Riding on Planes with Fat People
There has been plenty of controversy recently about fat people on planes and what they should pay and how it should work.
As a CEO, I can understand the airline’s point of view in this controversy — they are selling space — the amount of space is one seat. Space is at a premium on an aircraft and the carriers have created a price for that amount of space. If you take up more than that amount of space, you pay more.
It’s very much like the Postal Services flat fee priority mail. You can mail as much as you can fit in that container for a flat fee, but if your stuff doesn’t fit in that container, then you have to pay extra. You wouldn’t say that the postal service is discriminating against people who had larger objects to mail and that they should pay the same price to mail a larger item.
Thin people feel entitled to complain about overcrowding because they paid for one seat, just as the fat person beside them did, but they are not getting what they paid for because the person next to them is taking up more than that for which they paid. You are paying the airline not just for passage from one destination to another, but also for the amount of space on the plane (as evidenced by the price difference between first class and coach, as well as the optional upgrades to larger seats in coach that some airlines offer).
What I would like to see is the policy applied equally across the board — anyone who takes up more than one seat needs to pay more. I happen to fit easily in one airline seat (sheer luck, my fat goes out in front of me and not out to the sides). In a recent flight, I fit into the seat just fine, but the tall, thin gentleman beside me had very broad shoulders and he encroached upon my space. If the airline is charging people who take up more than their fair share, then this gentleman needed to pay up as well.
I also believe, from a pragmatic point of view, that if those who are against these policies pushed for them to be applied across the board in this way — rather than trying to make the argument that we deserve more space for the same amount of money (which inevitably finds us mired in pointless, useless arguments about whether or not we can/should “do something” about our size) — they would get much farther much faster.
Some solution ideas in the meantime:
Currently their seems to be an understanding that my midsection touching someone else is not OK, but their shoulder touching me is. I don’t agree with that, but if that’s what the policy is currently, then the solution that I would offer is to attach a plate to the armrest that divides the seat from the one next to it from the armrest down. That way you either fit in the seat or not, and if you buy two seats you can lift the armrest and be comfortable.
I also think that a lot of the stress comes from not knowing what will happen when you get to the flight since it’s at the discretion of the ground crew and flight attendants whether or not you are required to pay for two seats. I would personally be much more comfortable if there was a seat in a private area at the airport, just like they have the thing to check and see if your luggage will fit. Then, if ANY PART OF YOU doesn’t fit in the seat it’s time to make arrangements. At any rate, any decisions should happen BEFORE you get on the plane and you should never be embarrassed by being kicked off a flight.
Offer a discount to sit next to larger passengers. Currently most airlines offer a second seat at half price to passengers of size. I’ll be that they could make more money if they just offered a small discount (20%?) to passengers willing to sit next to a passenger of size. This would require some work in redesigning the booking process, but could solve a lot of problems (and give me the opportunity to say “Hi, I’m Ragen and I’ll be your fat person discount for this flight”).
Buy your own seatbelt extender. I can’t emphasize this one enough. You can find them on eBay really inexpensively and as I am getting ready to get on a plane having forgotten mine I am reminded of how much I prefer NOT having to ask for one.
No matter what you think on this issue, customers all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. If we could look at this as the airline and passengers of all sizes vs. a problem, rather than the airline and thin passengers vs. fat passengers I’ll bet that we could really make some progress.