Airplane seats are notorious for being less than comfortable. Being crammed between two strangers in a seat that doesn’t recline more than a few inches is not anyone’s ideal way to spend a few hours, so most of us do what we can to find some semblance of comfort when flying.
But after one woman seated between two plus-sized passengers politely asked if she could relocate, she ended up being accused of fatphobia. Below, you’ll find the flyer’s full story, which she recently shared on the “Am I the [Jerk]?” subreddit, as well as a conversation between her and Bored Panda.
After being seated between two plus-sized passengers on a flight, this woman decided to politely find a more comfortable seat
Image credits: Darina Belonogova (not the actual image)
Upon arrival, however, one of her former seat neighbors made it clear that she was offended by her relocation
Image credits: Pew Nguyen (not the actual image)
Image credits: Kostiantyn Voitenko (not the actual image)
Image credits: Mason McCall (not the actual image)
Image credits: throwawayonaplane
Later, the passenger clarified some details about the situation
“I would imagine that the confrontation was a result of her feeling anxious about other people having seen me move”
To learn more about this specific situation, we reached out to the Reddit user who shared this story, Throwawayonaplane, who was kind enough to have a chat with Bored Panda. As far as how she relocated on the plane, the woman explained that she tried to do it as discreetly as possible, but there wasn’t much privacy in the cabin. “It’s entirely possible that a couple people saw and could assume why I moved, but nobody was told anything about the situation except for the flight attendant,” the OP shared. “I would imagine that the confrontation was a result of her feeling anxious about other people having seen me move, and as some commenters might have pointed out, it might have just been her way of venting out a frustrating day of travel.”
We also asked the OP what her thoughts were on the reactions her post received. Throwawayonaplane shared that she was relieved to hear that most commenters didn’t think she had done anything wrong, but a lot of the replies were upsetting. “I had posted this situation for some insight on if or how I could have handled the situation better or what other people would have done, but far too many people in the comments took my story as an excuse to generalize and bully all larger people. I’m unable to delete the post because of AITA’s rule on active discussions, but I truly feel terrible about the nature of so many of the comments,” she explained, adding that she is grateful for the nicer, helpful replies.
Image credits: reisetopia (not the actual image)
“While it’s not fair to take that stress out on the people around you, in situations like those, it’s best to just be patient and understanding”
We were also curious how the OP might handle a situation like this again in the future. “The biggest thing I might change is to say something like, ‘Sorry, I just have to grab my bag, there’s an available seat next to my friend’ or a similar white lie to avoid any additional stress,” she told Bored Panda, adding that her biggest tip for handling situations like these is to be compassionate. “Flying is so stressful for so many people and for so many reasons, and you never know what someone might have gone through before or during their flight,” she noted. “While it’s not fair to take that stress out on the people around you, in situations like those, it’s best to just be patient and understanding.”
The OP also urges readers not to take what happened to her as an example of all plus-sized people. “It’s not fair to generalize or use this one story about this one person to ‘prove’ that all larger people are lazy, entitled, or whatever else some people have been saying,” she noted. “This same situation could have happened with a tall person in behind me or the parent of a fussy child across from me, or the plus-sized person next to me could have been super nice. What a person’s body looks like has absolutely zero to do with their character.”
Airplane seats have only gotten smaller over the past few decades, making them increasingly more uncomfortable
Flying on an airplane is uncomfortable for everyone. Whether you’re tall, short, skinny, plus-sized, young or old, nobody enjoys those narrow seats with minimal leg room and barely any room to recline. That’s why most passengers go out of their way to snag a row to themselves, or at least one open seat next to them, any chance they get. Plus, we all know that the dreaded middle seat is widely considered the worst seat on a plane. As many of the commenters mentioned, this woman was not being prejudiced towards her fellow passengers in trying to seek comfort. If anyone in this situation was fatphobic, it was the airline. Have you ever heard your parents talk about how pleasant and luxurious flying used to be? Well, it was! In fact, seats today have on average 2-5 inches less leg room and are 2 inches narrower than airplane seats from the 1980s, despite the fact that we’ve gotten bigger.
And according to Paul Hudson, president of passenger advocacy group FlyersRights, these tiny seats can even be a safety issue for the smallest of passengers. “[Airlines] only narrowly define safety as if it has something to do with evacuation speed,” Hudson told CNN. “But they ignore health risks, especially blood clots, which are known to increase dramatically when you’re in a confined space for more than two or three hours. They ignore completely the forced intrusion that you have now on your neighbor.”
Image credits: Sami Aksu (not the actual image)
These tiny seats can make traveling as a plus-sized person particularly difficult
Of course, plus-sized passengers do tend to have a much more difficult time traveling than smaller individuals. Some of the discomforts they might encounter while flying are tight squeezes into tiny seats, seat belts that either don’t fit or need an extender to fit and arm rests jabbing into their sides. “I don’t want to have to ask for a seat belt extender or worry that they’ll make me buy an extra seat,” size-inclusive TikTok star Mary Fran Donnelly told the New York Post. “The traveling industry should outfit planes to suit everybody’s needs without bigger people having to be embarrassed or uncomfortable.”
Thankfully, however, there are ways plus-sized people can travel just as much as their hearts’ desire. They just need to know the tricks of the trade, until the airline industry becomes more inclusive. When it comes to which companies plus-sized passengers trust the most, Southwest Airlines seems to be the fan favorite. The airline encourages larger passengers to purchase an extra seat prior to boarding, which they can be reimbursed for after their journey has been completed. Or, if there are still seats available for purchase, they can simply request an extra seat at no additional cost once they’re at the airport.
Image credits: cottonbro studio (not the actual image)
But there are ways plus-sized flyers can ensure that they, and their fellow passengers, are as comfortable as possible
“We are very proud of our policy, as we feel it provides comfort and hospitality for all of our customers,” a Southwest spokesperson told the New York Post. “It was a creative solution to what can be a sensitive topic, and we’ve found that our customers appreciate it.” And if you’re a plus-sized traveler who is looking for even more tips on how to have the best flying experience possible, Halee and Jeff at Plus Size Travel Guide recommend researching the airplane ahead of time to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into, asking for seat belt extenders upon boarding, picking the right shoes and socks to keep you as comfortable as possible, doing your research on whether a first class seat is worth it or if two economy seats would be better, and having all of your inflight items ready and accessible to limit how often you have to bend over or move around in-flight.
We all just want to find comfort in any way we can when on a plane, and that can be difficult to accomplish, regardless of your body size. It’s never appropriate to shame others, and fatphobia is a real issue. But in this particular case, the consensus of readers was that the woman was simply trying to help herself, not judge anyone else. We would love to hear your thoughts on this situation in the comments, pandas, but please remember to be respectful of all parties involved in the story. Then, if you’re interested in reading another Bored Panda article featuring airplane seat drama, look no further than right here!