With a new, steaming airline mess every week, it was just a matter of time before a “plus-size flying” related scandal emerged. And so it came. Last week. An Australian passenger is suing American Airlines, blaming them for their inaction as he complained of being squished in his seat by overweight passengers encroaching on his seat space and aggravating his back condition by forcing him to adopt uncomfortable positions.
Where do I begin…?
By the pure demonization of the overweight passengers in the news maybe? If the situation had risen from “standard sized” people taking too much space, would the news outlet feel the need to include that detail? Especially in the title?
As the news was shared in the Air Passengers Rights (Canada) group on Facebook, comments started flowing. First, I would like to congratulate Gabor Lukacs, the group admin, for not tolerating any “size bashing” comments and reacting like the ally he has been to the cause of plus-size flying to this day.
If you are not familiar with Gabor Lukacs or his work as an air passengers advocate,
check out my interviews with him!
I joined in on the comments, as I had valid points to bring to the discussion.
It’s you. No, it’s you.
We all have the right to enjoy our entire seat space. Big or small. Tall or short. The overweight passenger spilling over is as uncomfortable as the one that loses its space to a seatmate. So we point fingers.
-Don’t blame me for claiming my space.
-Don’t fat-shame me for accidentally taking some of yours.
And that’s when it finally dawned on me. None of us will win at this. We are being blamed for “choosing” to be fat by maintaining unhealthy habits and a poor lifestyle. We blame them for lack of tolerance.
Don’t get me wrong: fat-shaming is real. And wrong. Even thousands of feet above the ground. Oh, and by the way, obesity is NOT a choice.
None of the sides involved in this pointing finger game has a chance of winning.
So who profits from this?
We are facing a typical “divide and conquer” case here.
As fat flyers keep being antagonized, demonized even, the blaming game goes on. It’s much harder to antagonize tall people who might encroach on their seat mate’s space. Because people know they didn’t choose to be tall. And as long as people will believe that we choose to be fat, we remain perfect scapegoats. And the accusations will fly.
Shaming fat people remains, to this day, one of the last forms of socially acceptable bullying.
In the meantime, airlines just sit and watch people point fingers at each other, trolling and tearing each other apart. We are way too busy fighting and defending our own positions to look a little further beyond and realize that if it wasn’t for the constantly diminishing seat sizes, we wouldn’t be fighting.
And who’s fault is that? Who keeps on piling us, a just a little tighter, on top of each other, while we accuse each other of stealing the other’s space?
So I’m asking you. When are we FINALLY going to unite to fight the REAL issue here?
With allies like Gabor Lukacs, our cause has a chance to be heard. But we have to get together to be heard. That includes our fellow non-plus-size passengers. Because they are an essential part of the equation, just like we are.
And before our banding has any chance of success, we have to put aside all stereotypes, misconceptions and judgments. We have to give up on…
ALL of those nasty ideas about each other.
ALL of us.
On ALL sides.
Until that happens, airlines will continue to enjoy the show that WE provide.
And from their first class seats, they will dream of their millions piling up… coming straight from our dissatisfied but resigned consumers pockets.
Are you in? Gabor and I surely are.
A few articles documenting the ever-shrinking plane seat situation…
- Feeling cramped? How to battle the shrinking airline seat (CNN.com – Nov. 11, 2013)
- Fighting the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat (The New York Times – Feb. 29, 2016)
- Your airplane seat is going to keep shrinking (Fortune.com – Sept. 12, 2015)
- Think airline seats have gotten smaller? They have They have (USA Today – Sept. 24, 2014)
There are some proposals around for a few experimental sofa-style seats on every aircraft to keep the peace. It could take decades…meanwhile, I use other transportation whenever possible. Most airline personnel make the situation worse by being insensitive to their options about some of the remedies that exist on most flights, but they don’t want to be bothered.