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February 16, 2010

More on the Kevin Smith and Southwest Scandal

Filed under: Suck it,The Fat's in the Fire — Miss Plumcake @ 3:20 pm

Yesterday we chatted a little bit about Kevin Smith being kicked off a Southwest plane because he was what in the medical community is known as a fattyboombalatty and thus a safety risk.

Of course they ignored the fact that he could fit in his seat, fasten the safety belt AND put down the armrests (earlier reports said he couldn’t).

I listened to the SModcast wherein Smith tells his side of the story.

What struck me most was he wasn’t ready to “scorch the earth” as he put it, until after he was seated on the NEXT flight.  Apparently he’d bought two seats and a fat woman was seated at the other side of the three-person row.

Get this.

The crew asked the fat woman to come with them, and then had a conversation with her, and very nearly did the same thing to her as they’d done to Smith earlier that day.  Plus they made her ASK him if it was okay that she was seated next to his completely empty seat.

What broke my heart was what Smith said about the look on that woman’s face. “It was like she’d been through Fat ‘Nam.” She’d suffered every humiliation, had every judgmental look, and the one big of her dignity she could still hold onto was that she could put her armrest down.

THAT’S when he decided to go on his rampage. Until then he thought that some guy –NOT the captain or the flight attendant– just didn’t like his movies and decided it would be funny to bounce him from the plane. It was when he saw the humiliation of the face of that unfortunate fat woman that he decided to lay siege.

Let me tell you something about Kevin Smith:

In the Fall of 1998 I got to spend an afternoon with him when he came to my university to discuss…Chasing Amy I think.  You might not believe it if you’ve only seen his movies, but he is absolutely a scholar and a gentleman and could give any of the traditionally gracious Sons of the South a run for their confederate money in the manners department. So when in his most recent SModcast he said his motto has always been “death before discourtesy” he’s not lying.  He’s better behaved than some Anglican Bishops I know.

What bothers me so much about this whole thing other than it’s just ANOTHER indignity to heap on the pile is this problem just isn’t going to go away.

“The average legroom in coach is getting smaller. The seat width remains unchanged in decades even as Americans get bigger. Airlines are increasingly using small regional planes to serve less-popular destinations. To combat slow demand, they’ve eliminated capacity, resulting in fuller planes and stiffer competition for upgrades. And airlines’ rules requiring obese passengers to pay for an extra seat are being enforced more strictly.


Macsata says airlines’ “fat tax” overlooks the fact that seat size hasn’t kept up with increasing girth. From 1960 to 2002, Americans have become on average of about 25 pounds heavier. The typical seat width — at 17 inches to 18.5 inches — hasn’t changed since 1958, he says.

Tealer says she has never been asked to buy another ticket but says coach seats can be painful. “Your hips are pressing against the armrest. I’ve had bruises, muscle pain.”

The armrest test to determine who should buy a second ticket also is discriminatory against women, says Tealer, who’s a board member of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, which is battling the second-ticket rule. “Women carry weight more in the hip area. People of color tend to be bigger.”

The federal Air Carrier Access Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel but doesn’t cover size. But obesity can result from debilitating or chronic medical conditions, Macsata says.”

Smaller Jets Squeeze Big and Tall Fliers –Roger Yu, USA Today

So basically people are fatter and taller than in 1958 but the seat size? Still the same.

I don’t fly often –as I said, I’m a road-trippin’ kinda gal–  but when I was flying back and forth to New York a lot with Andre we always took Jet Blue into the JFK Terminal 5 and it was always pleasant. Yes, actually actively pleasant. And Jet Blue isn’t even paying me to say that (although they totally should!  Cough it up Jet Blue! Mama needs a vacation!)

Fun fact: Jet Blue was founded by David Neeleman, a former member of Southwest. Neeleman’s idea in creating the Jet Blue identity was to –catch this– “to bring humanity back to air travel.”

What a novel idea.


  1. This is about safety. I worked in the travel industry for 25 years, 13 of that for a major US airline (not Southwest). The issue is how much someone weighs in relation to the number of seats on the plane. Too much drag in the equation means the plane may not be able to remain airborn. I am shocked that this is being taken up as an insult against overweight people. Would you rather the plaine crashed so that you could have your dignity intact?

