An American Airlines passenger recently took the internet by storm with complaints about how she was allegedly trapped between two obese people on a flight to Dallas.
Sydney Watson, who The Dallas Morning News described as an Australian political commentator, jumped on Twitter to air her grievances, complete with pictures to back up her claim.
“I am currently – literally – WEDGED between two OBESE people on my flight. This is absolutely NOT acceptable or okay,” she wrote on October 10.
“If fat people want to be fat, fine. But it is something else entirely when I’m stuck between you, with your arm rolls on my body, for 3 hours,” she continued.
In the subsequent tweets, Watson argued that if a passenger needs a seat belt extender, they are “TOO FAT TO BE ON A PLANE.”
American Airlines responded to Watson’s complaints, tweeting, “Our passengers come in all different sizes and shapes. We’re sorry you were uncomfortable on your flight.”
Watson, however, found the response unsatisfactory, tweeting back, “I just experienced getting sweat on, touched without my consent, smacked in the face and subjected to hours of no personal space. And your response is essentially ‘too bad’? Is that what I’m getting here?”
While several people approved of Watson’s objection and echoed complaints of similar experiences with airlines in the tweet thread, others condemned her for “fat shaming.”
“I’m embarrassed for you that you’re so gullible that you’re mad at people’s bodies instead of at the greedy airlines who won’t make comfortable seating for the average body,” a Twitter user commented.
Watson, however, stated in a tweet that she did not mind being in the news for “fat shaming.”
On October 17, she posted an email response she received from American Airlines, stating that the company was issuing her a $150 credit as a “gesture of goodwill.”
In the email, the company expressed regret that Watson’s “enjoyment and comfort” were “diminished due to another customer exceeding their seat’s space.”
The company stated further, “[O]ur Flight Attendants were not able to make changes to the seating arrangement … If we have other available seats, you’ll be allowed to move so that you can better enjoy your flight.”
The airline’s response, however, did not fly with Watson. She instead claimed that the Fort Worth-based carrier was not enforcing its own policy on the matter, which states:
“If a customer needs extra space outside a single seat to travel safely, another seat is required. We encourage customers to address all seating needs when booking.”
It is unclear whether Watson’s fellow passengers were traveling safely or not.
Still, obesity has become a problem in the United States, with the CDC stating the prevalence of obesity among adults reached 41.9% in March 2020.
For its part, the Dallas-Fort Worth area, home to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, ranked 19th for obesity in a survey of the most overweight cities and metro areas in the country, per WalletHub.
As previously reported in The Dallas Express, a New England Journal of Medicine study projected that almost half of adults in the country would be obese by 2030, with roughly a quarter carrying about 100 pounds over their ideal body weight, the clinical definition of being morbidly obese.
If the study’s projections are correct, it could mean bad things for many air travel passengers who have already been enduring a gradual squeeze in terms of seat space and leg room for years now, compounding an experience many already find stressful.
Additionally, the safety issues hinted at in American Airlines’ seat policy could manifest more frequently, as the overwhelming number of seats in commercial airplanes were designed and tested with an assumed maximum weight of 170 pounds.
Robert Salzar, a biomechanics researcher, told The New York Times, “If a heavier person completely fills a seat, the seat is not likely to behave as intended during a crash. The energy absorption that is built into the aircraft seat is likely to be overwhelmed and the occupants will not be protected optimally.”
A new subfield of academic research has even begun raising questions about whether it is actually medically advisable for morbidly obese people to travel by air.
Whatever the future holds for the nation’s waistline, Watson made her position on the matter abundantly clear:
“Buy two seats or don’t fly.”
This article could become the basis for a major law suit against airlines if they allowed Obese passengers and there was a failure of the seat system during a “crash or accident”.
I suggest that airlines begin to assess dual seat requirements and assure that limits of design are not surpassed. Great article and kudos to Sydney Watson for making this the issue that it really is. A safety issue.
Not proud of it by any means, but as one of the growing number of obese people, I applaud this lady for speaking out. It has been well over a decade since I have flown in a single Coach seat. Depending on economics, I try to fly first class, but if significantly cheaper I’ll buy 2 Coach seats. Not that I think more room is Coach is ANYWHERE on the horizon, at least people like this will keep the airlines aware of our displeasure at being squeezed in like sardines.
I too would buy 2 seats. I like to feel comfortable when flying. The fact is I don’t like no one sitting next to me, skinny or obese, I am 40lbs overweight. Just my opinion.
This is something the Feds can easily mandate as the airlines are incapable self policing this as it impacts tge bottom line. Listen there are weight and size requirements for baggage same for seats.
I don’t blame this lady. Whenever there is a vacant seat next to me while the plane is being loaded and I pray for a average or smaller size person to be sitting next to me.
If the airline is forced to change their policies to provide larger seats we all will be the ones who pay for it.
I agree with her. If someone is okay for who they are, that’s okay, but not when it effects the other person. If a person weighs more than 170 lbs for seat safety, then airline’s must advise the passenger either buy another ticket ( which is unfair) or change the sitting chair to a bigger one ( they can find out if it’s needs to be done during ticket purchase).
I agree on airlines shrinking the size of seats to make them uncomfortable.
I think @Lenard McCown meant he agrees that the airlines DO shrink the seats. Maybe not purposefully to make people uncomfortable but to maximize revenue.
My husband is obese and out of courtesy for others he flies first class even though it costs more. That’s usually cheaper than 2 seats. People know if they are bigger than the seat. It’s on them to respect the people who have to sit beside them.
The airlines only want to make money and that means making the seats smaller. I flew American a few weeks ago and the seats were so close together (front to back) that there was barely room to even get in your seat and I’m short. The size of the seats should be made public and if you are unable to fit in that seat without going into the other one, you should have to pay for two seats.
let me guess, the two obese people were traveling together, selected the aisle and window seats and hoped that the middle seat would not be taken, so that they would have the extra space between them and not pay for it.
I agree with her, if you need a seat belt extender you are too big to to sit in a single seat. You should be required to pay for an extra seat
She can pay for two seats
Even if she paid for two seats it’s not a guarantee that it would stay empty. Those “empty” seats sometimes get filled with standby flyers…it happens.
I think she was being very rude with her comments.