making the fatties pay!

Yesterday, United Airlines announced its plan to charge overweight passengers additional fees or bump them from their flights entirely.

It works like this. If two adjoining seats are available on the overweight passenger’s flight, they can fly with no additional fees. If there are extra seats in coach that are not adjoining, they are required to pay for a second ticket (presumably to compensate for the flight attendant’s having to undergo the laborious task of asking someone else to switch their seat to accommodate the overweight passenger) or they can pay to “upgrade” to business class. If the flight is completely full, then the overweight passenger gets bumped from the flight. But don’t worry! They get refunded. (Continental, Southwest, and Delta already have similar policies.)

The airline made the change after receiving nearly 700 complaints last year from passengers who claimed that the overweight person seated next to them on their flight “infringed on their seat.”

Perhaps the only thing shittier than this policy is the fact that, in several polls I’ve seen in the past couple days, the overwhelming majority of people seem to agree with it.

I mean, seriously. Do parents get fined when their babies cry throughout a flight, or when their kids kick the backs of seats? Do people get fined for bringing really smelly sandwiches on board that fill the entire coach section with smells of onions and vinegar, or for being really smelly themselves, or having loud, obnoxious conversations with their traveling companions? Cause I’d say all those things “infringe” on the other passenger’s comfort as much as not having a left armrest.

There has been so, so much research on biological causes for obesity, and on the ways the classic diet-and-exercise prescription does not work for many, many people. But no matter, cause our society really hates fat people, to the point that 75% of us say make the fatties pay, goddamn it, even when there are empty seats on the fucking plane, because the very presence of their oversized bodies is “infringing” on our comfort.

Seems like, as our society gets more and more “enlightened,” all it’s doing is creating new scapegoats for itself.


13 responses to “making the fatties pay!

  1. Well, as a former UAL employee (and 2nd generation at that), I’m mortified that my former employers are being so inhumane. When I was a customer service agent I spent a lot of time switching seat assignments around to accommodate families, couples, etc., and even on full flights there was always a way to accommodate nearly everyone. I can’t help but wonder how much of this is truly due to fuel costs and weights-and-balances considerations.

  2. Hey, you! So nice to see you on here–
    I totally forgot you used to work for United. I seem to remember you scoring some insanely cheap flight for a bunch of us when I was still at PC and me backing out cause I didn’t want to miss my Arthurian Legends class with Esolen (and the April Fool’s issue of The Cowl). That’s up there with me not going to see Pavement cause I had a Civ quiz the next day on my List of Bonehead Undergrad Moves.

    On this policy, inhumane is the perfect word for it. I do think that the decision was made with offsetting costs in mind, much like the decisions to charge passengers for all checked luggage or not to give out complimentary tea and coffee. Even at that, though, the only reason that they are able to get away with such a nasty policy is because they know there’s not a lot of sympathy out there for overweight people, and I hate that they are exploiting that. It’s so not cool. (sigh)

  3. I say make the fatties pay! Same goes for all holders of said smelly samwitchs, screaming babies, loud convos etc etc.

  4. This post needs fewer pictures.

  5. Part of me feels like it’d make me happy if the smelly sandwiched, crying babied, loud conversation-having passengers were fined for being douchebags. But then I think of this awesome Louis C.K. bit that Michelle had on her blog a while back, where he talks about what a bunch of entitled poopheads we’ve all become.

    Part of the bit is about people who complain about inconveniences while they are flying.

    Watch it, cause it’s awesome!

    I’m not sure if listening to it made me a less-cranky person, but it definitely made me feel guiltier about being cranky. All while being an utterly chuckle-tastic piece of comedy, of course.

  6. I say we pay the fatties to instead act AS chairs. You could choose a fashionable, padded, moisture wicking, “chair cover” (moo-moo) pattern from a catalog at the check-in counter, slap it on said fatty and curl up for the long flight. Everyone wins!

  7. I’ve had my seat more infringed up by a skinny guy in his 20s than a more portly gentlemen I once sat next to. The skinny kid started out with his right arm on my left armrest with his elbow flexed – his elbow was about even with my belly-button. Then he fell asleep and his head kept lolling onto my head cushion. He acted annoyed with me when I had to wake him up to put down my tray-table. Then I made the mistake of going to the bathroom. When I got back his head, arm and feet were in the spaces where my head, arms & feet were supposed to go. Oh, and he took his shoes off as soon as he sat down and they STUNK! I still hate that guy.

