Saturday, January 17, 2009

[size matters] when you're flying

The Age Travel asks a fair question about obesity and flying - should those passengers have to purchase two economy tickets?

It's an issue airlines are having to face as more and more passengers get bigger and bigger - the practical consequences of an obesity epidemic. The options right now? Obese travellers can choose not to fly, fly if they can fit but be uncomfortable, or pay more to get more space.

"Should a customer require extra space on a flight, we will seat them next to an empty seat where possible," says a Qantas spokeswoman. "However, the only way for a customer to guarantee extra space is to either purchase two economy seats or fly business or first."

My first novel recounts the story, at one point, of a Mexican on the Greyhound bus from LA to Vancouver. I'd found a seat but there was no one next to me. Three people got on the bus - an ordinary guy, a slip of a young lady and a heavily obese Mexican. Mine was the last available place beside me and the girl won.

At the next town, damn it if she didn't get off the bus and immediately the Mexican, who'd been hovering near the back of the bus, swooped and I was jammed against the window with his stench in the nostrils for over half that journey. Not only that but he wouldn't sit still.

Nothing against Mexico but that was not a pleasant experience. I'm well aware obese people are very, very sensitive about the matter and hey, who doesn't carry fat? I can assure you that I have a winter layer but there does come a point when the obese person needs to recognize the limitations.

You'll call it cruel to mention this but on that same Greyhound ride further on, a woman tried to get on the bus and it took four of the men to lift her up and cram her onto the front row of the bus, go and buy her takeout and so on. The same happened in reverse at the other end.

The closest I've come to that was a great heavy boat I once had. Called a 505, it was a fast craft new but this one was ten years old and it took six people to haul it up the beach. Naturally, whenever we came back to the club, yachties on the beach would melt away into the foliage or to their cars.

In the end, I had to take drastic measures.


  1. No, I don't think large people should have to pay double. The service they are purchasing is the transportation from point A to B,not some measured product like fabric where you pay per metre.

    I have been uncomfortably squished in an economy seat when I weighed 125 lbs.I have flown business and the difference in the quality, size of chair and fewer seats per row was unbelieveable.

    Like any other business, the airlines should expand and keep up with growing customer demand.Instead, they cram in maximum seats for maximum profit without regard for customer comfort or satisfation.
    To expect a decent amount of comfort should not cost more.

    The business class roominess should be their standard,not an over priced luxury.

    Business should meet customer need,not exploit or grossly profit from it.

  2. We took a flight recently with decent legroom, and adequate space for our bums and bellies, but we found it desperately cramped for our shoulders, probably one of the few parts of our anatomies where a bit of fat doesn't matter. Truth is, the planes - or the seating plans - are sized for squirts.

  3. I don't think thew airlines should atart discriminating against the obese. Sometimes people can't help their size. The airlines should provide decent seats for all.