Ahhh air travel! What was once an elite and glamorous adventure into the great space beyond the clouds is now more of a cattle call of shared discomfort and bitterness. While I’m no longer a nervous flyer thanks to my old career that required regular air travel, I do still get that pang of “Please don’t pick on the fatty!” when waiting to board a plane.
I have traveled all over the United States and four E.U. countries. Every time I board a plane I make eye contact with the first flight attendant I encounter, smile and ask for a seat belt extender, “Hi, may I use a seat belt extender? I’m in 26E. Thank you!” and head directly to my seat. I have worked in customer service since I was 10 years old. I treat all service professionals this way. Occasionally they will have one handy and offer it up right away, but usually they come find me once most people have boarded. I have never been asked to buy a second seat; I have never been removed from a flight for any reason. I weigh 325 lbs and have 62″ hips (around), I am pear shaped and have semi-broad shoulders, too. I typically have one small wheelie suitcase and one “personal item”; this time it was my NAAFA tote bag. I say this to give you an idea of my experience and thought process. I am in no way saying it is the “right” or “proper” way of doing anything.
This recent trip to Ohio gave me pause for many reasons, but I have to admit that I was anxious about the air travel portion because I was traveling with someone I really didn’t know very well and wasn’t sure if they would have my back if a “pick on the fatty” situation arose. Our departing flight from SFO to Chicago on American Airlines was a full flight…Oh no! This was a warning sign, right? Well, it was uncomfortable as hell, but no issues to report. That’s the thing, though, flying ain’t comfortable! But I always fly coach.
Our connecting flight to Dayton, Ohio was on one of those teeny commuter planes. The kind with two seats on one side of the aisle and one seat on the other. I’d been on one of those once before, to LAX and it was the first time a flight attendant walked up to me, lifted the arm rest (it was the aisle side one) and said, “I want you to be comfortable, sweety.” and smiled. Nice! This one wasn’t bad, I was once again in the single seat and it was a short flight, no worries.I will say that on both of the commuter planes on this trip I was asked to check my bag at the gate (I think they called it “Valet service” or something), but I just picked it up in the exact same place when we landed.
Our return flights were even better than the first leg, again American Airlines. In fact on the flight back to SFO the flight attendant remembered me when I asked for a seat belt extender, I didn’t even get my entire request out, she was awesome. I mean, she sees hundreds if not thousands of people every week and she remembered me fondly. I was touched, but kept wondering if it was my red hair or my fatness or simply that I smiled and was friendly to her that she remembered me. Ha-ha! Not only that, but the flight was barely half full and thus we all had plenty of room and I was quite comfortable. Woot!
I share all of this with you not to brag or be unbearably boring, but to let you know that a (bad ass) fat ass like me can fly without discrimination (that I was aware of, am I right?). All flight crew I encountered with American Airlines was friendly and helpful, though I didn’t ask for anything but the extenders and refused beverage service. I didn’t lose any luggage or get extra screening at security. Am I just lucky? Maybe. Am I confident and semi-assertive? A bit. But mostly, I am just me. I try not to have expectations for such things and know that no one is comfortable in these situations. I try my best to go with the flow and not make waves, as it were. I know this goes against my usual “Damn the man!” attitude, but being in a tight, crowded space is for me not the moment to be a mouthpiece for anything but myself. When/if I ever am singled out for my fatness (and bodaciousness, oh yeah!), I only hope that I will have it in me to speak up for myself.
Thanks for reading.
Rad Fatty Love to you All,