  8. Yah! Louis C.K. is so great. “Like how quickly the world owes him something he knew existed only ten seconds ago.”

  9. I first heard Louis CK do that bit when I saw him at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, DE. Of course he was awesome, “Can you wait one second while it goes to space and back?!”

  10. On the chair solution– I guess I can’t get indignant about not being taken seriously when I dedicate entries to photos of David Hasselhoff “soap” dispensers.

    On annoying, smelly, skinny guy–I totally know that dude.

    On Louis C.K.–He’s pretty freaking awesome.

    An update, United seems to have modified their policy a little bit because of the crap they got for the original version. It’s better, but I still think having to purchase an upgrade is crappy. It seems to imply that otherwise, people will want to be overweight so they can fly business class for cheap. Um… yeah. Not so much.

  11. My question is this: if you have purchased a small amount of space, and someone who has purchased the same amount of space takes part of your space, isn’t that not ok?

    I see it as more of a ‘your ticket buys you 1 square foot (i’m terrible with spacial relations) of space on this vessel, in a clearly defined area’ and if the person next to you fills up more than their clearly defined space then they have to pay for more.

    I agree that it’s upsetting, and sometimes not the fault of the person who is bigger, but I look at it more like there are lines and if you cross them then you, sadly, have to pay. I’m also willing to bet that more people have atrocious eating habits than legitimate medical issues.

    It’s the same thing with someone who brings a ridiculously sized bag onto the plane. Make them check it or charge them more for that shit as it’s infringing upon the communal space that we’ve all agreed to share.

    As for the crying babies, obnoxiously loud talkers and smelly food people, that shit is annoying but you can always tell the smelly food people that their food stinks, the obnoxiously loud talkers to shut up and the babies you can give liquor to to make them fall asleep. You can’t tell the large person to take up less space.

    In conclusion, I apparently hate fat people.

  12. Yes, yes, you apparently do. Expect to wake up as a 500-pound man tomorrow as karmic retribution, young Gregor!

    I’m not an obesity expert by any stretch, but I’ve gotten the impression from what I’ve read that a considerable percentage of people who are significantly overweight–the ones who aren’t going to be able to put their armrest down, or buckle their seatbelt even with an extender–have metabolic issues, or don’t produce enough (or sometimes any) PYY or Leptin, the hormones that regulate appetite. And, with many doctors still reticent to diagnose these conditions despite the research that supports their existence, it would be impossible for airlines to determine who they were discriminating against based on a medical condition.

    But the real point here is that, despite what the media might have us think, overweight people have not exactly come into existence overnight. As Mercurio mentioned above, airlines managed to work around passengers’ needs before they all started going bankrupt. That they’ve decided they need to charge people for seat changes only after they started losing money is particularly suspicious.

  13. I agree with Mike a bit. It is unfair if someone infringes on your space, no matter the reason (especially if you are on a transatlantic flight for 10 hours – or even worse, a trip Down Under for 20 some hours). Once I was on a flight to Europe and I had the back row seat, so no reclining. Fine. But the seat in front of mine was broken and reclined back ridiculously far – how far you wish your airplane seat would recline, not the 3 inches you normally get (and which can still be annoying to the person behind you). The woman in that seat was already reclining more than normal before she hit the button and essentially put her head in my lap. I am not exaggerating, I could not cross my legs because her seat was in the way. The flight attendants did not care. They said I could not be moved as the flight was full. When I pointed at the row of empty seat directly across the aisle from me they said they were for them (the flight attendants) and that I could not have one. By the time I deplaned I was ready to kill someone. My point is, if a large person infringes on your already small amount of space, that is enough to drive someone crazy. Flight attendants are not always helpful (quite the opposite in my experience). And who wants to be the jerk who says, in front of the large person, “Can you move this fatty, her fat is spilling over into my personal space.” So instead, people suffer the infringement in silence.

    It all comes down to the cattle-like experience of Coach – excuse me, Economy Class. The seats are too small to begin with, the leg room almost non-existent – and I have short little legs, I can’t imagine how someone 6+ inches taller than me feels.

    So the airlines cram as many people into that back section as they can, to make as much off every flight as they can. Now they are taking advantage of the fact that some people are bigger and are going to charge those people instead of training flight attendants to recognize this issue and resolve it as best they can. People get bumped up a class all the time. I think the person next to the large person should get the free bump, though. That way the large person has the extra room and the person who would have been next to them gets a comfy business class seat.

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