Flying Fat

Another day, another airline decides to boost its profits by charging fat passengers more.  Air France-KLM have announced that fat passengers that cannot fit into a single seat will have to pay an additional 75% for a second seat. A spokesperson for Air France-KLM states that it is a matter of safety: “We have to make sure that the backrest can move freely up and down and that all passengers are securely fastened with a safety belt.” (The fact that they can charge 175% for one ticket is just gravy!) The new policy will apply for people who book their tickets from 1 February 2010 for all flights from 1 April 2010.

This development follows American airlines, such as Southwest and United Airlines, in their decision to charge their fat passengers more. (At least Canadian and Australian carriers won’t be adopting the move anytime soon.)

Predictably, the majority of commenters on the article reporting Air France-KLM’s new policy have praised the move. In amongst the explicit fat hate (“fatties need to go to the gym!” “I was nearly crushed!”) are those who think the move is completely logical: if you take up two seats, you should pay for two seats.

I can’t say I blame them. I mean, I live in Australia – we’re an island floating in the middle of nowhere. If I want to visit my big sister in London, I have to spend 24 hours in transit. When you’re spending that much time in the air in an economy seat, you want as much room as possible. I get it.

However, instead of blaming the fatty fat fatties, perhaps some pressure should be placed on the airlines. The article states that the average plane seat is 43 centimetres/16.9 inches wide. Some planes offer a generous 48 centimetres/19 inches. That’s it. Hundreds of dollars for a ticket and all you can lay claim to is less than 50 centimetres. Shouldn’t we be expecting more from our airlines? If newer aircraft can have enough room for their obscene first class suites, couldn’t they also increase the width and pitch of their economy class?

Secondly, and I’m not the first person to ask this, but who decides who is officially too fat to fly? Those booking their tickets on 1 February won’t know if their arse is too wide for the seat. Will gate agents have a tape measure at the ready? Will they rely on their oh-so-accurate perception of how fat someone is? Will passengers be weighed on the luggage scale? Or will they be given the benefit of the doubt, only to drag people who are too big for the seat off the plane to pay their 75% and hold up the flight for everyone?

But rather than put those cogent questions to those who think this discriminatory policy is logical, I’d probably tell them to harden up. Economy class is uncomfortable – that’s why it’s affordable. It’s cramped, there are lines for the bathroom, the food sucks and it smells. Until airlines charge a levy for people who have long and/or wide legs, people who have broad shoulders, rude folks that take my armrest, people who smell, people who snore, crying babies and children that make themselves known to me at any point for any reason no one deserves to complain about fat encroaching upon their precious seat.


8 Responses to “Flying Fat”

  1. 1 Hanah 21 January, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    when i read this article this morning i was disgusted by some of the comments… I mean, children are charged LESS than an adult, but they are WAY more annoying (not to mention babies who might even travel for free, if not occupying a seat).

    I dont think its do-able in the long run, because who makes the decision that someone is too fat to be in one seat? and do all the airplanes that KLM own have the same dimensions in their seats? so it might become an issue on what type of planes fly where etc.

  2. 2 CurveSmart 22 January, 2010 at 6:52 am

    World’s worst April Fools joke EVA.

    Can see it now – people booking online get a nice “Excuse me, but is your ass huge?” window in the middle of booking… Travel agents – already doing it tough against online competition – now have the added pleasure of having to offend their customers by explaining the new rules and getting their clients to sit and fit a same sized seat as on the plane, a la the ‘does your bag fit’ cage. Charming.

    And the money?
    “Extra-large flyers will have to pay 75 per cent of the cost of a second seat (the FULL price excluding tax and surcharges) on top of the FULL price for the first, spokeswoman Monique Matze said yesterday, saying the decision was made for “safety” reasons.”

    So fatfatties are further penalized by not having access to discounted/sale fares in the name of SAFETY?? If that is such an issue why not just get them to fly in the cargo hold in a wooden crate? Talk about FAIL.

    My response to this is always the same: if people don’t want to catch teh fatz, they should fly first or business, not coach. It is their problem that they don’t want to share a seat, and the airlines should not indulge them.

    At the very least, KLM’s the second seat should come with additional baggage allowance. And they should let the customer sell that back to cargo. MoFos.

  3. 3 cc 22 January, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    I think it is just pure economics. They are not going to change the size of the seat because that limits the number of people flying on one flight. They want to maximize the amount they can earn per flight. This will never change. I find it uncomfortable for my ass to fit in one seat, yes. Do I have to buy an extra ticket, no. I think if you have to ask yourself twice if you’d fit in one seat, then you buy two (or 1.75, by $). Yes, people are bigger and bigger. I’m obese, but I consider myself healthy. I work out and eat well. Hell, (the author) look at my email address :). I agree that it is absurd, but unfortunately it will not change.

    • 4 Frances 22 January, 2010 at 12:53 pm

      I know it’s a money move keeping seats as small as they are. But A380s are a brand new plane and if they can find room for a first class suite, showers and a bar and lounge area (as is the case for Emirates A380s) surely they can add an inch or two to economy class.

      • 5 I. 8 October, 2010 at 3:12 am

        Yes, but as you acknowledge that “it’s a money thing”, then you realize they are charging a hefty premium for showers, bars and lounge. Things I certainly would like to have on a long haul if I could afford. Unfortunately, the ones who need to pay less, get less. Including seats. I have travelled before next to someone who was very fat and it was very, very uncomfortable. For both of us, I believe. I felt really sorry and did my best so she wouldn’t feel embarassed, but I believe that seat should have been occupied only by her. The plane was full. What were we supposed to do? And what if two fat people were booked to sit side by side? Would the crew go and try to change their places? What if someone refused to have a fat person sat beside him/her? Does a fat person deserves to go through this humiliation?

        At the time I couldn’t afford flying business (as the person on the comment above “suggested”). Maybe airplanes should have extra seats in economy for people above a certain weight? Let’s say, double the average traveler. One or two per airplane, and the ones using it wouldn’t be charged extra. Nobody charges extra for disabled parking space, for example. The airline would lose some money, but it’s a matter of caring for the well being of your customers, giving fat people a comfortable seat, without the embarassment of having to share a tiny seat with someone else.

        • 6 Frances 8 October, 2010 at 9:17 am

          “The airline would lose some money, but it’s a matter of caring for the well being of your customers” – Nail on the head, I.

  4. 7 cc 24 January, 2010 at 8:34 am


    I didn’t realize this was the case. Wow. A bar, lounge AND showers?

  5. 8 Ashlee 31 January, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    They could even add a row or two in economy of seats that were a bit wider for those that are larger sized, so they didn’t lose the economic bonus of sardine can squishing people in through the whole of economy. That way, they would only lose a couple of seats and could accommodate all their customers comfortably. And I’m sure if there weren’t any fatties on a flight, those few extra spacious economy seats could be used for people with babies or with disabilities to make their lives just a little bit easier.

    Oh, but wait. That would be customer service of some sort. Not sure we pay for that lol.

    I mean, a lot of airlines enforce discriminatory hiring practices so that males have hot flight attendants to look at. Yet, they can’t accommodate something as normal as people with different body sizes.

    …I live in Indonesia at the moment, and my gosh, I swear the seats are even smaller than the figure mentioned on some of the domestic flights I have been on. I never had a problem with being squished into my seat or “overflowing” my seat at all until I recently took a domestic Garuda flight. Those seats were tiny!! My friend and I were so squished together!!!

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