Too fat to fly?


Quite a bit of commotion this weekend on Twitter and in the rest of the social media stratosphere (I’m a marketer, remember? Totally a fan of social media) having to do with director Kevin Smith getting asked to get off a Southwest Airlines plane because of his size (maybe).

I typically stay out of any sort of “fat acceptance” types of discussions because it gets controversial and I’m not usually one for controversy when it comes to talking about weight. It’s so heated and I just stay out of it. But this is a topic that is on my mind a lot, and when I saw all the tweets about Kevin Smith’s experience, it ignited something in me. (I’ve written about my airplane issues in a couple of posts, here and here.)

Southwest Airlines has the most well-known (and complained about in the fatosphere) “Customer of Size” policy. Because of this, I avoid Southwest like the plague, whether for business or pleasure. There was 1 time in 2007 I had to fly Southwest for work and had zero incident, however I was on pins and needles as I was traveling with my boss. While the arm rests went down, I did have to get a seatbelt extender and feared I would be thrown off the plane with my boss watching on. Talk about mortifying.

In the past few years I’ve had to travel quite a bit for work. I love traveling and exploring, whether for work or pleasure, but being at my current level-of-fatness, it is a huge concern when I fly. Will I fit? Will I need an extender? Will there be a seat next to me that’s empty? I check the airlines websites constantly, reassigning my seats anytime I see someone has been assigned next to me. It’s truly maddening. I can relate my weight with when I’ll need an extender or not. I know at X pounds, I’ll need one. Under that, I don’t. Blech.

Anyway, to summarize the Kevin Smith saga- he usually buys 2 seats for his comfort, not because of his size. He had gotten on a flight as a standby passenger, and had his bag put up and was about to put his seatbelt on. He was pulled off of the full flight, even though the arm rests could go down, the passengers on each side of him didn’t have any objections, and his seatbelt fit without an extender (more than I can say for myself). They said it was a “safety concern” but he’s calling bullshit. The whole story is kind of crazy, and you can listen to it on his Smodcast (podcast) if you want all the details.

Something that kind of irked me at the beginning of  Kevin Smith’s podcast is that he goes on a couple times about “I’m FAT but I’m notTHAT fat!”  I totally get it. I AM unfortunately that fat, despite my weight loss so far. I would really love to hear his opinion if people that are that fat should still be treated that way, because honestly, they still are.  I feel fortunate that it hasn’t happened to me yet, but before every flight the level of anxiety is ridiculous. Seriously ridiculous. Xanax-worthy-ridiculous.

This is so true though (from his Smodcast):

“I would never choose that seat if there was a fraction of a chance that I could not fit into it. That’s how I live my life, I’m a fat person! We navigate the world differently. We have to navigate the world 10 steps ahead for our own dignity. “

I kept listening to the Smodcast though, and the most interesting part for me is around 55 minutes and beyond, where the story goes beyond just Kevin Smith’s experience and talks about another girls experience plus how hard it is to be fat if you don’t have resources like he has. And it’s true. He can afford to accommodate his size and his surroundings so it’s not an inconvenience. Others though, like myself, can’t just pick up 2 airplane tickets everytime they want to fly somewhere.

Southwest, being a socially savvy company (listened to great social media cast study of Southwest from former SWA employee Paula Berg when I went to Social Fresh Nashville- another interesting fat experience), responded to Kevin Smith’s tweets and then responded with this blog post:

Southwest Statement

Southwest's response. I added the yellow highlight.

The response, IMO, is kind of ridiculous, considering that Kevin Smith fit with armrests down and seatbelt without extender, with no objecting passengers beside him.

I don’t want to really rant on this much longer. This goes back to my whole recent focus on motivation. While this may be another reason to become Skinny Emmie, will I ultimately be successful for trying to lose weight so I can fit on some damn company’s airplane? Or do I need to find the reasons deep inside that will be a much stronger intrinsic motivation? The answer is the latter, but I’m still struggling to identify those points.

