Flying When Fat
We've all heard the stories about overweight passengers being kicked off of planes, humiliated in public at the airport, or being forced to buy two seats. And because of this, many large people are nervous about flying. However, as an overweight woman, I can assure you that there are ways for the obese to fly (relatively) comfortably and with dignity.
First, let's get one thing straight. I'm not merely chubby. I'm seriously overweight. I'd rather not disclose my actual weight, but it's safe to call me obese. And while I worry about many things relating to this, including my health, flying isn't one of them. I'm not fond of flying, anyway, but that has nothing to do with my size. As for my size, my goal is to not let it get in the way. Sure, I'd like to lose weight, but in the meantime, why limit myself and my life's adventures?
With this attitude in mind, I've become a frequent flier, taking several trips a year—many of them long haul. I've flown to Australia, New Zealand and just came back from Nigeria ... and I've never let my weight become an issue.
I've seen too many overweight people miss out on things because they feared that their fat would prevent them from participating. I can tell you that with a few tricks, you, too can fly to your favorite destination and enjoy the trip that you deserve!
Flying for Overweight Passengers
1. Before you step onto a plane, see your doctor. I'm diabetic so I made sure that it was safe for me to take a long flight and go to Nigeria. If you suffer from high blood pressure, a bad back, heart problems, etc., it's better to get yourself checked out beforehand. You don't want to get sick on the plane or on your trip. Let's be honest: if you're obese like I am, there's a good chance that you have health problems. Don't let them get in the way.
2. Book your flight well in advance. If you're able, book it a couple of months ahead of time, and do it online. This way, you can choose your seat and won't get stuck in that dreaded middle chair. I personally like aisle seats because they give me more room on one side. It's also easier for me to get up to use the restroom because I don't have to crawl over people.
3. If you can, book a seat on a plane that has a two-seat configuration instead of three. Some airlines, like Delta and KLM have rows with two seats by the windows. I've found these to be so much roomier. A great place to look at plane layouts is seatguru. This site gives you all of the information you need, including the seat width and plane setup for every airline. Many airlines are now offering economy upgrade or economy plus where you pay $50-100 extra for seats with more room. We did this on the way home from Amsterdam on KLM and it was worth it!
4. Try to travel with someone. I'm lucky because I always travel with my husband. He's used to my size and just takes the middle seat, letting me have the aisle. I don't have to worry about bumping him. But this can be awkward if you're seated next to a stranger, especially if he gives you a hard time about your size. But if you are traveling alone...
5. Try to negotiate for a more comfortable seat. Yeah, this can be a little embarrassing, but most flight crews are discreet. Ask if you can switch seats so that you're sitting next to a child or a skinny person. If you are given the middle seat, ask the aisle passenger if you can switch, explaining that you'll ALL be more comfortable. Trust me, no one wants to feel smushed when they're flying, even the skinny folk, so more often than not, people will make the swap.
Read More from WanderWisdom
6. Buy your own seatbelt extender. You can order one for a few bucks online. This way, you never have to ask the flight attendant for one. Plus, not every airline has seatbelt extenders on board. Just make sure that the extender you get works for the airline which you're flying. Usually when you purchase it, there's a list of appropriate airlines in the description. But if you don't bring an extender, quietly ask a flight attendant for one when you get on the plane. Like I said, they're usually discreet.
7. Go to the restroom beforehand! Airline bathrooms are small and cramped. If you have a shorter flight, you might be able to get away with skipping the restroom. But if you're on a longer flight, try to go during "unpopular" times. I've found that the restrooms get long lines soon after the meal service is over and about an hour before you land. Go during the bathroom "off season" so that you can take your time and squeeze into the restroom carefully. If you can't fit well, then you may have to resort to asking if you can use the restroom in first class. Again, I've found that flight attendants are usually kind and cooperative.
8. Bring your own food. Many airlines don't even serve meals these days so you'll need to bring food, anyway, but for me, my problem is that I can't lower the meal tray. My stomach just sticks out too much (I wasn't kidding about my size). Obviously, you don't want to hold a burning hot tray on your lap so what I do is lower my husband's tray and use his. Then when I'm finished, he uses it to eat his meal. You don't have to eat at the same time as everyone else. Usually if you ask the flight attendant if you can have your meal afterward so you can reuse the tray, they'll agree. Of course, if you don't know the person next to you, it can be awkward asking if you can do this. I have no shame, though, so I've flat-out asked and have never had an issue. But if you'd rather avoid this, bring your own food.
9. Get to the airport early. Getting around the airport can be exhausting. There are long lines and often long walks to the gate. If you're in not-so-great shape like me, you don't want to have to rush through the airport. I like having the time to sit and relax as I make my way through the terminal.
10. That said, pack light and print out your boarding pass beforehand. My No. 1 travel tip is to only bring a carry on bag. This has nothing to do with my weight; it has to do with getting through the airport more quickly, saving money and not losing my luggage. BUT this also helps me as an overweight person. For one thing, I don't have to wait on as many lines so I can spare my knees and back some pain. Also, I can keep track of my bag which contrains my plus-sized clothing. Not every country sells clothing for someone my size and I want to make sure I have stuff to wear. Keeping my bags within sight assures me of this.
11. Join a program where you can earn airline miles. If you get enough of these, you can upgrade to business or first class—where the seats are larger.
12. Book your flight during an "unpopular" time. If you take a very early morning flight or fly to a cooler place during the winter or off-season, there's more of a chance that there will be empty seats on the plane. You can then ask if you can sit in an emptier row. When we flew to Australia, we took the red eye during their winter (our summer) and the flight was only half full. I got a whole row to myself and it was great! I stretched out and slept for eight full hours.
13. If you really have to, buy two seats or buy a seat in first class. I've never done this, but if you're large enough, there just might not be another option. Again, see about getting air miles so you can at least save money.
14. NEVER FEEL BADLY ABOUT YOURSELF! You deserve to fly as much as anyone else. Don't stop living life because you're large. Enjoy it and take that vacation that you've been dreaming of.