Few things in life are more uncomfortable than being stuffed into coach seating on an airplane--especially when you're stuck in the middle seat and the person in front of you has exercised his rude right to recline. With airlines now insistent on filling every tiny seat, the odds for comfort are pretty much gone.
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And it's worse if you're fat. Moral judgments and lectures on dieting aside, sometimes fat people have to fly. I might book my ticket a month in advance and live on Slim Fast and carrot sticks, but when I get on that plane, I'm still going to be a big, squeezed-in, fat person. Granted, I'm one of those nice people who contorts herself and sits folded and twisted so that I don't encroach on anyone else's space--but given that my space is right up against the next guy's space, there's always this sense that everyone's just a little too close.
Couple that with attitude from the airline flight crew, and I've sunk to the depths of misery.
That's why I like to fly US Airways--their flight crew. Not only are they perfectly capable, perky, and so talented in serving those yummy little containers of lemonade with the tin foil tops, but they're also professionally trained in the art of handling fat people.
I am not making this up. Several years ago, NAAFA, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, approached a number of US airlines and asked to educate them about the needs of fat people when flying. US Airways was the only airline willing to listen--and was so impressed, they incorporated the information into their flight attendant training.
Now, before you go berserk and start howling about fat people demanding extra rights and free first class upgrades, it's things like this:
Seat belt extenders Sometimes big people need seat belt extenders; the first few times they have to ask can be humiliating. US Airways crew are trained to be discreet about this--extenders are offered quietly, often with the phrase "Those belts are so small--this will make it a little more comfortable." The extenders are also distributed without making the passenger feel embarrassed. Unlike Delta, whose attendants have dangled the extender or announced my need for it on the PA, US Airways people bring it rolled inside their hand.
Preboarding You know those announcements about families and anyone needing a little extra time to board? On US Airways, you're welcome to do so if you're big. Not true on other airlines--Delta has stopped me twice. Look, I know I don't move as fast as everyone else. Let me preboard, get my extender, and get out of your way. I know I take up room in the aisle--so I appreciate that US Airways allows me the extra minute.
Empty Middle Seats While these are going the way of dinosaurs and dodo birds, US Airways is very good about telling me if they exist, and if so, moving me so that I'll end up next to one. I'm not getting a 2 for 1 deal, here--but if the flight isn't full, then keeping that middle seat open means everyone in my row is more comfortable.
Purchasing Extra Seats When the flight is full, and I'm traveling with my husband (also a big person) in economy class, we BUY the middle seat. That way, we both can stretch out, no one gets squashed, and the whole world is happy. US Airways not only allows us to do this, they thank us for being considerate. On other airlines (Delta, again!) we've been told there's no guarantee our extra seat will be between us--and they've also bumped the extra seat!
Flight Attendants are Empowered to Alleviate Discomfort Here's another US Airways plus--they are absolutely charming when it comes to moving passengers on a stuffed plane. More than once, when one of us was flying next to another (unrelated) person, the flight attendant has approached, and quietly said "I've got a little more room in Row XX--would you like me to show you." Sometimes they ask the big person, sometimes the small. Whatever happens, three people are better for it.
Meals Yes, fat people have to eat, too. With seat pitch so tight, tray tables are sometimes too close to the belly to be functional. On other airlines, you don't eat. On US Airways, they'll encourage you to use the empty middle seat's tray, or they'll bring pillows to prop your tray on your lap. Mmm, then you can dig into that heavenly chicken um, stuff.
Restrooms The day I'm too big to use a restroom is the day I stay home. Not that airline bathrooms are comfortable for anyone. However, fat people have to go, too. A super fat friend who was flying home for her mother's funeral was mortified to discover she couldn't fit in the bathroom. What did US Airways do? Two flight attendants held a curtain in front of the bathroom doorway so she could pee in private.
All these things mean the world to larger passengers--we're already very aware of how big we are, and how that makes so many people uncomfortable. It's truly refreshing to be treated with dignity--and that's why I choose US Airways.
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