It’s late and I’m rambling. Would love to hear anyone’s thoughts or experiences.

  • Natasha Lee Collier

    I've only flown during one vacation. We flew American Airlines and I was lucky to never have anyone in the seats around me, but I did need an extender. In fact, since we took a smaller plane to DFW then on to NOLA, I got an entire row to myself. And again from NOLA to Chicago on the way back. It wasn't the larger jets that me so nervous, as it was the flights out of and into LEX. I was so nervous not because I was flying for the first time, but instead that the pilot would say “We're too heavy, someone's going to have to get off.” Thankfully nothing like that happened and the flight attendants were all very discreet about giving me extenders.

    I agree with the motivation idea. I agree whole-heartedly with just wanting to fit. I know you'll get there. :-)

  • Online Bigot

    55 minutes of his podcast? That is the kinda crap we made the Al Qaeda guys listen to at Guantanamo. I'm not wasting 55 minutes of my life on a foul-mouthed whiney loser.


  • Tudor Rose

    Being a huge Kevin Smith fan I, of course, listened to the Smodcast and I loved how he kept coming back to the seatbelt. Somehow that is the big (pun intended) thing when you are fat and riding an airplane: can you buckle the seat belt? Do you need the extender? It's awful, but I have had so much anxiety before about riding airplanes and being worried about that and, to be honest, I didn't even know extenders even existed until a few months ago! I've never needed one, but man oh man my anxiety level would have been so much lower if I'd known I could have just asked for an extender if it came to that. I went to visit my sister back in the summer and not only got the seat belt buckled, but I was able to tighten it. I wanted to cry, I was so happy. I've never been able to do that before, and it's ridiculous that such a small moment means so much, but when you're fat, and terrified of flying because of the seat belt, yeah, that sort of thing matters.

    Considering the seat between him and the girl was empty, both he and his wife were right: her getting pulled off and talked to was totally unnecessary. And the fact that they wanted her to ASK him if it was okay to sort of “spill over” or whatever into his seat? IT'S AN EMPTY SEAT! What sort of permission is needed?

    It does make you wonder how many other passengers have been kicked off, or talked to by Southwest but aren't coming forward, out of maybe embarrassment or whatever. For it to happen to Kevin Smith on one flight, then the girl on a totally different flight just a few hours later, that can't be random. I feel like it has to happen far more frequently than anyone is letting on.

  • Brittany

    I'm totally annoyed that they would do that! I can't even imagine how humiliating that must be!

  • Evelyn

    Talk about humiliating – fat people would be blamed for hindering a “timely exit from the aircraft in the event of an emergency” because we'd take up so much space. Makes you want to laugh and cry. Considering elderly people & the disabled fly, is Southwest now going to ban them from flights because they may have trouble making a timely exit in case of an emergency?

  • Sarah7500

    Evelyn has an excellent point. I haven't flown in nearly twenty years, but not because I'm fat. It's because I'm the mother of an autistic child, and frankly, I'd rather give birth to mutant two ton triplets than put my kiddo on a plane. But if he were to fly, and he needed to exit, there is no way he could follow directions. I, his fat-ass momma, would have to be with him to make sure he followed directions. Or, to pick his extremely skinny (oh, the irony!) ass up, throw him over my shoulder, and run like a weeble wobble. Which I can do…I just breathe really hard when I'm done and want to die.
    Not that I intend to fly any time soon, but if I did, it won't be Southwest.

  • marion

    FYI, you can buy your own extender for flying. I have my own and can pull it out of my purse discreetly and put it on, if I need it. Saves the embarrassment of having to ask for it.

  • http://[email protected] marion

    FYI, you can buy your own extender for flying. I have my own and can pull it out of my purse discreetly and put it on, if I need it. Saves the embarrassment of having to ask for it.

  • Pingback: These are my confessions — Skinny Emmie()

  • Pingback: Ruby Gettinger and a Life Without Limits — Skinny Emmie()