Too Fat to Fly

At what point do you draw the line?

Comments (78)

(55) Chellie, June 7, 2011 4:51 AM

Rabbi Hillel said "Do not do to others what you would not have others do to you" The people at the airline seemed to have been insensitive and rude. However, they were merely doing their job. We cannot judge them as they were told to do things a certain way. It is the corporation that is wrong. With regard to the weight issue, I do not like feeling crowded and if I were an over weight person, I would respectfully think of others comfort as well as my own and I would purchase two seats. I would not want my body parts overflowing into someone else's seat. I would be embarrassed and I would feel it was rude of me when they paid for that seat. Additionally, I am in favor of weight restrictions as there are certain requirements weight wise for the plane itself. I can recall a time when we, the passengers, needed to redistribute to rebalance the plane. So please give pause to the safety issues too when thinking about this. This is a sensitive area, however, it also deals with safety....your safety and my safety. If someone is offended, then I am sorry but safety comes first.

(54) C.R., June 5, 2011 10:54 PM


There is good discrimination--and bad discrimination; everyone is not the same in all ways; there by necessity have to be rules boundaries and limitations in life and in society--otherwise it would be chaos!

(53) Anonymous, May 30, 2011 10:44 AM

cost of airline seats

Recently we flew from Colorado to Wisconsin on Delta. Our son purchased for us a 3 seat bloc in coach for my comfort as I am obese. On the return trip we found out that two first class seats were actually cheaper than three coach and a hell of a lot more comfortable. Also the airline personnel treats you better, free drinks, snacks.

(52) Sue J, May 29, 2011 10:33 PM

Should fix the seats

I agree that the planes should modify the seats - if some customers are of size, then society needs to accommodate and not embarrass the customers. Or the airline should just GIVE the person of size two seats if that's cheaper than refurbishing the plane. And the way this airline did the "check" was absolutely rude. I cannot see making a person of size buy two seats - that gets expensive. This to say if the seats were larger, more people might like flying better. I think the customers should demand better service because until they do, airlines will not GIVE better service and rip off some people because they are too cheap to provide better seats! I hate flying anyway - squeezed in like sardines, boring and expensive - take the train - it's much better! :)

Kimberlynn Shaffer-Silva, June 6, 2011 3:21 PM

Agree re: Train

I have to say that I agree about taking the train. It is much more comfortable; cheaper; and has a beautiful view. They even have a car specifically for viewing the countryside, with huge windows and seats that face them for the passengers comfort and delight.

(51) Will, May 29, 2011 5:02 AM


judging by one weight is another form of prejudice. I have a thyroid problem and the meds make me retain water, and its difficult to lose weight. the seats on planes are made to make more money not for comfort. people need to have compassion.

(50) Lady, May 29, 2011 4:07 AM


Hmm I think this is a slight form of acceptable discrimination (which is wrong) and I'll leave it at that. It's easy to adjust to certain things, but that's only if the parties involved choose to do so, looks like they rather not. Flying should be comfortable for everyone period, don't know why it's such an issue.

(49) Kitzcat, May 28, 2011 10:30 PM

Too Fat to Fly?

As a fat person who has been much heavier than I am today, I am very considerate of my cabin mates. I do not wear perfume, I do not smoke and I make sure I am freshly bathed before getting on a plane, or any confined space with others. Since I cannot fit comfortably in one seat or buckle the belt without requesting an extension I try to fly during off peak hours and always purchase 2 seats so I have enough room. What really annoys me on airlines is that I don't have enough LEG room because they try to pack folks in like cattle and my knees push into the seat in front of me. They won't let me sit in the emergency exit row where I might have enough leg room because of my size. Why can't they leave out a row or two and add a few extra inches to each row. We can't help being long legged. It's genetic, much like most of us who are overweight. We inherit our genes from our parents along with medical conditions that are also genetic that we can't change. We wouldn't honestly put ourselves in the position to be abused on a daily basis if we had a choice.

(48) Anonymous, May 28, 2011 3:51 PM

Actually it is not much to think about at all. People can and do nit pick their way into complete and sheer stupidity. Happens all the time. No matter what you do. And you might be welcomed to try everything one can think of. There will ALWAYS be someone or something that is not up to someone's specs. If it is not being over weight or smoking, then it is perfume or garlic breath. Perhaps it is hiccups or crying babies or someone who twitches too much. There is always something that in my opinion, really isn't worth thinking about. It is the allowing yourself to be a nit picker that will get you in the end.

(47) Julianne, May 28, 2011 5:38 AM

Perhaps the seat is the wrong size, not the passenger?!

Instead of criticizing people for being too fat or wide (or tall or short for that matter) why don't we take some time and consider that perhaps they are not the ones who should be the target of criticism (they are just being who they are, after all)... perhaps we should be critiquing the seats that don't accomodate a variety of body sizes and the airlines who don't feel compelled to accomodate all of their passengers. I am not too fat to fly, the airplane seat is too darn narrow to accomodate my beautiful derriere! If I buy a plane ticket, I should have an accomodating seat available to me. Just as I would expect that a person of very short stature should be accomodated when using the facilities at a public venue (and they should, even though they aren't always) I expect that a person of large size should be accomodated. It's time to wake up and realize that people come in all different sizes. Celebrate that diversity and ACCOMODATE everyone!!!

(46) Raejean French, May 28, 2011 3:56 AM

If Only That Were The Only Thing We Need Think About

If the parameter were what personal habits and characteristics you have that would potentially bother a fellow flyer and detract significantly from the comfort of their experience, many of us would be required to purchase seats on both sides. This would include people with extremely ugly, yellow teeth whose breath probably smells like that of a warthog. Getting back to the weight question, I think the airlines will eventually have to accommodate by installing special (and specially priced) seating on all flights. Set a maximum weight limit for the regular seats and minimum weight limit for the roomies. Obviously, they can't obstruct people from flying, but if the passenger can't get through the door of the aircraft, down the aisle, or use the rest room, the seat size is moot.

(45) Gael MacGregor, May 27, 2011 11:41 PM

Who's the next target for discrimination?

The FAA refers to your flight as a "trip" ... as in "average passenger trip length," "round trip," "one-way trip," etc. When they refer to a "seat" it is just that... a seat—as in something you sit in—as in "average aircraft seat size." That means that each airline should be obligated to provide a TRIP for each paid customer, regardless of size (height and/or width), or whether they need a service animal to accompany them (dog, monkey, whatever), an oxygen tank, cane, crutches, wheelchair or other medical apparatus. A fat person has the same rights to that TRIP as any so-called "normal" sized person does, and shouldn't be penalized for their size, any more than a tall guy should be, or the folks who don't pay for a seat for their babies (the same babies who spit up on me, grab my hair, glasses or clothing and invade my space throughout my trip). The guy who thinks bathing before a flight is optional... the gal who thinks dousing herself with half the perfume bottle is okay... the smoker who reeks of tobacco... the screaming baby or toddler... that tall guy who sheepishly asks if he can put one of his very long legs into my foot space... the person in front of you who slams their seat back without checking if you're ready for it to move... We all have to put up with these things, yet it's the fat folks who are singled out. It's acceptable discrimination in our society. Maybe if we hadn’t given up most of our manners and polite behavior we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Perhaps if we all had a little more compassion for others and their respective situations, we would treat each other with more respect and understanding, instead of making knee-jerk judgments based on nothing more than someone’s appearance. I think we need to lobby for change in airline policies rather than taking out our frustrations on fat folks—or anyone else who may become the perceived "evil" and thereby okay to discriminate against in the future.

judith, May 29, 2011 10:21 AM

Spot On

So right what you just said

(44) barb chait, May 27, 2011 5:52 PM

i have been seated next to an oversized passenger who needed to extend her seat belt to the max. this was on a very empty flight. i was saved by the stu who moved this lady to an empty row. she needed two seats. so, i see no problem charging an obese person for the two seats they need.

(43) WA Ford, May 27, 2011 1:12 AM

It depends on how heavy they were

I believe it depends on how fat they were. If they were very over weight then yes the should purchase two seats each. but that question should have been asked in private as not to embarass the customers who were morbidly obese.

(42) Anonymous, May 26, 2011 9:00 PM

Too fat to fly

Just adding to my previous comment...I think most, if not all, are forgetting the luxury of flying, warts and all. I remember when it took 5-12 days (depending on port stops) of travelling by boat from our island to the mainlsnd major port to get 'outside'. So in just the matter of a few hours as opposed to the many days of travel (and seasickness), I think we have it pretty good today. Count your Blessings. I know I do...

(41) Rosabel, May 26, 2011 7:23 PM

Too fat to fly

I think I've lived through just about every uncomfortable situation in an enclosed airplane that one can be in. A poor man who was so huge, the armrest had to be up and I was halfway in the aisle. Stewardess couldn't re-assign me as the plane was full. Crying baby next seat. Cigar smoker next seat. Puking child, next seat. If I could walk to my destination, I would. Turbulence, of the worse kind. But still...there is a lot of excitement in flying even when you see the tires down to the strings on the treads. But I think I'll stay home for awhile. Thank you.

(40) Beverly Kurtin, May 26, 2011 3:37 AM

Drive Instead

Rather than put up with the rudeness of the TSA and passengers who are smelly or reek of cigarette smoke or having to listen to unruly children or children who think it is funny to kick the back of your seat, etc., I drive. Even though I tell airlines that I am disabled and require a seat close to the front of the craft (and I reserve early enough so that they could easily give me a seat in the front) they invariably put me so far back that I cannot walk that far. I've had to walk out of planes, recover my wheelchair and get a refund or pay for first class which is outrageously expensive. I've learned my lesson; I will never fly again although I used to fly up to 12 times a week. To drive long distances is not a burden for me; I take my time and use Bose noise-cancelling earphones so the road noise doesn't make me tired. If you are as sick and tired of the rudeness that goes with flying nowadays, do as I do: Drive. I'm old enough to remember the pre-terrorist days. People who hate Jews and Israel need to remember that the reason for all of the inconvenience we have to go through to fly is due to ARABS who think it is just to blow up planes with innocent people aboard. And then they lambaste Israel, not the ARABS. I think I'll scream now.

(39) Chana, May 26, 2011 2:17 AM

Reality check for the overweight!

Dear Rabbi Salomon, I truly believe that people are responsible for their weight and that obesity, or even simply being overweight, is self-induced. People whose weight is excessively high need to accept the consequenses and realize that if they do not comfortably fit into a regular-size airplane seat, they need to pay for 2 seats! Period! However, the clerk in the airport should perhaps re-phrase his/her inquiries by simply sizing up the overweight person (or weighing them) and then present them with the "inevitable". The fact that their eating habits will cost them extra, may make these folks do something about all that excessive baggage they are carrying around! Because only then they may realize that NOW is the time to change their eating habits, unless of course they enjoy occupying 2 seats and paying for the priviledge!

Linda, May 26, 2011 4:24 PM

Thin people shouldn't be squeezed by people who are obese or even fat.

A seat on buses and trains are made to accommodate one person. i am a normal size (10) and all too often i am squeezed into the side or off the seat because of an obese person wanting to sit next to me. Further there are times that an very over weight person is taking up two seats. They should be made to pay double for taking up the second seat. Why should average weight people suffer.

Katrina, May 27, 2011 11:51 PM

Re: Reality Check

Many people share the opinion that all excess weight is controllable or even self-induced. They are, however, incorrect. Some weight issues happen due to disease, disability and even medication. Some weight issues happen due to mindset. Some happen due to genetics. Some is due to bad nutrition and poor exercise choices. Some might be "controllable," as defined by a society that lauds skinniness as a prime beauty feature, by starvation methods (a majority of dieting methods) or by actual nutrition and exercise, but not all. The assumption that all boots fit the same feet, from a "fat" perspective is faulty, but it is an understandable bias as it is emphasized by the media and by a diet industry that is making millions. Eating habits alone do not a fat person nor a skinny person make. Everyone is different.

Barbara, May 28, 2011 1:16 AM


It is very rude of you, Chana, to assume that someone who is overweight has an overeating problem. Most fat people eat LESS than a "normal" sized individual. The key is metabolism. The more dieting that is done (yo-yo-loss then regain) slows down the metabolism futher, making it extremely difficult to lose and keep off weight. Fat also does not equal unhealthy. Instead of pushing prejudice, remember these are people also, and you are not superior just because you were born with a great metabolism. That being said, it you can"t fit, then buy 2 seats.

hammer, May 28, 2011 3:27 PM

good luck ....

wow ... for your sake I hope you never have to deal with any physical or emotional issues ... with this attitude its likely that no one will want to help or suport you Good luck and go with God - you're gonna need Him.

(38) Mati, May 25, 2011 7:32 PM

by choice or not by choice: that is the question

There are those who DO choose to smell bad (the cigarette issue) and there are those who DO NOT choose to be fat. (Let's be honest, though eating is a choice, what our bodies do with the food is not. Once we choose to smoke (and we choose that daily), we bear the responsiblily for making others suffer. Thus, I vote for the airlines preventing sufferings of the neighbor. Also, we all deal with weight issues in flying and so such should also apply to our own bodies. However, there is a thing called "first class" by which those who want more comfort (such as big people) they can pay the premium of such comfort like everyone else who want premium comfort and should know they cannot sit in regular seating or they must pay for two seats. Once again I vote for the airline. However, sometimes the airline forces (for the same price) a person into a sardine can and this I blame the airline. And this I am talking about for the 'average" person. Since the overweight brings "extra weight and volumn", they must suffer the consequences just like everyone else. Never mind arguing that "I can't help it that I have no choice but I need to bring "X" (my xtra baggage--or my xtra body weight)" this is self pitty. We must not take offense when we must follow the guidelines and blame it on discrimination. It is not discrimination when I MUST carry 5 suitcases or if I MUST carry on my huge body. We must "as matter of factly" deal will large people and not judge them for being huge but flying is not like normal transportation. It MUST deal with volumn and weight distribution with regards to the physical aspects of flying and with the physical aspects of other passengers' comfort..

hammer, May 28, 2011 3:30 PM

suffer the consequences ??

wow --- you are such a uncompassionate person

(37) Gary Katz, May 25, 2011 7:29 PM

Many more examples, unfortunately

Of course similar issues arise when the person sitting next to you is obviously sick (coughing every second and blowing their nose), has a non-stop crying baby on her lap, or, perhaps worst of all, cadaverous body odor (I've smelled this gag-inducing condition in various locations but thankfully not in the confined cabin of an airplane!). I guess each person has to draw the line between a little personal discomfort and extreme torture beyond what he/she can tolerate for a 3-hour flight.

(36) Tracy, May 25, 2011 7:10 PM

Just Business

I think people forget that an airplane can only carry so much in weight etc. The weight of the plane for flight is calculated on an estimate of body weight and size occupying each seat. If the person is the weight of 1 & 1/2 seats then they need to be charged for that extra seat since to sell it to someone else throws off the calculations. For all those who say they feel sorry for the overweight people and we should be so very concerned with their feelings - would they like to get out and push if the plane is too heavy to lift off? Would they be happier with more planes crashing because they could not sustain lift? As for not asking the obese what their weight is in front of others (an embarrassment), yet it is obvious at all times these people are over-weight and the airlines need to know by how much. These same would all be upset with the delay if had to wait while they were taken to another room to discuss things. So let's see it from the practicalities of the matter: the information is required, the airlines try to do things as quick as possible, and weight per seat IS an issue related to actual flight of the plane, not just a matter of politeness or fairness.

Julius Marcus, May 26, 2011 4:47 PM

I would think tha 5 foot 5 and 300 lbs is a reasonable starting point. Obese people can control their weight. Many will claim a thyroid or other condition that limits what they can control but they are only fooling themselves in addition to trying to fool others.

(35) Anonymous, May 25, 2011 5:15 PM

Larger seats

I would like to see the airlines make the seats a more reasonable size for all people. OK, the grossly obese may still have problems and issues, but when normal people are unhappy and cramped when they need to travel this way, it does not tell a story of caring for the customer...only for the bottom line. Yes, I would pay a bit more for a more comfortable journey...and I do when I can.

(34) K. H. Ryesky, May 25, 2011 5:02 PM

I'm saying what everyone else is thinking -- and using my own name! Where do we draw the line? Right between the seats! If the fatso's flab occupies my seat so that I cannot comfortably sit, then the fatso should have to buy a double seat. And if the fatso is too heavy for the plane to safely fly, then the fatso should be kept off the plane. And the flight attendants shouldn't feed the fatsos. But as long as everyone is so polite and is more concerned about not offending the fatsos than in insisting that the fatsos take responsibility for what they inflict upon normal people with their bodies, then this obesity epidemic will continue to grow, and more and more people will be displaced from their seats by the fatso in the next seat.

miriam, May 25, 2011 10:01 PM

with all due respect, you did not have to use the word "fatso" to get your point across. you can be blunt and get what you need, and still be nice about it.

Jason, May 25, 2011 10:28 PM

Answer to K.H. Ryesky

Wow - I find it amazing that someone of our own people who vows to "never forget" about the Holocaust - would call people names and want to discriminate. Everyone has a vice, some of them are apparent some are invisible. For you to pick on "fatso's" as you call it is morally and socially reprehensible. Would you have the chutzpah to say the same things about black people with the "N" word? I think not. Some overweight people eat less and work out more than skinny people. Are you aware of that? Are you aware that they have have other medical conditions that cause them to be overweight. Asking a "fatso" to buy two seats is no different than asking a Black man to sit at the end of the bus, or to put jews on a train car headed to a death camp. You HATE overweight people. Fatso? Really? You must sink to name calling? Why? