You May Now Feel Free to Move About the Cabin...Unless You're FAT!

No doubt, you’ve heard about this riduclosity.

United Airlines is following Southwest’s lead and starting to enforce weight restrictions, charging more money for larger passengers to secure a second seat. You know, lest their fat actually spreads under the arm rest and their thigh touches a thin persons.

Oh, and if you’re plus-sized and don’t’ fit within the dotted lines and your flight is full, and the helpful United airline attendant (who, I’m assuming, has to fit some sort of corporate-enforced weight or appearance quota of her own) is unable to move you to a row with two open seats, you may actually have to deplane and wait for the next flight. As in, get up, gather your belongings from the overhead compartment and leave the plane in front of everyone. Because you are too huge.

This just makes me gag.

According to, it works like this:

“For the comfort and well-being of all customers aboard United flights, we have aligned with other major airlines' seating policies relating to passengers who:

-are unable to fit into a single seat in the ticketed cabin;
-are unable to properly buckle the seatbelt using a single seatbelt extender; and/or
-are unable to put the seat's armrests down when seated.

If unused seats are available on the ticketed United or United Express flight, then a customer meeting any of the above criteria will be reaccommodated next to an empty seat.”

Don’t you love their use of the word “reaccommodated”? As if United is being super gracious by going out of their way (weight? OK, not funny) to kick you off their 747 because you can’t fit in a seat that even I, at 140 pounds, have a difficult time getting comfortable in.

Also, the flight attendants themselves will decide who needs to be moved. WTF?! Is this "1984" orsomething?

As Craig Newman of the Chicago Sun-Times asks,

“Here’s the big question, especially for gate agents: How do you determine who’s too big to go in one seat? Are they supposed to pull people out of line who look a little too hefty? Will calipers and Body Mass Index charts be issued and hanging next to the luggage check scale? Are there measurements involved? How soon til the first discrimination lawsuit is filed? And will there be discounts for the svelte fliers?”

Kate Harding at Shapely Prose also had an interesting point  - about how this rule may actually target women more than men because of the different ways we tend to store weight:

“Fat men are more likely to carry their weight out front, and even with a pretty substantial gut, you can get a seatbelt buckled underneath it. The armrest and seatbelt restrictions are mostly going to affect people with wide hips — i.e., women, a hell of a lot more often than not. Al is a full foot taller than me and outweighs me by close to a buck — he takes up a LOT more space than I do, and is a lot more uncomfortable flying. But my hips spread out underneath the armrests and run the risk of accidentally touching the poor slob next to me. His don’t. I wouldn’t have to gain too much weight to have trouble lowering the arm rests. Al would either have to gain a shitload of weight or get an entirely different body shape. I realize not every woman is pear-shaped and not every man is hipless, but on average, it’s just common sense: who’s more likely to have broad hips?”

Answers: Broads.

Oh, but if you do require more than 14 inches worth of seat space, don’t worry. United to the rescue again. If an additional seat needs to be purchased, the fare for that second seat “will be the same as the fare paid for the original seat, regardless of whether the additional ticket is purchased along with the original ticket or separately. This applies even if the additional ticket is purchased on the day of departure, when fares are normally higher.” Awww…that is SO THOUGHTFUL!  But, lest you think that by ponying up for two seats, that you get to bring an extra carry-on, be forewarned. Carry-on baggage policies are determined by the Transportation Security Administration, not by United, and are per passenger, not per ticket. “As a result,” states, “carry-on allowances remain the same regardless of the number of tickets purchased.”

(Honestly, I *get* that sometimes people need to pay more for things because of their size (ie premiums on clothing at big and tall stores or petite sections, altering for garments) but when it comes to this airline business, this just seems like cruel and unusal punishment. I don't know necessarily what SHOULD be done, but I know this ain't it.)

Bottomline: Thin people pay less money to fly, biggies may get bumped, and only one laptop and purse per person, no matter how skinny your jeans may be. Thank you for flying the friendly skies.

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