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Weighing in on seat infringement

I took a red-eye flight once from Las Vegas to Milwaukee – a friend of mine had gotten married in Sin City and I had never been to Vegas. Tickets were cheap and I paid for them with cash. (I had just started breaking the credit card habit …)

I had no clue that the red-eye would be as full as it was. I had a window seat if memory serves, but the woman between me and the aisle seat passenger was a little smooshed when it came to his beer belly and my ample love handles. And yeah – I felt sorry for her. Or I did until a person behind me – apparently someone in her party – commented “wow, this flight is crowded” and she stood up pointedly looked at me and nodded. (I guess Mr. Beer Belly was her boyfriend or something – she certainly didn’t give him the stink eye.)

That weird little memory came back to me today when I read this Business Week magazine article about how United Airlines is going to start charging obsese people for two seats instead of just one.

As someone who is large and in charge, I can’t say that I blame the airline and I really don’t feel discriminated against since I rarely fly, but what killed me about this article – and the mistake I made when reading – was that I clicked on the “comments” section, which stood at 123 when I stumbled across the article.

I wasn’t sure if it was the anonymous forum that made people say whatever came to their heads or if Americans really hate fat people but my god … if I read one more comment that referred to an overweight person as a “slob,” I was going to scream. It was really hateful and it really made me ill. I’ll be honest – I love food, I need to exercise portion control and I need to exercise in general, but there is a cure for obesity – I don’t know if there is a cure for the type of hatred that was so evident in the comments of that article.

For the record – it’s fine if United wants to charge extra for the second seat. Will the fat people of the world unite and boycott United Airlines? It’s doubtful, but with the waistlines of Americans expanding by the year, I think this is just a foretaste of what’s to come.

And now to find my treadmill …

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7 thoughts on “Weighing in on seat infringement

  1. I’m sure if United starts this trend and is somewhat successful, others will follow. It’s a shame some of the online forums are SO hateful. I’ve noticed on a lot of forums anytime it’s a touchy subject that the zealots far outweigh what I think of as “normal” expressions of opinion. It is alarming, and depressing, to find that there is so much hatred out there!

  2. Thank you for writing this and speaking out about the problem.

    I am also a person of substance. In the past ten years, I’ve gained about 100 pounds. There are definite differences in how people treat me. (I would appreciate it if others refrain from saying that I should just lose the weight and there would be no problem.) I have had grocery store clerks comment on certain food items – noting that I bought ice cream or the big size bag of M&M’s (which were on sale), although they say nothing about all the fresh produce in my cart. Doctors take me less seriously – one barely listened to me and misdiagnosed a severe case of viral pneumonia as a sinus infection. Customers who are younger or more attractive often waited on before me, even when I was there first.

    Airplane seats are the smallest spaces in our society – they seem to have gotten smaller while those in theatres, doctor’s offices, etc are getting more comfortable. It isn’t just the width of the seat, it’s the overhead room, the leg room. It’s claustrophobic.

    And if we had the cash to pay for first class, no one would say a thing about how well we fill our seats. Isn’t that why people fly first class – because they feel less crowded?

  3. I don’t “hate” fat people, but I am firmly in the camp that such individuals are partially responsible for the rising costs of health care (along with smokers, people who eat too much red meat, alcoholics, etc…) As for charging fat people more to fly, I agree with the policy. There have been far too many times for me to count where I’ve been squashed in my own seat by someone whose physical size takes over 1/3 of my seat. I won’t apologize for being annoyed at such people.

    Why is it “hateful” to consider a fat person a slob if their obesity is due to a lack of self-control, discipline, etc…? Wouldn’t you consider someone who failed to exercise basic hygiene (e.g., body odor) to be a slob? What about someone who failed to exercise financial discipline, and yet expected financially-responsible people to bail him out?

  4. I don’t fly much, but I don’t think I’ve ever been ‘annoyed’ by someone who isn’t doing anything but just sitting there. I can understand this policy change, but I don’t feel hatred or annoyance by someone who uses the armrest more than I do. To say that overweight people are partially to blame for the healthcare crisis means you have to include those that eat too much sugar, drink too much pop, or don’t breastfeed for the recommended 12 months. There seems to be a lot of fingerpointing anymore. Everyone could do better.

  5. Deb – you’re right, we could ALL do better. I’m doing my part by eating healthy, driving the speed limit in the right-hand lane, etc… But this article is about fat people who REFUSE to exercise the necessary self-control, and as a result, end up taking up more space than they paid for on an airplane. In so doing, they TAKE AWAY space from other people. Is that fair? No, it isn’t. The same thing goes for things like health care. Obesity leads to more disease than healthy living, taking away health care from those who need it (by driving up health care costs).

  6. I guess I didn’t think the article was pinpointing ONLY the lazy overweight. I’m pretty sure they’re gonna charge the overweight people who are indeed trying to lose weight too. I think it’s odd that they say this new rule is in response to the “700 complaints” received in one year. Seems like just as many people would be complaining about late flights, rude staff, or lost luggage. Yet THIS is the problem they tackle. As a mother (who fits comfortably in coach) I worry too about where this leads. Is the next step charging more for people who travel with children because we may take away from “your space”?

  7. Sigh. It’s not a slippery slope that leads to discrimination against mothers. If your children are well-behaved, don’t kick the back of my seat, and don’t scream their heads off as they run up and down the aisle, I won’t have a problem with you or your children.

    Again, the article discusses airlines who charge overweight passengers for a second seat. Regardless of whether such individuals are lazy or not, if they take up more room than they paid for, they should be charged for that extra room. It’s no different than a clothing manufacturer charging more for XXL and XXXL sizes. There are simply more costs involved in providing products and services to fat people. Likewise, if fat people infringe upon the rights of non-fat passengers, the airlines risk losing customers. It’s not discrimination, but rather pure and simple economics.

    If you are fat and don’t want to pay extra, then exercise the necessary self-discipline to lose the weight. For those who can’t do it on their own, there are plenty of support groups, eating plan/food companies, etc… available to help.

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