    Comment by mdegraffen — February 16, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

  2. This just bothers me so much. I want to go on a trip with my husband soon, and my biggest fear is that they are just targeting people because they can. This is just ridiculous. I soon see a wealthy larger framed person making their own airline. Lord knows if I had the cash I would it. People should be able to be comfortable. And the airlines making the seats so close together and so small so they can fit in as many people as possible is just ridiculous. When I told my husband (who is not plus sized at all) he was outraged. He was talking about banning the airline before I was.

    Comment by Yoli — February 16, 2010 @ 4:17 pm

  3. @mdegraffen, As I said in my previous comment, your argument doesn’t hold water. The safety argument is totally specious (def. apparently good or right though lacking real merit . Do NOT insult my intelligence by telling me that an extra 20, 30 or even 100 pounds will bring down a modern, multi-million dollar piece of aviation technology. If that was the case, then people would not be able to pay more to check overweight luggage. Do the safety concerns magically disappear when more cash is on the line? As far as safety goes, I am much more concerned about the passengers who routinely jam overstuffed, overweight luggage into the overheads. Now there’s some extra weight that needs to be removed and safely stowed.

    Comment by gemdiva — February 16, 2010 @ 4:51 pm

  4. @mdegraffen:

    If a fat person buys two seats but sits in only one of them, will the plane come tumbling down? Or does an empty seat in itself have some property that will keep the plane in the air? Does it have to be next to the fat person, or will any empty seat work?

    If a 100-pound woman holds a 30-pound child on her lap for half the flight and then passes the child to her 200-pound husband, will that crash the plane? If two 150-pound passengers start making out and end up in one seat, will that crash the plane? How about if a fat person gets up to use the bathroom? How about if two or three people — one or more of whom may be fat — stand in line for the bathroom at the same time?

    If you believe there is so little margin for safety built into commercial airliners that a plane will crash because a fat passenger buys one seat rather than two, you learned very little during your alleged 25 years in the airline industry.

    The fact that no major airline but Southwest has a policy like this is sufficient on its face to refute your argument — an argument so silly that not even Southwest is making it.

    Comment by Mifty — February 16, 2010 @ 4:57 pm

  5. I don’t buy that argument mdegraffen. Otherwise, why are men allowed to carry on what are basically meat lockers with a handle? If the oversize and heavy luggage is supposed to be in cargo, it’s not happening. One carry on and a “personal item” is often two full size suitcases for someone who doesn’t want to bother to go to baggage claim.

    This “weight” issue is seriously dehumanizing. Should my 100 pound sister be given a discount for being thin? Is she flys with a 300 pound friend, do they cancel each other out?

    Kudos to Kevin Smith for his kindness to the woman, and to bringing this to the attention of the press.

    Comment by Christine — February 16, 2010 @ 5:01 pm

  6. I have always been a big fan of Kevin Smith and his work, but now I have a total crush on him. So many men, even larger men, automatically make nasty comments about larger women. It was so nice to hear him have empathy and sympathy for his fellow passenger. Flying SouthWest has always been a dehumanizing experience, this just makes it easier to forever cross it off my list. My husband and I will NEVER fly SouthWest again.

    Comment by Andrea — February 16, 2010 @ 5:33 pm

  7. I wish I could say I will never fly Southwest again. But living in Austin and occasionally needing to get around the state for work, I have no choice. There aren’t a lot of airlines flying into Amarillo, etc. Plus my clients pay for my time, and it saves them a lot if I fly into Love to go to downtown Dallas or Hobby to go to downtown Houston.

    I have never been given a problem about my weight on Southwest, but I have thought about it and it has made be nervous. I can just imagine getting kicked off a plane when I am traveling with someone else for work. That would be humiliating.

    Comment by Chiken — February 16, 2010 @ 5:48 pm

  8. Oh, mdegraffen, where to start? How about if the airlines stop increasing the number and decreasing the size of the seats? How about if they weren’t so freaking greedy? I’m “shocked,” too: shocked that you really think I can bring down an airplane! I mean, really, I’m giggling. And I’m shocked that you have the balls (or it could just be stupidity) to post such drivel here at Manolo Big. Dude, you and your “safety” stand alone.

