real life

‘I’m a fat traveller and my worst nightmare just came true while flying.’

A few months ago, I shared my experience of flying while fat

I'd felt hopeful about the future of travelling and for those who live in bodies like mine. I thought there could finally be some dignity in flying while fat.

Perhaps, finally, some other, unfamiliar feeling could replace the paralysing anxiety that pulled the air out of any plane I flew on. Maybe the guilt I feel for being a burden wouldn't be so debilitating any longer. 

I was wrong. 

Watch: How to improve your daughter's body image. Post continues after video. 

Video via Mamamia.

I knew flying with a budget airline could go terribly. I'd read the horror articles from paying customers who had been rebuffed by staff and told they couldn't fly with medical devices they'd paid to have onboard. I knew of the discrimination plus-size people face while flying. 

Still, I was with a large group of friends. I thought it would be okay to book two seats for myself. If I made the staff at the front desk aware of what I needed so they could help before it was too late. If I asked for a seat belt extender upon boarding so I could avoid having to be a burden. If I requested to get on the plane first so I didn't have to inconvenience anyone else, that could make everyone's experience better. 


I was wrong. 

First, my seats were not put together, despite paying extra to make sure they were. So my friend offered to sit in one of the seats that was 25 rows apart from the other. Problem solved. 

Then they forgot to check my friends and me on to our flight. The front desk attendant was rushed and uncomfortable with my request to board the flight first. The eyes of other travellers who were also waiting to board added extra pressure. 

Understandable. We were five minutes ahead of schedule. I still felt hopeful. 

But then it got worse. Much, much worse. 

The pilot came on the intercom, telling the plane filled to the brim with passengers that there was a "weight distribution" issue. 

Read: The fatty is too fat to fly. 

If there was a moment to melt into the chair, it would be the split second that followed the pilot's announcement. The worst, most unimaginable nightmare of my body becoming the primary focus of hundreds of people came true. 

I was asked by the air staff to change seats. I refused. I had booked my seats specifically to suit my situation and I had paid good money for them.


Despite doing everything I could to prevent this, it still happened. 

Many might roll their eyes at this story. Tell me in the comments to lose weight, to not blame the people doing their job or the innocent passengers who fell victim to my personal issue. 

Typically, I would agree. But when a flight attendant told me the ground staff had made countless mistakes when I asked for help with my situation, and that the particular airport we were flying from is known for making these types of mistakes, I knew I can't be the only fat passenger this has happened to. 

I'm terrified to acknowledge it definitely won't be the last. 

Listen to this episode of Mamamia Daily, read by Shannen Findlay. Post continues after audio. 

There are bigger problems in the world. Things that really matter on a global scale. 

I also have a privilege not everyone else does. As a journalist, I told the airline I would be writing an article about my experience. They phoned me straight away, asked what they could do and how they could make this better.

Because of our call, change will happen. I got a sincere, unreserved apology for what occurred — because it doesn't matter if anyone should think I deserved this, it shouldn't have happened at all. My struggle will lead to direct change. 

That's a good thing.


And still, my own experience of flying speaks to a bigger issue.

When profit is more important than people, where do we go from here?

Sure, the tight seats were manageable and the stares from fellow flyers meant little in the grand scheme of things. We will all move on. Tomorrow is a new day.

But it is a reminder that you can do everything right; spend an obscene amount of money, warn the airline of your size and pay for two seats, and ask for them to be next to each other.

You can find solace in your friends who hold your clammy hand on the tarmac, let them warm your ear with sweet, reassuring words and even have the wonderful flight attendants (seriously, they were wonderful) tell you that you'll be okay; that your body is okay.

And it still won't matter. None of it will matter. 

You are a nuisance and a pain in their side before you are ever a human being or a paying customer. Because profit matters more than dignity, or basic human respect, ever will. 

And until a clear, direct policy for plus-size passengers is available with a simple Google search or phone call, then whatever movement working to solve body discrimination means nothing. 

And if you ask me, that's a real tragedy. 

Feature Image: Supplied.