Thursday, 31 January 2019

Should Obese People Be Charged More For Plane Seats? My Thoughts!



I was tagged in to a clip from a TV show yesterday by someone I know online, and although I admit that I did not go and watch the full segment before writing this (because I find that forcing myself to listen to these sorts of "debates" makes me angry) - I wanted to share my opinion on the 10 seconds that I did see.

The show featured a woman who was giving her opinion on why airlines should charge obese people more money for plane seats as they take up extra space/require larger seats. (EDIT: Since writing this I looked her up on twitter and realised she makes a living in profiting from exactly the insecurities she's trying to force on to larger women...EYE ROLL!)

Her reasoning was along the lines of "I think it's a good thing that people are called out on their size on airplanes because that shame might then make them go home and turn their lives around".

Now let's be honest here...unless you are somebody with absolutely no idea of how the human body, mental health or human rights work ...you'll already have written her opinion off as the mind-numbingly ignorant trash that it is.

But let's just, for arguments sake, dedicate a moment or two to just a handful of the reasons why this is bullshit.

Allow me to speak on this from my own personal point of view for a moment.

Now as things stand, I do not currently need more space on a plane - I have not had an issue fitting in to plane seating and have not needed a seat belt extender on any flights I have taken so rest assured that this not coming from me feeling put out at the suggestion that I may have to fork out more money to fly - however, I AM considered obese by the (out dated and not fit for purpose by admission of its own creator) BMI system.

And contrary to popular (ignorant) belief, I am NOT obese because of what I eat or how much I move.

I have a very sound knowledge of nutrition, after having suffered years of allergies and digestive issues I have had to become very familiar with what the human body needs and how food is processed through our systems.

I do not overeat very often at all...in fact I would bet money that I eat less than the average person of "normal" weight.

Instead...the reason that I have gained a lot of weight in recent years is that my metabolism is barely functioning thanks to the effects of the thyroid disease I have lived with for all of my adult life. I also need to take inflammatory steroid-based medications daily in order to stay alive, which contribute too.

I could survive on a diet of undressed salad and lean proteins and nothing more, and still not lose weight. I know this because I have done it before!

So if I was to be fat-shamed by an airline...I would certainly not be able to go home and make any sort of lifestyle change that would reduce my body size and stop me from having to experience fat shaming again.

However...what I might do, and have done in the past when fat shamed in public, is go home and plunge in to a deep depression. Maybe I'd self harm. Maybe I'd even kill myself.

These are all very real possibilities for people who are bullied and shamed, because MENTAL HEALTH IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS PHYSICAL HEALTH.

Now let me also say...that even if a person is obese not because of any underlying physical or mental health problem, or because of any genetic predisposition to it...but because they genuinely do choose to eat unhealthy foods all day and take no exercise at all...does this then mean that they deserve our judgement, shame and bullying?

Umm...no. No it does not.

Because people have the right to live and exist exactly as they choose to.

And given that you cannot tell ANYTHING about a persons health, life experiences, or anything else of importance simply by the size and shape of their body - nobody has any business or right to make any assumptions about them, or treat them differently because of it.

So back to the issue of plane seating.

If airlines were to start charging larger bodied people more for seats - then where do we draw the line?

Shouldn't they also start charging smaller bodied people less for taking up less space? Should they start forcing thin people to share their seats, so as not to waste that extra room?

Should they start charging wheelchair users for the space their wheelchairs take up on a flight? I mean, if I'm fat because of a health condition and they're charging me then everyone needs to be treated equally...right?

It becomes ridiculous.

As a follower pointed out to me when I discussed this on Instagram stories yesterday...this is all scarily reminiscent of times gone by when black people were made to sit at the back of the bus.

We're supposed to have learnt and moved on from this sort of cruelty and prejudice as a society, so how can anybody think it acceptable to treat people differently because of their body size?

It is not ok. It is not acceptable treatment.

And making fat people pay more for plane seats is never going to cure obesity...because there is SO MUCH more to size than diet and exercise, much of which is out of the control of so many of us...all it is going to do is stop fat people from taking flights.

Making them stay at home instead. Leading to even more exclusion, even more depression, even more mental health problems.

We should not be taking steps to make society even more non inclusive for fat people.

We should be doing the opposite.

And shame on you if you think any differently.

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3 comments

  1. Ahh! I saw this discussion on This Morning yesterday and was fuming!
    If they charge bigger people more they should charge pregnant people too if they want to be petty as they are carrying an extra person and obviously more weight.
    If I was fat shamed on a plane I would be more inclined to go home and never leave the house again. It wouldn't encourage me to exercise.

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  2. I think the issue could easily be resolved if airlines just made the seats a little bit wider. This isn't an obesity issue, this is a teenie tiny seated money-grubbing airline issue. My husband is tall, he's broad, and not at all 'fat', but when we're on an airline his shoulders are partly in my space and partly in our son's because seats are just not very wide. The seatbelt closes with ease but it doesn't change the fact if you had 2 or 3 men of similar size sitting in a row all would be VERY uncomfortable the entire flight.

    I realise airlines would be reluctant to reduce capacity of flights in order for their passengers to actually be comfy but I for one would happily pay a little bit more for my family's tickets in order for us ALL (tall, short, fat, thin, young, old and inbetween) to be comfortable.

    The topic just infuriates me, as it does many many people I guess.

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  3. I think something you say in this post is essential: mental health matters and bullying is wrong.

    When it comes to obesity - IT IS A WORLDWIDE PROBLEM. One of the leading causes of death in the Western World or contributors. Most of the time (you mention you're an exception) obesity especially morbid obesity is inflicted by the said individual by eating huge amounts of food. Yes, I acknowledge the mental implications, chances are if someone is obese or morbidly obese, they have some sort of unhealthy relationship with food and mental issues they need to work trough.

    I am myself overweight, so believe me, I sympathise with this more than you'd think. Is the answer to 'pushing' obese people into healthier lifestyles by shaming them? No. However...

    You also have to consider the other side of the story. I've been on a flight with someone a lot bigger sitting next to me. It was very uncomfortable for both the person and me. So yes, there should be bigger seats available on the plane to accommodate these people.

    BUT if I have to pay on the plane extra for added leg space or 1st class ticket then someone should also have to pay for the extra seating space - it's that simple. Disabled people already sometimes have to pay extra to accommodate their needs - for example when getting an Uber. Whether it's right or wrong is another issue.

    Consider, if an airline were to add a few rows of bigger seats. Let's say last 3 rows of 3 seats on both sides were switched out to 2 seats. That's 9x2=18 seats opposed to 6x2=12. That's a profit loss of 6 seats for that airline - it makes sense why they'd choose to charge extra for these seats to make up the loss.

    I agree the way the arguments for this were presented on TV was foul. Absolutely disgusting.

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