    Comment by Mrs. Hendricks — February 16, 2010 @ 5:48 pm

  9. Oh, mdegraffen, where to start? How about if the airlines stop increasing the number and decreasing the size of the seats? How about if they weren’t so freaking greedy? I’m “shocked,” too: shocked that you really think I can bring down an airplane! I mean, really, I’m giggling. And I’m shocked that you have the balls (or it could just be stupidity) to post such drivel here at Manolo Big. Dude, you and your “safety” stand alone.

    P.S. The SModcast is great!

    Comment by Mrs. Hendricks — February 16, 2010 @ 5:49 pm

  10. Oi! Don’t make me turn this thing around. Fight by all means, but fight fair. That means no name calling, no hair pulling and no making fun of bad dye jobs.

    Comment by Plumcake — February 16, 2010 @ 6:02 pm

  11. Although not directly related to this issue, here is a link to Coco Rocha complaining she is not getting booked anymore because she is now a size 4:

    Comment by klee — February 16, 2010 @ 6:51 pm

  12. mifty, i enjoy your math problems. they make me scratch my big fat head. can you do one about a very heavy, tall man whose hips fit in the seat, but whose big shoulders invade the next seat? can we cut off his arm? and if so, with what?

    according to southwest’s PR people (once they shifted gears away from “but he couldn’t put the armrest down” when it turned out that yes, he could), the captain has the discretion to evict whomever he wants if he feels it’s in the interest of safety. but southwest’s PR folks’ language seems to waffle between “safety” and “comfort of other passengers” — and i think that’s where they could have real legal trouble. what constitutes unsafe size, if not whether the person can put down the armrest? how is the “eyeball test” (eg you LOOK like an unsafe fatty) potentially discriminatory? how is the “comfort of other passengers” standard enforced, and could THAT be discriminatory?

    math is hard! just like legal stuff! and not blaming the victim!

    Comment by marjorie — February 16, 2010 @ 6:59 pm

  13. Airplane seats are ridiculously cramped. I am a size 14. My boyfriend is a size Medium. We’re both 5’8″. We consider ourselves pretty average and we still find it difficult to comfortably fit into coach seats!

    I’m going to assume that mdegraffen’s clearly ludicrous argument was meant to be “tongue in cheek”.

    Comment by Christine — February 16, 2010 @ 9:51 pm

  14. mdegraffen, my mom told me stories of having to get on a scale with her luggage before a flight.

    But that was in the 1950s, for a trip in a prop plane.

    Also! Considering that airlines have been adding more seats to planes whose design hasn’t changed appreciably since the 1970s, that means they’re adding more weight. More people = more weight. Jumbo jets don’t do a whole lot of crashing, even with the addition of fatasses on the flights (there’s an obesity epidemic on, don’tyaknow).

    As for the safety issue, it’s a nice idea that the airlines push that in the event of an emergency, there might be time to evacuate. And if the plane has some kind of runway accident or makes an emergency landing, sure, you’d have to evacuate. But as others have pointed out, children, the disabled, the elderly (not to mention the injured) make evacuation a little more difficult. And yet we don’t prohibit any of these people from flying.

    Besides, in the event of a crash, even if you survive the impact, you won’t survive. You’ll die of smoke inhalation, most likely, since at least one of your femurs will break when your knees collide with the seat that is very, very close in front of you and you won’t be able to exit your row no matter how thin you and your seatmates are.

    Happy flying!

    Comment by zuzu — February 16, 2010 @ 11:53 pm

  15. Mdegraffen, show us one credible scientific source–and I don’t mean the customer service training manual for whatever major airline you worked for–that proves what you’re saying, and maybe you wouldn’t be ridiculed so quickly.

    No one is claiming that weight never factors in to aerodynamics in any way on any scale. That is a ridiculous claim. However, it is equally ridiculous to claim that a small minority of overweight passengers would put everyone else in mortal peril and instantly bring down a plane. If you were talking about a plane full of sumo wrestlers in every single seat then, yes, I can see how the passengers’ weight could easily be a safety issue, but you’re not.

