I’ve flown on and off my whole life. I always enjoyed flying until I became an adult, and then all of a sudden it made me really, really nervous. I fly when I need to, but don’t love it like my husband does. Every time I fly I grip the armrests willing the plane up in the air and then just as fervently willing it down again. Fortunately, every time I’ve flown it has been a safe flight. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always the most enjoyable flight.
I successfully avoided flying for a long time while I was obese. I had an opportunity or two to fly somewhere but always managed to get out of it. There was one time where I absolutely had to get on an airplane, so I did.
I had been morbidly obese long enough that I knew it wasn’t going to be a lot of fun sitting squished in a seat several sizes too small for several hours. I had already experienced the humiliation of breaking chairs, getting stuck in booths at restaurants, and getting winded just walking up a few steps to understand that my obesity was a huge problem.
Once I arrived at the airport that morning I went directly to my gate. I looked around at the other passengers and – as expected – I was by far the biggest person there. I felt like everyone was looking at me – secretly hoping they weren’t seated next to me. If I had been them I would have secretly been hoping the same thing. More and more people came to the gate and I heard the attendant announce that the flight was full. “Great,” I thought. “Now I will have to sit next to someone for sure.” And sure enough, a few minutes later there I was.
I was in the window seat, a medium largish man was next to me, and a skinny man was occupying the aisle seat, hanging onto his armrest for dear life. I wished I could just suck in my girth but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t make myself any smaller. I struggled with the seat belt after reassuring the flight attendant that I definitely did not need a seat belt extender. I really needed one, but with a lot of tugging I managed to get the belt buckled. I knew that belt wasn’t getting unbuckled until we reached our destination. I was afraid I might not get it fastened again.
The whole flight was exceedingly uncomfortable – both for me and my poor seat mates. Not surprisingly, neither one of them spoke to me during the flight. Fortunately, my flight home was better as I had a seat to myself.
I’ve read a lot of stories in the newspaper lately about Southwest Airlines requiring passengers as big as I was to purchase two seats. Having lived both sides of this situation I am torn on what is the right way to handle an obese passenger. I understand the airlines’ concern, but I also know that sometimes obese people need to fly and they can’t always afford two tickets. It’s a bad Catch-22.
What’s your take on airline flights? Have you ever felt uncomfortable on a flight, and do you think obese passengers should be required to purchase an extra ticket? Diane