Plus-size travel influencer Jae’lynn Chaney feels that U.S. airline policies requiring obese passengers to buy extra seats on airplanes are “discriminatory” and force people like her to pay “twice for the same experience.”
Chaney says plus-size travelers are not asking for special treatment. They are simply “asking for the same dignity and respect from an airline that someone in a smaller body gets,” CNN reported.
Chaney, of Vancouver, Canada, often shares tips on flying as a plus-size person on her TikTok channel.
More than 41 percent of the U.S. population is obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Airline policies vary for “customers of size.” Some require them to buy a second seat if they can’t fit comfortably into one seat or lower the armrests due to their size. Some policies will refund passengers on the second ticket if at least one seat is available on the flight after takeoff.
Canada’s “one person, one fare” (1p1f) policy prevents domestic airlines from charging passengers who need an extra seat for more than one fare.
Chaney wants the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to mandate that all airlines create a comprehensive customer-of-size policy that “prioritizes the comfort and well-being of all passengers,” according to a Change.org petition.
Who will pay for this?
“She wants the taxpayer to fund an additional seat for (plus-size customers),” wrote Finlay Mead on DMarge.com, a lifestyle publication for Australian professionals.
The requests in the petition, filed April 2, 2023, triggered a debate between those who see Chaney’s demands as coming from someone who won’t take responsibility for her weight and others who see it as an inclusivity issue, arguing that everyone should be able to access air travel free of judgment and discomfort, Mead wrote.
Canadian air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs told CNN Travel he sees the practice of charging larger passengers for two seats as a human rights issue.
“It’s not as if someone is getting up in the morning and making a decision that they’re going to be a large person,” Lukacs said. “Being a large-size person is not a choice, as many people mistakenly believe.”
Gary Leff, an expert in frequent business travel and co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, describes how
A 19-year-old woman flying from Las Vegas to New York described on the subReddit r/AmItheAsshole her experience when she was assigned a middle seat between two plus-size passengers who didn’t “fit comfortably into their seats.”
Their shoulders and thighs were “on top of” hers, she reported. After an hour and a half, she wrote that she got up and “explained the situation as privately and gently as I could” to a flight attendant. She was assigned an open seat a few rows back.
At the end of the flight, she found the woman who had been seated next to her waiting for her at the gate.
“She essentially told me that I had embarrassed her and the other man and that traveling while plus-sized is hard enough without ‘people treating fatness like a contagious disease’. She also said that I made it a public demonstration to everyone that plus sized passengers are an ‘inconvenience’ and opened the door to fatphobia on flights.”
Chaney said that much of the feedback she gets since launching her petition is positive, but there has also been abuse and even death threats.
“I have chosen to focus on the positivity and support,” she told CNN.
Photo: Change.org petition, https://www.change.org/p/demand-for-the-faa-to-protect-plus-size-travelers?utm_source=Kelsey