    Comment by Evie — February 16, 2010 @ 11:56 pm

  16. Southwest is a business. When it apparently, arbitrarily, but routinely, discriminates against larger folks, it exposes itself to litigation for discrimination. So, if the armrest goes down, and one needn’t rub hips with a stranger, why are they doing this? Airlines don’t usually defend people’s personal space.

    Is there a weight limit per flight, and to sell out each and every seat, they need lighter people? But ejecting a few larger people wouldn’t change the overall weight that much. I have to believe there is a business reason, not just a few sickies who want to relive is 7th grade P.E. But I haven’t figured it out yet.

    Comment by Debs — February 16, 2010 @ 11:57 pm

  17. Forced to fly Southwest while accompanying my husband on business, two years ago, I was quite nervous – I weigh around 350 lbs, and just fit in the armrest on most planes, and require an extender. Their stupid no-dedicated-seats boarding system also stressed me, because if I’m sitting next to my husband I don’t have to worry about inconveniencing others, but you can’t guarantee it with that system.

    Anyway, my point is: I had no problems, no hassle from anyone at gate, great attendants. Which makes it worse, I think, because their stupid policy isn’t even universal. So I can fly, at 350 lbs, no problems, this one time, and someone else, much smaller than me can be humiliated at another time. There’s no way to tell what will happen, and the first time you have a problem may be completely humiliating. Ridiculous.

    Comment by Cat — February 17, 2010 @ 12:48 am

  18. I can’t figure out what’s worse. Facing a some snot flight attendant who wants to ran on me about my weight, or taking seriously the notion that whether or not a plane falls out of the sky comes down to difference between whether it’s a flight full of people who can vs. can not pull down the $#@@! armrest. That’s safety! Right there! I feel so…protected.

    Comment by Lisa — February 17, 2010 @ 2:02 am

  19. It’s probably pretty clear here, but just to, uh, weigh in, the whole “too many fat people will crash the plane” arguement is a load of hoo-ey (or is that hoey or huey?). Planes take extra cargo on routes; airlines can make a lot of money that way (This is why they are charging for checked bags these days, it’s not just to be penny-pinching jerks, really!) and these loads vary greatly in density- much more so than what happens on the passenger side.

    And as someone with overly long legs, I can tell you that the pitch (distance between the seats) has been getting smaller and smaller over the years. That’s why I try to fly Business Class whenever i can.

    Comment by Susan — February 17, 2010 @ 2:16 am

  20. How is it some savvy, energetic and ambitious law firm hasn’t devised a way to sue this company out of the skies? Is a class action suit possible? Sounds to me like Southwest picked on one fatty too many–easy to do when you’re set in your belief that fatties are sad and lonely and don’t accomplish much anyway. Oops! A famous fatty! Who’d ever imagine that? Surely the less well known victims of Southwest Air’s greed n’ hate policy need some kind of money-rich apology.

    This kind of discrimination doesn’t go away by shame alone, but shame and expensive lawsuits can often teach a company like Southwest a nice lesson, as regulations and laws do encourage better behaviour from all businesses meant to serve us. Legislation may be an effective remedy to the poisonous lie of this whole thing being “about safety”, though it’s really alarming anyone would think that excuse is believable.

    Comment by ChaChaHeels — February 17, 2010 @ 7:53 am

  21. Thanks everyone for the flaming. Very kind of you. From now on I’ll lurk, if I even read this blog. Which is a shame because I enjoy the blog posts here. I guess being 80 lbs overweight gives me no cred here. I’ve flown standby many times and have been bumped from flights and did not take it personally. Go complain to Southworst and leave me the hell alone.

    Comment by mdegraffen — February 17, 2010 @ 10:53 am

  22. conducted a media study among viewers of a news clip featuring Southwest Airlines’ decision to deny Kevin Smith a seat on a flight because he was larger than their size requirements. Results found that favorability for the airline decreased among both healthy-weight and over-weight viewers. Nearly one-third of viewers (32%) indicated that they were less likely to fly on Southwest Airlines due to this incident. More in depth results can be seen at:

    Comment by Ben — February 17, 2010 @ 10:54 am

  23. mdegraffen, if your position is valid, how about defending it instead of leaving? If the plane can indeed be overweight (which it can be – I have been on those flights and have seen how they are handled), the correct strategy seems to be to unload cargo or ask for voluntary deboards of any passenger, not to evict and humiliate “overweight” passengers. That’s just mean, not to mention bad PR. As Southwest is learning.

