Flying While Fat: My California Trip

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LA traffic is no joke. Because we missed our first flight, we ended up in rush hour. It took us 2 hours to drive 20 miles.

This summer I went to California for my brother’s wedding. On the way out, we missed our direct flight, and ended up having to catch a later flight with a connection. The only seats available together on both flights were in the emergency row in the middle of the plane, which I actually didn’t mind because there was a lot of extra leg room. However, if you have to use a seat extender, then you’re not allowed to sit in that row. I guess the theory is that if you are fat, you won’t be able to assist in opening the emergency door and assisting people.

The first flight was fine, the seatbelt fit perfectly and there was plenty left over. However, on the second flight, it wasn’t long enough. I tried to catch the attention of the attendent several times to let her know (since I knew that I wouldn’t be able to sit there with an extender), but she ignored me. Finally, I said, “ma’am, I need a seat extender–” she cut me off gruffly, and said, “Well, then you can’t sit here.” Perhaps it was just my imagination, but she seemed annoyed. I said, “I know, I was trying to get you attention.”

Hey look! California mountains!

At any rate, the whole ordeal was quite embarrassing  because she had to change my seat out with someone else and I wasn’t able to sit next to my husband. I ended up sitting next to a very nice lady and we chatted for a bit, and I shared some of my complimentary snacks with her.

Which, it was nice that they offered a complimentary snack for my cooperation–I joked to myself, man, maybe I should sit in the emergency exit every time I fly–but, it floored me that these flights were back to back, and I didn’t get any fatter between them. If it was OK for me to sit in the emergency row on the first flight, what was so different about the second flight? A couple of inches of seatbelt webbing? You’d think this sort of thing would be standardized but it’s not. All that went through my mind was, gee, maybe the inconsistent seatbelt length shouldn’t be an indicator of whether or not you can sit in the emergency row.

My husband John on the mountain.

Typically I avoid the emergency exit row, but in this situation it was unavoidable because it was a last minute arrangement. Missing the flight was already stressful and I was very upset about it. It was the first time I had ever missed a flight before. The physical aspect of flight doesn’t bother me: I’ve been on airplanes since I was a wee girl and my dad kept me jet-setting most summers so I’ve had plenty of experience flying. However, since I’ve been so fat, I do have a little anxiety about fitting in the seat, having to ask for an extender if that particular seat belt isn’t long enough (as I mentioned above, sometimes it’s fine, sometimes it’s not). Some planes have narrower seats than others, some have less pitch.

My mom & I at the Huntington Library & Gardens

Typically, when I am purchasing tickets I research the carrier and airplane to find out the specs, and try and choose a reasonable priced flight with the biggest seats and the longest pitches. But, if you miss your flight, that kind of backfires and you’ve got the luck of the draw. Even so, sometimes it’s hard to know how it’s going to be. On our flight home, the seats were pretty narrow and for some reason the middle armrest wouldn’t move up, so it was rather uncomfortable. Not to mention, that when you have to share an armrest, it can be difficult to have someone right next to you. I pray that there’s not a third person in our row so we can have an empty seat between us, but that doesn’t always happen, unless the flight isn’t completely booked.

My brother and his beautiful bride!

Not only is it uncomfortable to fly fat… it’s also uncomfortable to fly tall, and really, it’s not comfortable for anyone, unless you’re flying first class (who has the money for that?). I wish they would renovate the airplanes with wider, more comfortable seats. You’d have to take out some seats so that we aren’t crammed in like sardines, and therefore that would mean each flight would have to cost more as a result, but honestly, I think they could do it without charging first class prices. It’ll probably never happen, but a girl can dream.

Despite the embarrassment and uncomfortable seats the flight was worth it. I got to spend some time with my family, and see California through my adult eyes. We went into the mountains, down by the beach in Santa Monica, at the Huntington Library & Gardens in Pasadena, and of course, celebrated my little brother’s nuptials. At the end of the day, I’m not willing to put my life on hold because there may be some inconveniences in this world because I’m fat. Life goes on. One thing I’ve been avoiding are the theme parks here because the last time I went I was unable to go on most of the rides, but now I’m thinking I should go anyway, and stop focusing on the things I can’t do and more on what I can. Maybe that will be another post in the near future?

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