A new front in the Fat Wars?

Here are my questions for the day …

  1. should director Kevin Smith be getting an apology from Southwest Airlines because he was pulled off a flight for being too large?
  2. And if he did deserve the apology – why him and not every other fattie who has ever been pulled off or charged extra for taking up too much space?
  3. And more broadly, what do we all think about airline plans to charge obese people more for air travel?

I mean seriously, at a time when a higher percentage of Americans, Europeans and Asians are overweight than ever before, these are questions that get some seriously emotional responses.  

The actor/director – perhaps known best by fans as Silent Bob from his Clerks movies – was tossed off a flight from Oakland to Burbank for failing to fit comfortably in the seat (reportedly, the pilot per airline policy considered his inability to put down the arm as a safety risk) . Smith immediately fired back in the press and on Twitter, quipping:

I saw someone bigger than me on THAT flight! But I wasn’t about to throw a fellow Fatty under the plane as I’m being profiled. But he & I made eye contact, & he was like ‘Please don’t tell…’

According to several reports, Smith routinely purchases two seats on flights and had originally done so for his flight to Burbank – but ended up flying standby on an earlier flight with only one seat available. As soon as Southwest saw his outraged tweets, they called to issue an apology.

The Smith adventure comes at a time when airlines are struggling to form cohesive policies on overweight passengers.

Though my husband might occasionally joke differently, I am not so rotund as to be unable to fasten the standard seat belts or put down the arm rest, but I’m sure I am not only one who has ever been seated next to someone who can’t.

Case in point: Hubby dearest.

On a full flight from London to New York last year my tall and built, but svelte, husband was sandwiched between me and a gentleman who was quite clearly too big for the seat in which he sat. (And by that, I mean this individual was seriously obese.) My husband tucked in his elbows and leaned into me as far as he could without pushing me into the person on my other side – and got progressively more irate as the flight went on.

When the stewardesses delivered our meal service – my husband and the man next to him jostled for position and ended up consuming their meals one-handed. When the gentleman fell asleep, his muscles relaxed sending his arms and legs further into my husband’s shrinking space. At one point my husband woke up to find the guy’s head on his shoulder. (*snort*)

By the time we reached New York my husband was grumbling and cursing out loud. He was none too pleased that I found the situation humorous.

As a member of the overweight club – I know there is no joke when it comes to flab.

Many of those who are fighting the battle of the bulge have a lot of emotional issues tied to the scale – and highlighting those for all the flight to see a la Mr. Smith can be very damaging.  It’s also, one might potentially argue, a form of discrimination and a violation of individuals’ rights.

What we should be focused on – fat and skinny alike – is working on the Health At Every Size concept and be doing the best we can for our individual bodies.

As for air travel – I can only hope airlines will soon come up with clear, concise policies that can be universally applied without having to publicly drag obese passengers off a flight. There’s got to be a better way to guarantee passengers safety!

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6 Comments to “A new front in the Fat Wars?”

  1. Liz says:

    Here’s a novel idea: why don’t they quit bitching about the size of their passengers and instead increase the size of their seats? I’m average size, and flying is a pain in the tuchus even for me. They just cram us all in there like cattle gone to market. No one should have to buy two seats or pay triple for first class just for the luxury of not having airplane seat indentations on their derriere post-flight.

  2. Julie Duck says:

    Well done! There needs to be a universal policy, not unlike USB for computers… I am tall and definitely not small, and I’ve been seated next to people even taller than me. We always end up with elbows in each other’s faces, eventually giving up and pretending we’re friends or relatives because, by golly, our knees are touching no matter what we do!

    – Julie

  3. Jinxie_G says:

    I just read Kevin Smith’s latest blog post about this earlier today. Actually, he could put the arm rest down. It’s all a bunch of crap. I come from a big fat Italian family, and I’m not talking about how many of us there are. I’m 6ft tall and about 200lbs. *I* can barely fit in those coach seats, and my knees get banged to holy hell the entire trip, which is why I’d rather *drive* to Vegas, Albuquerque and L.A. in my roomy Avalanche! LOL I hate flying anyway.

  4. Kait Nolan says:

    If airlines weren’t so bloody greedy to begin with and would make the seats a reasonable size in the first place, this would be less of an issue. I’m not a large woman (5’4″, 145 pounds) and even I can’t fit comfortably into a standard airline seat. There’s not enough legroom for me, and I’m SHORT!

  5. Pauline says:

    Until a universal policy is set in place, situations like this will continue to occur. They already have to be happening everyday, but the fact that it was an extremely famous person this time has shed some major light on the sbject.
    It’s a touchy one, for sure. But if “average” size people are feeling the size pinch in the ever-shrinking plane space allowed, then really, what’s that leave for larger people?
    And I just have to say I just love how twitter brought an airline to its knees.

  6. Setting myself up for what appears to be near-universal derision, but here goes.

    The airlines are mostly right and Mr. Smith knows it.

    First let’s acknowledge that as much as the next guy, I also hate the airlines and modern air travel, with their stupid restrictions, the three-and-a-half-hour airport lead times for international flights, the security checkpoints, the small seats, the cramped legs, the cost, etc.

    But the airlines are in the transport business. They allocate space and weight, and then transport it from point A to B. Both space and weight impact on safety, fairness (as Juliette’s husband’s experience can attest), and operating cost. If you need an increased allocation, then buy it (multiple seats, baggage allowances, etc). Is it unfair that the post office charges me based on the size and weight of my package?

    Mr. Smith’s usual practice of buying two tickets is an implicit admission that the airlines’ standard allocation is too small to accommodate him. He tried to cut a corner by using a single seat and got called on it.

    Is it unfortunate that, in a personal transport context, obese people must incur additional cost? Sure. But is it fair? Absolutely.