    Comment by The gold digger — February 17, 2010 @ 1:22 pm

  24. mdegraffen, why is there no policy of evicting football players, or other people who are weighty because of muscle density, rather than fat? Is their weight magical, in that muscle weight won’t cause planes to crash, but fat will?

    I’m hoping that Kevin Smith turns out to be the hill upon which Southwest dies.

    Comment by La BellaDonna — February 17, 2010 @ 2:31 pm

  25. @mdegraffen Flaming means that somebody attacks you personally and goes into an ad hominem attack on you personally, or whatnot. There’s a difference between “You’re stupid” and “I don’t agree with you” or “You haven’t convinced me” and “that claim strikes me as specious.” You can overidentify with your comments if you want to, but that’s a hard way to live on Internet. Written exchange of ideas does not always reassure the sensitive.

    So people don’t believe your unsubstantiated statement that Southwest’s “safety” justification has any merit. I have to say, if the rule does have merit, it STILL doesn’t make me feel better about flying knowing that the thin edge of the wedge comes down to whether somebody can put an armrest down or not.

    Comment by Lisa — February 17, 2010 @ 3:41 pm

  26. Oh, I just love the refutes to the stupid “math” problem. It’s sad when thin people are so not smart.

    Excellent post. Thank you–did not know about Jet Blue’s founder. Very interesting.

    Comment by Deb on the Rocks — February 17, 2010 @ 5:44 pm

  27. As an airline captain with about 4000 hours in my log book, perhaps I can shed a little more light on the point that mdegraffen raised. The point was relevant, although incomplete, and the responses also merit explanation.

    Aircraft of all sizes (from a little two seat single engine plane right up to an A380 crammed with over 600 economy class seats) are required by various laws to remain within certain limits of weight and centre-of-gravity position for taxi, take-off, flight and landing. These limits (collectively referred to as the weight and balance “envelope”) have to be handled different ways depending on the aircraft. Loading envelopes include margins for statistical variation that is possible based on the method of calculation – smaller margins for more empirical (but more demanding) methods of calculation, wider margins for more practical but more statistically-based methods.

    For a very small plane, the only way to do it is to use actual weights: weigh the plane, weigh every person and thing that’s going in it, add it up. Tables or charts are used to determine whether the weight and C of G are in limits. If they are, it’s legal to fly. If not, it’s not.

    For large planes – including almost all airline planes – operators use a combination of actual and “standard” weights to determine the loading of the aircraft. So they weigh your bags, but not you. Depending on the operator, they might have a single “per person” standard weight. More likely, they have one standard weight for a man, one for a woman, one for a child, and one for an infant (as my current airline does). Obviously some people will be bigger, some will be smaller… but with enough passengers, those deviations from the mean cancel out. Each passenger’s standard weight is supposed to reflect the weight of the passenger, items carried on their person (including clothing), and their carry-on luggage. Checked luggage and freight is calculated using actual weights (they don’t just weigh it to find out if they can charge you for excess luggage).

    Once all those weights are collected, they are added up (usually by a computer system) and the weight and balance of the aircraft calculated. The result is compared with the envelope for the plane, and once again: if the result is within those limits, it’s legal to fly. If not, it’s not.

    Even if it’s not *legal* to fly, it would probably still get off the ground, but that’s not the point – the limitations are in place to minimise exposure to other risks (e.g. the aircraft becoming uncontrollable while airborne due to change in weight from fuel burn, or the aircraft having insufficient performance or being uncontrollable in the case of an engine failure on a multi-engine aircraft).

