I switched airplane seats — plus-sized travelers called me ‘fatphobic’

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A teenage traveler has claimed she was dubbed “fatphobic” after requesting to switch plane seats because she was sandwiched between two plus-sized passengers.

“She essentially told me that I had embarrassed her and the other man,” an anonymous 19-year-old — who goes by “throwawayonaplane” — poster recounted in a viral post on the ever-popular Reddit forum “Am I The A–hole” (AITI).

The awkward incident reportedly occurred while the teen was on a flight from Las Vegas to New York.

“My assigned seat was a middle seat, and both people next to me were plus sized,” she explained. “I wouldn’t have any problem with this in any other situation, but plane seats are terribly small and neither of my neighbors were able to fit comfortably into their seats.”

She said that her seatmates seemingly spilled into her chair with their thighs and shoulders “on top” of her — which was especially “uncomfortable” given that it was allegedly a “very long flight.”

A large traveler sitting on a plane.
“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,’” wrote the Redditor while describing her confrontation with one of her seatmates.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

About an hour in, the sandwiched traveler decided to take action.

“I walked up to the flight attendant and explained the situation as privately and gently as I could, and I asked if there were any other seats available,” the teen recalled. “She managed to find a seat a few rows behind mine that I could sit in.

“Getting my bag from under the seat in front of me and moving was pretty awkward, but the rest of the flight went fine,” she added.

But when the poster got off the plane, she saw that one seatmate was waiting for her — and proceeded to give her quite a tongue-lashing.

“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,’” recounted the Redditor. “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.”

A row of airplane seats.
Reddit commenters overwhelmingly sided with the poster.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

In retrospect, the teen said she didn’t mean to come across as insensitive but understood how she could have been perceived have way — especially since “everyone on the flight” saw her move.

However, she left it up to the Reddit jury to decide whether she was at fault.

“Now I’m wondering whether I should have just stuck it out, it’s [sic] wasn’t like I was being suffocated or anything. AITA?” she wrote.

The Redditariat overwhelmingly decided she was not the offender in this scenario.

“You did not make a ‘public demonstration’ nor contribute to fatphobia in any way,” declared one supporter. “You weren’t comfortable and you discretely asked for another seat. She’s an AH for saying that drivel.”

Another wrote: “Her anger is misdirected. She can go ahead and be mad at the airlines for not accommodating people of her size, but it’s a perfectly normal human response not to want to be touching someone you don’t know and to take steps to make that not happen.”

“They should be happy that you moving would give them extra wiggle room too!” said a third, while one commenter argued, “I honestly believe that if you’re aware that you can’t really fit into a single airline seat, it’s your responsibility to buy a second one.”

Airplane seats.
The incident follows a New Zealand airline’s announcement of a plan to weigh passengers.
Getty Images

Others argued that it was an issue of physics and not feelings in this instance.

“Fat is not a protected class,” scoffed one Redditor. “With exceptions, people can modify their behavior and take steps to not be fat. You could have said, ‘no I did not make a scene, you want everyone to pretend youre not fat so you dont have to feel bad. Its not my job to enable your fiction.’”

Even self-proclaimed plus-sized commenters flocked to the teen’s defense, with one writing, “I wouldn’t have been offended.

“Why should I make it uncomfortable for other people when there are other seats,” they added. “That person has their own issues.”

Unfortunately, flying while plus-sized has become a contentious issue with some body positivity advocates accusing airlines of discrimination by not providing enough space and critics accusing bigger flyers of being selfish to other passengers.

Last month, a plus-sized TikToker named Big Curvy Olivia went viral after arguing that airlines should make plane aisles wider to accommodate larger passengers, calling the current layout “discrimination.”

To illustrate her point, she shared a video showing herself struggling to traverse a United Airlines plane, having to turn sideways as she walked past the rows of seats.

Olivia was promptly ripped online, with some labeling her “audacious” and others telling her not to fly if she has issues.

“Wider aisles mean less seats. And they would be cutting into profits to accommodate the super sized,” one person wrote. “That wouldn’t make sense.”

Meanwhile, Air New Zealand ruffled feathers after announcing that the airline would begin weighing passengers before some international flights as part of a survey to calculate passenger mass.

Gauging those measurements would reportedly help planes fly more efficiently while also remaining balanced, they said.

However, some American passengers said they were not hunky dory with this idea.

“I think that’s a violation of privacy,” one commenter griped to “Today.”

“When I go to the doctor, I don’t even look at the scale, so I don’t want that out there in public,” another added.

Meanwhile, a video of a woman being asked to step on a baggage scale, which was originally posted in March, has amassed 1.6 million views on TikTok, with viewers speculating whether the airline was discriminating against plus-sized travelers.

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