Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Are You Too Fat To Fly?

Recently I was told a sad tale about a Tacoma, Washington obese woman's ruined Hawaiian vacation plans.

After successfully checking in, at some point during the pre-board phase of flying the woman was pulled aside and basically told she was too fat to fly, and would need to buy an extra seat or fly first class.

No extra seat was available on that flight. Nor was a first class seat available. She was told she could wait til a seat was available on another flight or cancel.

The Hawaiian vacation was cancelled, followed by the failed vacationer going into embarrassed hiding.

For even a normal sized person flying is a cramped experience, the seats too narrow, not enough leg room.

Why would an obese person want to put themselves through such torture? And there is no denying that letting a morbidly obese person board is not fair to the other passengers, to those stuck on the same row, and to the rest of the passengers. What if there is an emergency?

It is a bit ironic that the bags one checks in get weighed, with a fee charged if they weigh over the allowed amount. Carry on bags must not be over a certain size or you will be made to check them in as baggage.

Yet humans of all sizes pay the same fare. With only some of the obese denied boarding. A skinny 6 foot 6 guy weighing 250 pounds pays the same as a little old lady weighing 90 pounds.

Googling "Too Fat To Fly" I came upon a guy named Michael Slade's amusing description of what he experienced when he found himself crammed up against the window by a woman he calls Mrs. Jumbo, squeezing herself into the middle seat.

The title of Mr. Slade's tale is "Too Fat To Fly Coach".

The entire story is an amusingly woeful tale. Below are the final three paragraphs....

What I care about is I had to spend a five-plus hour flight from Newark to San Francisco wedged up against the wall of the plane, feeling a mountain of wool-encased blubber pressed up against my left hip and leg. What I care about is that I could not change the channel or adjust the volume for my in-flight entertainment because Mrs. Jumbo’s flesh had engulfed the arm rest that housed the controls… much the way the Blob engulfed everything it came in contact with in the 1958 Steve McQueen movie. I care that it was only by contorting myself into a tiny corner of my allotted seat that I could avoid becoming engulfed like the unfortunate arm rest. I care that I paid for a seat and wound up with something between a half and three-quarters of a seat, whereas Mrs. Jumbo paid for a seat and wound up with something between one and a half and two seats (based on my assumption that her left side oozed over as much as her right side).

I realize that to squeeze in more passengers the airlines are making seats narrower and leg room almost non-existent. And I realize that they are doing this at the same time that 68.3% of Americans are overweight and 35.7% are clinically obese (and that those percentages are rising). But none of that should be my problem.

If the airlines are willing and able to set and (at times) enforce a rule that says bags measuring more than 22 inches can not be carried on… if they can have the necessary tools to measure the size of a questionable bag, and determine whether or not it can be placed in the overhead compartment, if they can say, “I’m sorry, that bag is too big to be put in the overhead compartment, you will have to check it,” then they should also be able to measure the width of a questionable passenger and say, “I’m sorry, those hips are too wide to fit in a coach seat. You will either have to purchase a second seat or upgrade yourself to Business or First Class where the seats are wider.”