    So, what are airlines doing about the fact that we’re all getting bigger and heavier – at least on average? For a start, the FAA (and other aviation authorities elsewhere in the world) have recently insisted that airlines increase all their “standard” weights. Note that this DOES NOT change the certified limits of a given aircraft – it simply reduces the number of passengers and bags that can be carried before the aircraft will be over its weight limits. At the same time, those same authorities have required airlines to develop procedures to reduce the likelihood of statistical anomalies putting the *actual* aircraft weight well above the *calculated* (using standard weights). I don’t know – because I don’t work for Southwest – whether their “armrest rule” is part of how they mitigate that risk, but it may well be.

    We don’t have an armrest rule on my airline, but we do have corrections for carry-ons that are too big for the overhead lockers – a likewise apparently arbitrary rule that actually makes some sense when considering a fully loaded aircraft. Our “standard weights” include carry-on bags that will fit in our overhead lockers, but if a passenger has a large carry-on that needs to go in the hold, we add some additional weight to the load sheet… even though that particular bag may not in fact be heavier than average, or that individual passenger may be considerably lighter than average. This is just an example of how a *procedure* may not – in every instance – reflect the *actual* situation precisely, but those procedures have to work with averages and statistical probability, and the limits of the results have to be enforced rigorously… because that’s the only way that the airline industry stays as safe as it does in most western countries.

    I’ve had flights where I’ve had to leave bags behind because the calculations indicated the aircraft would be overweight (possibly just “procedurally” overweight) if we took all the bags. Would the plane still have got off the ground? Absolutely. Would it have made it safely from departure to destination? Yep. But what if we lost an engine at V1 (the speed beyond which the takeoff cannot be rejected) on a hot day on a short runway and I needed every ounce of performance to achieve a safe outcome? What if we caught a microburst on short final approach and the wheels hit the ground at three times the certified rate of descent for touchdown at max landing weight, and 20kg of load made the difference between just blowing tyres and the landing gear collapsing altogether?

    Most comments here reflect the privilege of living in a time when astonishingly affordable, phenomenally safe air travel is commonplace. Most people in the aviation industry work very hard every day to make that possible – both by doing everything that can be done to make the economics work, while simultaneously regarding both procedural and practical safety as absolute and inviolable. That doesn’t excuse anyone treating another human being poorly (even on the grounds of adhering to procedures), and since I wasn’t present for either of Kevin Smith’s experiences, I can’t comment on the appropriateness of what took place there.

    But we need to be aware of which discussion we’re having: were Kevin Smith and his fellow overweight passenger mistreated? It sounds like they were, and that is absolutely not OK. Were there genuine procedural breaches which might have taken place if nothing had been done? Maybe, maybe not. Can procedural breaches have a detrimental impact on safety? Absolutely.

    Comment by Robin — February 18, 2010 @ 9:19 pm

  28. One last comment, regarding the (quite reasonable) proposal that airlines should install larger seats. I agree – and I’d be just as happy to fly fewer passengers in bigger seats – but is EVERYONE willing to pay considerably more for their tickets, and actively to avoid airlines that keep the smaller seats and cheaper airfares? Of course not – and even the handful of us who would, know that the majority of people would not. Airlines operate in a highly competitive, deregulated market with minuscule margins, and will never – without regulation – take steps such as increasing seat size (with corresponding decreases in the number of passengers that can be carried). Any one airline doing so knows full well that Joe Average is not going to buy a ticket for $250 from carrier A when they can get a ticket for $150 from carrier B (unless they KNOW that they’ll have a better experience on carrier A and the difference is clear and worth the extra money). And when all the Joe Averages fly carrier B instead, carrier A goes out of business. Sadly, this is the huge down-side of a deregulated capitalist market.

    Comment by Robin — February 18, 2010 @ 9:20 pm

  29. This makes me think of a flight I was on 12 years ago. I wasn’t overweight, but I am a tall girl to start with, and I was almost 8 mo pregnant. I was on the aisle seat of a 3 seat row, because of my regular need to use the restroom. The guy in the middle seat was a very polite young businessman who could have been a college football player – tall, broad shoulders, long legs, big thighs. Between his size and palpable fear of touching the pregnant women, he was wedged in his seat like a cork. Between the two of us, if anyone had a reason to fear for their ability to exit the plane, it was the poor person in the window seat. And as for the weight issue, both he and I were probably on par with a “fattyboombalatty” (TM Plumcake) an a pound for pound basis. The whole argument is specious.

