Flying While Fat: Research And Self-Awareness Mean Smooth Travel

Reader Mechpaul is a large man. He used to avoid flying, afraid of what would happen if he was too big for his seat, encroaching on his neighbors’ space and potentially being humiliated and marched off the plane. Instead of approaching his flight with fear, he armed himself with two essential tools: a measuring tape and the Internet. He used these to find out whether he would fit in a United Airlines seat, and to plan accordingly.



For years I had tried to stay away from planes. It’s not that I was afraid of them. It’s that I was obese and I didn’t want to inconvenience the other passengers with my size. However, because of work, I had to travel out to Las Vegas from North Carolina. There wasn’t much choice in the matter.

I wondered if I would have to buy two tickets. So, instead of buying one ticket and hoping for the best, I decided I would do my research. I found a website which listed all of the sizes of various airplane seats and found the average to be 18 inches wide. Then, using a yardstick, I realized that my hips were 21 inches wide. There was no way I would be able to fit in one seat and put the armrest down without cutting into my stomach. I needed to buy two tickets for me.

That’s exactly what I did.

I didn’t have any problems ordering two tickets. Both tickets had my name on it. I did have other issues. I was not allowed to check in online and I had to do so from the kiosk at the airport, and even the kiosk had problems and told me to check with an associate. I explained my situation (I am a large passenger and bought two tickets) and they were extremely courteous and helpful to me. She told me, “I would recommend that if you need to fly again and purchase two tickets for yourself, after purchasing call Delta and tell them they are both for you so we can merge the seats together on our flight plan. Otherwise, we’ll see two people with the same name which can cancel out the tickets.” She also checked all of my flights and made sure my two seats were adjoining. Then she sent me on my merry way.

Getting on the flights was absolutely no problem. I was never approached by a steward / associate telling me I was too fat to fly (and, if they had, I had two tickets to show them). Also, having two seats was a great thing as well. The people next to me enjoyed having the extra room to sprawl, and I was able to use the tray table of the other seat since I couldn’t fully deploy mine due to my size. I also discovered that I was absolutely right from the start – I was encroaching on the seat next to me and I could not put down the armrest. My research paid off. I didn’t have a single issue with any of my flights.

In short, learning to be real with yourself about how large you are is not a discriminatory issue against obese passengers. It’s about being comfortable with your size and learning where you can fit and where you can’t. I did the 10 minutes of research and had a comfortable flying experience. Thank you, Delta, for being courteous to an obese passenger!