Preparing to travel by aeroplane can often prove a stressful experience: you have to get there hours before your flight to check in and get through security (ideally without being pulled off to one side because the underwire in your bra set off the metal detector). You need your boarding pass, passport and any other paperwork prepped and ready. You have to decant liquids into tiny bottles and set them aside in a plastic bag. And, if you’re a nervous flyer, you’ve additionally got to haul on anything and everything you need to keep yourself feeling calm, relaxed and able to handle the (air) pressure.
But, for some people, flying is even more of a nightmare.
Twitter user Your Fat Friend has started a thread about what it’s like to fly “as a very fat person”, revealing the preparation she has to put in for every single flight she takes.
She explains: “I researched airlines for their ‘customer of size’ policies, many of which reserve the right to kick me off the plane, even after boarding.
“The rest require purchase of a second seat. If I don't buy one in advance, I'll be charged the day-of price. Today, that's $800 one way.
“I'm charged for that second seat regardless of whether one is available. I pay double for the privilege of staying on the plane.
“Even if I buy a second seat in advance, the airline may still sell it to another passenger. If they do, I won't be notified or refunded.”
I bought a round trip first class ticket for this trip--about $900 more than a coach ticket, but on this flight--still less $ than 2 seats.— Your Fat Friend (she/her) (@yrfatfriend) July 17, 2017
I brought my own seatbelt extender, so I wouldn't have to ask for one. Sometimes my extender is confiscated by the TSA. Today it wasn't.— Your Fat Friend (she/her) (@yrfatfriend) July 17, 2017
Your Fat Friend goes on to explain that she often pays for more expensive seats, in order to ensure extra room, and even buys her own seatbelt extender.
“I’m not worried about the embarrassment of asking for a seatbelt extender,” she says. “I know I'm fat.
“I'm worried that hearing me ask for an extender will prompt others to complain. If they do, it starts a domino effect of trouble for me. Passengers complaining to flight attendants will get me reseated, charged double, or escorted off the plane, stranded without a way home.
Over the last 2 yrs, about 50% of passengers in my row complained about me. So, my body is regularly discussed in my presence w/o my input.— Your Fat Friend (she/her) (@yrfatfriend) July 17, 2017
Some policies don't include a refund or rebooking policy. So I could be out $1300 & still stranded. That's a risk I take every time I fly.— Your Fat Friend (she/her) (@yrfatfriend) July 17, 2017
And no matter what happens, if someone complains, my body will be discussed loudly, with open revulsion, without regard for who hears it.— Your Fat Friend (she/her) (@yrfatfriend) July 17, 2017
Your Fat Friend goes on to explain that, no matter what precautions she takes, people still end up talking about her body with “open revulsion”.
“As a very fat person on a plane, I am treated like luggage – a cumbersome, exasperating inconvenience,” she says.
“Inanimate and unfeeling.”
I also checked my bag so I wouldn't give any other passengers another reason to be irritated with me.— Your Fat Friend (she/her) (@yrfatfriend) July 17, 2017
I bought a first class tickets bc they're a bit wider, but mostly because there are partitions between seats. So complaints are less likely.— Your Fat Friend (she/her) (@yrfatfriend) July 17, 2017
Although I bought a first class ticket, and despite being ~60 lbs smaller than I used to be, the tray table doesn't fit around me.— Your Fat Friend (she/her) (@yrfatfriend) July 17, 2017
Your Fat Friend continues: “Without a tray table, I can't work for the full six hours. I also won't be able to eat the first class meal that comes with the ticket.
“I also won't request anything so the flight attendant doesn't have to reach over me, again prompting my seat mate to complain.
“So I'll sit silently, arms crossed, so I don't encroach on my neighbour's space.”
Today, I was lucky--I boarded & the flight took off without incident. I hope I'm so lucky on my return flight.— Your Fat Friend (she/her) (@yrfatfriend) July 17, 2017
Sometimes, she tells her Twitter followers, she manages to complete her flight without incident – but there is always another time to worry about.
And, while the Your Fat Friend account has been praised by many internet users for the honesty and openness about fat-shaming, there were some trolls who felt the need to share their opinion about her body, accusing her of being “over-emotional” and of needing to “realise that you’re bothering everyone and just lose the weight”.
To these people, Your Fat Friend has a message.
“No one likes flying,” she says. “It’s not comfortable for anyone. But, for some of us, it’s a major physical, financial and emotional risk.
“And this isn't about emotional fragility. I'm vulnerable, but I'm tough. This is about airline policies, and about what happens when others decide to make an issue of my body.”