    Comment by Anne — February 19, 2010 @ 11:39 am

  30. Seriously, you guys? This is Southwest we’re talking about. The airline that once refused a passenger for wearing a skirt that was too short. I don’t know why anyone is really shocked about this. It does suck, but it’s not surprising.
    And re: heavy passengers: sometimes, you want those who are obese to purchase two seats. I’m a size 12/14 so I can fit fine (though I sometimes have bouts of illogical fear that I won’t be able to fasten the seat belt) and the one time I had to fly (in the aisle seat) with an obese woman in the middle seat was one of the most miserable flights I have ever had. I don’t know about the person in the window seat, but I had to contort my body so the upper half was sticking out into the aisle because the woman had taken the arm rest and was literally in my space. I’m not going to go into a debate on who’s to blame for this, but I’m just stating what happened.

    Comment by enygma — February 19, 2010 @ 12:58 pm

  31. Oh, Enygma, I know! You had to sit next to a really fat deathfat fatty!! Teh horror! SO UNFAIR!! This thing! It happened! TO YOU!! I’m sure she wasn’t uncomfortable at all, rilly.

    I’ve had to sit in front of kicking children, behind people who reclined so far back I could see their faces, next to reeking drunks on the wrong side of a week-long bender, with men with giant shoulders who used up both armrests and spread their legs as wide as possible, and nearby shrieking infants. Air travel is crowded and can be unpleasant because of all of the, you know, *other people*. It’s the state of things, and picking on fat people isn’t going to make air travel any less pleasant for those of us who can’t afford to fly first class or charter our own jets.

    Comment by Jezebella — February 19, 2010 @ 4:50 pm

  32. Jezebella, you made me laugh! I totally know where you’re coming from. Who was it who said hell is other people?

    Comment by Mrs. Hendricks — February 19, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

  33. I feel compassion for those that sit next to people whose bodies spill into the next seat. As a fatty that’s been there–It isn’t fair to the fatty or the skinny to be uncomfortable like that, period. Buying two seats in my opinion is wasteful, someone else COULD be sitting there.

    I think a reasonable solution to this problem is to provide 10-20 larger seats on each plane, perhaps only aisle seats or window seats, that are suited for large bodies and perhaps those passengers pay an extra $20 fee, to sit there. These are reserved for those who need them. I don’t know how feasible it is, but it seems like a better solution then kicking people off planes.

    Comment by Kemi — February 19, 2010 @ 8:11 pm

  34. “Hell is other people” was Sartre.

    If anything Robin had to say were actually viable, ALL airlines, without exceptions, would demand that all exceptionally sized people (not just “fat” people) buy two seats.

    One body, one fare. One human being pays for one seat. It ought to be a law.

    If the safety issue were actually the case, airlines would be forced to restore the seats the planes were designed to carry, in the limited number designed to fit in the cabin. That would mean limiting the number of seats dramatically.

    The safety argument doesn’t hold water. End of.

    Comment by ChaChaHeels — February 19, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

  35. Jezebella: I KNOW! When I pay for a flight, I expect to be comfortable, dammit! How dare someone force me to experience discomfort in economy class.
    And you’ve had to “sit in front of kicking children, behind people who reclined so far back I could see their faces, next to reeking drunks on the wrong side of a week-long bender, with men with giant shoulders who used up both armrests and spread their legs as wide as possible, and nearby shrieking infants.” That must have been AWFUL. You poor dear. It’s unfortunate that you were forced to interact with other people because I’m sure none of us who’ve flown have had to experience these as well.

    Pot, meet kettle.

    Geez, get off your high horse.

    Mrs. Hendricks: That would be Jean-Paul Sartre.

    The easiest solution is to get bigger seats (as it’s been suggested) but how many people would be willing to pay extra to pay for all the retrofitting that would require? Flying is expensive as it is.

