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Information and rants about living in the real world as an SSBBW

As SSBBWs, we live in a world built for smaller people. Each day we face challenges to fit in, or even to just fit. While education and information are powerful tools, our best resource is each other. Let us know your tips or rants about this subject at

Fat Flying

This is my experience flying fat with United Airlines over the last 3 years. I have had more than 30 domestic flights a year. Some of my experience can apply to other airlines, as well. For reference, I am a bottom heavy SSBBW. I weigh more than 400 pounds and am a size 32/34.

United's "Customers requiring extra seating" policy, according to their website:

A customer is required to purchase an additional seat or upgrade if they do not meet one of the following criteria:

  1. The customer must be able to properly attach, buckle and wear the seat belt, with one extension if necessary, whenever the seatbelt sign is illuminated or as instructed by a crew member.
  2. The customer must be able to remain seated with the seat armrest(s) down for the entirety of the flight.
  3. The customer must not significantly encroach upon the adjacent seating space.

I don't buy two seats because I meet all those criteria, depending on your version of “encroach”. I have had thin people encroach upon my seating space. I have had kids encroach upon my seating space. It all depends on your definition and fat people aren't the only ones who do it.

The best piece of advice I can give is to be proactive. Most airlines have a mobile app and a reward program. I use both. When I book a flight, I check out the seat map and pick my seat as strategically as possible. can help pick seats. As the flight gets closer, I stalk the seat map on my mobile app like it is going to give me the winning lottery numbers. I have been known to change my seat multiple times before the flight. If it looks like the plane won't fill (this is also information usually available online or the mobile app), I will talk to the gate agent about keeping the seat next to me open. Sometimes I get attitude and sometimes I get excellent customer service. Either way, if they can, they will leave the seat next to me open.

Acquire your own extender. I have never had a problem using mine on any plane.

*Some* window seat armrests will go up. There is a lever to move or a small button in an opening on the underside of the armrest. If you search on the internet, you can find several photos that show what I am referring to. I usually keep an Allen wrench in my carry-on to help raise the armrest. This gives a nice bit of room. I have found that not all larger planes have this feature. Usually the smaller planes, with one row of one seat and the other row with two seats, have it. If I have the options, I will sit on the one seat side and lift the window armrest. Lifting the aisle armrest is fine, but I always feel like I am spilling out into the aisle and my hip gets hit with the drink cart.

My last bit of advice is to just be confident and know that you have the right to fly. You have the right to get to your destination just like stinky people, people with cranky kids, people with too many personal items on the plane (like the lady seated next to me with several bags and a whole bucket of fried chicken). I would love to be able to drive everywhere, but it just isn't feasible. FATTIES HAVE THE RIGHT TO FLY. The worst person I ever sat by was in first class. The “in my head” romanticized version of first class flyers is that they are cool and suave. They don't have a care in the world and they have a free drink in their hand. They certainly don't fart. On this particular flight, I was seated next to a guy with flatulence. Here I am, trying to enjoy my free vodka tonic with this dude next to me farting the whole way! And then he lost his shoe under the seats, because he just had to take them off. Maybe he was trying to cover up the gas smell. I am not sure. All I know is that it wasn't a pleasant experience.

If you are not so fat and reading this, can you be nice to the passengers with extra fluff? We know we are fat, believe me. We have had anxiety about flying since we first thought about buying a ticket. "Will this be the day my fat ass ends up on the news over getting kicked off of a plane?” Hopefully that won't be the way I become famous! ;-)

Disclaimer: I fully realize Southwest Airlines has changed the game for people of size flying. They have now made it easier to get an additional seat without paying for it. My biggest (see what I did there?) complaint about Southwest is that they stop at every darn airport between you and your destination. Flying United out of Houston, TX (which is what I do) is usually a non-stop flight and not any more expensive than Southwest.

Written by: Nikki Langston

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