was not the antichrist.

3:22 AM, November 13, 2007  
Blogger # 56 said...

Air travel is painfully unpleasant for all. Bottom line, if the arm rests need to be raised for the person to fit they need a second seat. It is up to the airline to charge or subsidize the ride. Personal space invasions on a 5 min subway ride are the norm; the same on a 5 hour flight is unacceptable.

8:26 AM, November 13, 2007  
Blogger SarahW said...

fat is a condition that is self-treatable - even the fattest of the fat can arrest it by restricting food severely. The fact that they don't want to, or that it is hard, or that medicine makes them hungry or prone to weight gain, doesn't mean they can't eat less. It only means they may be more discomfitted by the deprivation.

It's just not the same as tourettes, which, btw, can be suppressed for short periods by most patients, and suppressed by medicine in other cases, for the duration of a flight. And I expect a person with chickenpox to stay home, and a person with a skin contagion like scabies or lice or ringworm to refrain from placing himself near me, and a person with an uncontrollable offensive condition to find a private means of travel or stay home. Because that is no less than I would expect of myself. Because that is what is decent.

A larger than average person who takes up more room than a single seat should have to pony up for the extra room. That takes care of being decent to others. It's what I would expect to do myself.

1:44 PM, November 13, 2007  
Blogger TMink said...

Saraw wrote: "That takes care of being decent to others. It's what I would expect to do myself."

Being decent also means not rushing to judgment when you see a large person. Many of the people I work with who were sexually abused get big. It makes them feel safe. As they feel safer, they are able to slim down. But do you consider what happened to some people that led to their obseity?

It is just the decent thing to do.


2:36 PM, November 13, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

Um, no Trey. Their weight is their weight. How they got there is not my concern.

I was on a flight and a horribly obese guy was next to me. Literally overflowed into my seat. I simply used his fat folds as an arm rest and lo and behold, he was somehow able to stuff them within his own space and ooze to the left. It is not my problem that he is that size, regardless of the reason.

If everyone with some disorder gets a bye on how they behave in society, why don't asses like me? I mean, it's not like I can control being an ass. It's just something that happens. Please people, think of my condition.

4:01 PM, November 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Airplane seats, that are not first or business class, are not big enough for anyone over the age of 10 for longer than a "regional flight" which is usually an hour's duration, approximately. Airplanes ARE cattle cars, and with the price of fuel, it won't get any better. They are buses that fly with even smaller seat space per passenger.

I read somewhere that an average jet, full of passengers, gets about 22 passenger miles per gallon. The less passengers, the less efficient the flight. Not enough passengers, the flight gets canceled. Don't look for bigger seats unless you want the ticket price to be horrendous. The economy seats are built around "average people", like the median income. Half are bigger, half are smaller, but the seats don't actually fit ANYBODY.

Anybody in the U.S. over thirty, except Dr. Helen (God bless her metabolism) is probably overweight to some degree. I could stand to lose 20 to 25 pounds myself. I'm thankful I at least still have my rugged good looks, boyish charm, and naturally curly hair.

6:54 PM, November 13, 2007  
Blogger TMink said...

Hey Olig, I was referring specifically to the tone and spirit of a particular post. If you read my earlier comments, you see that I support personal and community responsibility for the large passenger.


10:24 PM, November 13, 2007  
Blogger SarahW said...

mink, you were responding to ME, and you seem conflicted to me as well.

I am not opposed to people feeling "safe", eating what they choose, being fat, etc. But if they take up two seats because they are so outside of the norm to flow over the seat next to them, having to pay for two seats is an unfortunate but rational consequence. I am thin but all my family is not. I love them. But two seats? Yes, that's what you have to pay when you are too small to fit comfortably in the space an airline decides is cost effective and usually large enough for the typical range of passenger size.

Helen reacted to the remark that failing to control fat isn't decent, but used a fallacious comparison to illustrate her objection. And the odd premise that people with uncontrolled conditions have no obligation to mitigate the effects on others, and should always be treated as if they are someone else without the condition.

6:10 AM, November 14, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


All I was saying is that why is one condition--fatness--treated as worse than another condition--Torrettes, etc.? Both can make a person uncomfortable on an airplane ride. If you are going to penalize one condition, why not all of them? Why just people who are overweight?

6:36 AM, November 14, 2007  
Blogger SarahW said...

My understanding is, a person can be booted from a flight for contagion or offensive uncontrolled behaviour etc. I imaging these things need to be handled on a case-by-case basis, and the remedy might vary quite a bit.

Unusually large size, however, has a practical remedy that generally applies across the board- purchase of the extra space to accommodate atypical size and weight.

10:00 AM, November 14, 2007  
Blogger Edgehopper said...

I'd just interject that there's a big difference between "People too fat to fit in one seat should pay for an extra seat", and the original subject of the post, a "tubby tax" on passengers over a set weight limit regardless of whether they fit in the seat. The former is a sensible "pay for the space you use", while the latter is obnoxious nannying.

