Fat Girl Travels: 10 FAQs for Fat Flyers

Flying fat is not an insurmountable challenge. Image from Wikipedia.

Last month I dug into how and why fat travelers experience anxiety while flying.

This time I’m here with a list of resources to help abate those aforementioned concerns, in the form of 10 frequently asked questions:

Booking

Which airline has the best policy for people of size?

Which airplanes have the most space?

Which days/times are the best for fat people to fly?

Boarding/Seating

Where on the plane should I sit to be most comfortable?

Do I need to buy two seats?

I’m anxious about needing to use the bathroom during my flight!

Seat belt extenders? Where can I get one?/I’m embarrassed to use one!

How else can I maximize space and comfort on planes?

Emotional/Anxiety-Related Concerns

What should I do if a passenger or attendant is disrespectful?

I’m still nervous about being judged!

Booking

Which airline has the best policy for people of size?

This article details the size policies of six airlines within the U.S.

If you’re traveling on another airline, check their website or call a ticketing agent.

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Which airplanes have the most space?

Airplane seat sizes can fluctuate up to two inches, and for specific dimensions SeatGuru and Routehappy have you covered. (SeatGuru’s comparison chart is especially helpful.)

Still unsure? Facebook group Flying While Fat may be able to help.

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Which days/times are the best for fat people to fly?

Some recommend booking travel at less busy times (of the year, week, day) to help increase the possibility of sitting next to an empty seat.

But airlines overbook flights even on their least busy days, and this is no way to travel (especially if you’re also booking two seats and/or navigating a specific timeline), and doing this can increase the price of your flight.

Fly when you need to.

You can also ask when you get to your flight’s gate. An agent may be able to move your seat to an unfilled row (assuming your plane has assigned seating).

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Boarding and Seating

Where on the plane should I sit to be most comfortable?

Wherever you want.

Some swear by inside seats (more room to squish against the plane wall/window). Some love aisles (more leg/arm room). Ultimately, it’s up to you and what makes you comfortable.

Negotiating a plane is uncomfortable for anyone. Image by Flickr user Keenan Pepper.
Negotiating a plane is uncomfortable for anyone. Image by Flickr user Keenan Pepper.

Also note that some window/aisle seats have arm rests that raise.

SeatGuru may be able to give you some more specifics.

Many flyers suggest heading to the back of the plane or checking at the gate to score a spot in an unfilled row. Again, if your flight isn’t full, agents may move your seat.

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Do I need to buy two seats?

Probably not, but maybe.

Many airlines require fat passengers to purchase two seats, and many fat flyers recommend purchasing two seats if you can’t comfortably fit in one, but not all travelers can afford this.

Check your airline’s policy before booking your ticket(s) to see if your second seat can be refunded after your trip.

Note: Despite these policies, many airlines make it difficult (or impossible) to book two seats next to each other under the same name.

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I’m anxious about needing to use the bathroom during my flight!

I feel you, girlfriend.

I agonize over the embarrassment of having to make people move for me to get up and out.

Do what’s most comfortable for you, but also remember that everyone needs to pee. Besides, holding it is straight up unhealthy.

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Seat belt extenders? Where can I get one?/I’m embarrassed to use one!

An extender is a blissful alternative to wearing a seat belt that makes you feel like you’re suffocating, and most planes have at least three on hand.

There is often an initial embarrassment associated with requesting one, but if you ask a flight attendant as you board, they can grab it before you get to your seat, and no one will notice.

Still embarrassed? As Mary Demetra says, “People can see me…People know [I’m fat].” We can’t hide the way we look (if anyone has even noticed), so you might as well try to accept that (It’s not easy, I know.) and be comfortable while you do.

If asking still makes you uncomfortable, you can purchase your own for around $20.

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How else can I maximize space and comfort on planes?

This article covers everything from specific airline experiences to general logistical tips/tricks.

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Emotional/Anxiety-Related Concerns

What should I do if a passenger or attendant is disrespectful?

We hear upsetting stories from fat flyers all the time.

It’s why many of us worry about what could happen on a plane. These stories are generally the exception and not rule, but their prevalence has caused anxiety for fat travelers.

If you think you’ve been mistreated on a plane because of your size, look into the Association for Airline Passenger Rights (AAPR). AAPR also publishes this tip sheet for people of size.

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I’m still nervous about being judged!

If you’ve ever been shamed for how you look, you know it’s difficult to stand up for yourself.

Much of my life has been spent wincing at the word “fat” because it was used to insult me for so long.

But now? I’m a proud fat girl who accepts and even celebrates her size.

I got to this point by reading posts by fat bloggers, digging into the size acceptance movement, and surrounding myself with people who appreciate me for more than (and sometimes, in part, because of) the way I look.

It’s hard, and it’s certainly a journey, but you can and deserve to love yourself.

Fat people fly, and for most of us it’s a pretty mundane (albeit usually uncomfortable) experience. But that’s what it’s like for everyone.

The bottom line is that, regardless of how society shames, fat people exist, and we deserve to travel.

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*Note: Almost all of this advice can be applied to any person of any gender.

 

Flickr image from Creative Commons.

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