    Comment by enygma — February 19, 2010 @ 8:31 pm

  36. Enygma, I suspect you perhaps missed Jezebella’s point.

    Also, retrofitting happens whenever the airlines take out their old seats and put in *more* seats in the same space. It costs money, but it’s a one-time expense that’s not so expensive it’s going to jack up ticket prices for very long. What will cost more is the fact that there are fewer seats on any given flight, which will either mean more flights (which costs in gate fees and increased fuel costs) or fewer seats available, thereby creating demand. Either way, the fares go up.

    I’m off to Barcelona in a few weeks (and yes, I am dreading spending 7.5 hours as a fat woman in the middle seat, why do you ask?), and I noticed on my ticket that Continental gives a breakdown of the ticket price. My fare is about $500. $300 of that is airfare and taxes. $200 is the fuel surcharge.

    Another solution is rail travel. Which, unfortunately, isn’t going to get you from New York to California in five hours or across the ocean, but is a great idea for certain corridors. Well, at least those where Amtrak isn’t forced to give right-of-way to freight trains.

    Within the past year, I took Acela from New York to Washington and regular Amtrak (indeed, even rickety-old-really-needs-an-upgrade-even-for-Amtrak Amtrak) from New York to Montreal. The seats were really wide, there was plenty of legroom (I could even put up a footrest and my window-seat seatmate could still walk around me, even on the Montreal trip), I had outlets for my laptop, generous luggage space, and I COULD WALK AROUND. Seriously, that’s huge when you’re on a train for 11 hours (2 of them at the border, though we weren’t permitted to walk around then). I highly recommend the train for reasonable trips, and I especially commend the NYC-to-Montreal trip in the fall, as the train travels along the Hudson River and Lake Champlain and the scenery is just gorgeous.

    Comment by zuzu — February 20, 2010 @ 12:58 am

  37. Zuzu, actually, I didn’t.
    But, I’m interested in why you chose to take a train rather than a plane. I’ve toyed with the idea of taking the train to NY rather than flying because the latter is such a hassle nowadays, but the time it takes to get there is rather daunting. Have you had previous experience with train travel or was that your first time?

    Comment by enygma — February 20, 2010 @ 5:30 pm

  38. I believe Jezebella was being sarcastic.

    As for the train, when you’re heading to DC from NYC, it winds up being cheaper to take the train, not to mention about the same in terms of time. What with JFK, Newark and LGA all ranking at the bottom of national airports, the time to get there, the time in line, the fact that I ALWAYS get frisked and I’m damn tired of it, etc. For the train, I just showed up at Penn, stared at the big board for my departure time and track, boarded the train, stowed my luggage, and set up my laptop. I hadn’t used Acela before then; I think I’d looked into it for a trip to Philly when they first set up the service but it was more than NJ Transit plus SEPTA, and way more than the Chinatown bus, which I didn’t know about at the time. But for DC, which I’d had no reason to visit prior to last summer, it was lovely.

    The Montreal trip is a long time, true, but a) I went in late October, and as I mentioned, it’s a gorgeous trip; b) it’s actually very expensive to fly between New York and Montreal, and the train only cost me, what, $150 round trip? I looked into non-direct flights, such as taking JetBlue to Burlington and taking a bus across the border, but the cost and the time still added up. And neither option had the kind of legroom Amtrak did.

    Mind you, we didn’t have to stop too often on either train for freight, unlike when I traveled from Massachusetts to Michigan to go to school. Those were supposed to be 16-hour trips and became 24 because of the right-of-way issues. But I think it would have been better had I prepared better — brought a cooler with my own food, been more disposed to talk to people, bought a sleeper ticket, that sort of thing. I do hear the trains west of Chicago are more comfortable than the East-Coast trains because the tracks can handle bigger cars, and they’re more set up for long-haul travel.

    Comment by zuzu — February 20, 2010 @ 9:56 pm

  39. Weird. When I took the train from DC to NYC, it cost as much as a flight! I was mistaken and thought you took the train from Washington State to NY. /lol/
    Well, I’m back in Chicago and I’ve been thinking of visiting friends in DC/NYC this summer and the train is definitely an option, but I believe it takes about 20 hours. Who knows? It might be an adventure and it may end up being better than dealing with O’Hare.
    Thanks for the info.

    Comment by enygma — February 20, 2010 @ 11:57 pm

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