I'm obese by most standards, and am able to fit in the seat with both armrests down. I shouldn't have to pay more for my seat than the skinny guy next to me who occupies the same amount of space. If you have a problem looking at me...then you're just an asshole, and I don't care what you think. There are lots of other annoyances I'd tax first on an airplane, starting with screaming babies, neglectful parents, and the chronically airsick.

10:54 AM, November 14, 2007  
Blogger SarahW said...

Extra weight is like extra luggage - perhaps there is a rational basis for charging for a weight overage, alone.

That notwithstanding, Fee schedules based on generalities, also might simply be streamlining with an objective standard easiliy applied, obtaining the desired result in enough cases to justify elimination of more subjective tests.

Is it your suspicion that airlines are trying to cultivate and image of glamour in the coach section by eliminating people who "look fat"? If so, I don't share it.

FWIW, I've seen some people lie to themselves pretty convincingly about how much space they take up in an airline seat. I don't say this applies to you. With a motivation such as dollar savings and a desire to avoid acknowleging a condition with stigma and shame attached, what would you propose as a test for this, and how would you handle a situation where someone was clearly not acknowleging a truth obvious to the seatmate?

Some airlines do use an armrest standard, if I am not mistaken, however.

12:11 PM, November 14, 2007  
Blogger Cham said...

The airplane armrest is an interesting mechanism. I've had a seat-mate place the armrest down for takeoff, moving some of their largess forward. Once the fasten seatbelt sign was off, they discreetly tried to remove the armrest and take some of my seatspace. The problem was solved by asking the person kindly to put the armrest back into position.

Perhaps the fair thing to do is simply weigh everyone along with their baggage. If the summation of all the associated weight is over by a certain amount then there should be a surcharge.

1:15 PM, November 14, 2007  
Blogger TMink said...

Sarah, read my post. It is the second post. My position on paying for space is clear.

So was your rudeness and petty attitude toward people who are fat.

Pay more? Absolutely! We agree. Insult them and assume that you know why they are fat? You are on your own there and the post I responded to makes you look like a hypocrit. A modicum of self-examination if you please.


8:18 PM, November 14, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like that idea cham. Let's take it a bit further. Luggage has to fit within certain confines to be able to be carried on. Otherwise, it must be checked.

I'm not saying overweight people should ride in the belly of a plane. But perhaps they should purchase a couple seats, or be required to buy first class accommodations where the seat can truly and easily handle the size difference.

9:41 PM, November 14, 2007  
Blogger TMink said...

ride in the BELLY of the plane! Only if we could smoke down there!


11:42 PM, November 14, 2007  
Blogger # 56 said...

Hopper, you had me up until the screaming babies mention. An annoyance to be sure, your solution would be what? Drug them? Smother them?

3:33 PM, November 15, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd ride in the belly, if they'd let me smoke. Especially on those damned long cross country flights.

Not that I need to ever smoke again. But, you know.

5:50 PM, November 16, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know the regulars eschew politics. But this one is nagging at me.

I have been driving, and have had a license since 1968. OK, I'm 55. Too old for blog sites. Get over it.

My driver's license recently expired. I was informed by a store clerk. I never look at my license. I haven't been "carded" in over 30 years, and I don't ever buy alcohol. So why would I?

I went to the VA DMV, strolled up to the counter and said, "Ma'am, my license has expired, and I would like to renew it please". I handed her my driver's license.

She said,"Do you have your passport or birth certificate with you?" I said, "No, but as you can see, I have my expired driver's license I've had since before you were born". She said I could not renew my license without my passport or birth certificate.
Proof of citizenship, you see.

Yet NY wants to give illegal aliens driver's licenses.

6:03 PM, November 16, 2007  
Blogger GeorgeH said...

After years of flying first class on long flights, I lost 50 pounds to fit in a tourist class seat when the rates went up. If you don't want to lose the weight, buy a first class seat . . . or two.

12:45 PM, November 18, 2007  
Blogger Kim du Toit said...

As I said in my post, I have no problem with people who take up two seats having to pay for two seats.

What I resent is that people are using fat people for their own political and economic advantage.

"Sure", say the airlines, "fat people cost too much to carry. So we'll charge them more."

Okay... so will you offer discounts to thin people, or to people who travel with no luggage?

"Errrr... no."

"Fat people are a burden on the healthcare system", say the statists. "So they should either pay more for their care [if insured], or be excluded from the system altogether [under nationalized health care]."

Fine... but will you likewise penalize joggers or gym fanatics when they come in for treatment of sports-related injuries?

"Errrr... no."

You betcha.

Fat people are niggers (circa 1930). Anyone can make fun of them, anyone can discriminate against them.

11:12 AM, November 20, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...

Kim du Toit,

I think that people do get their jollies by discriminating and dissing fat people and most of the overweight are too embarrassed to fight back in any way but slink around in shame. It's really quite pathetic.

7:07 AM, November 21, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there's a small matter of fuel costs. The cost of maintaining a given weight in flight is directly proportional to that weight. Thus the fuel cost to fly a heavy individual is more than the cost to fly a normal weight person. Clearly airlines suffer negative monetary impact flying obese passengers and should be able to charge accordingly if they so choose.

8:37 PM, February 18, 2008  

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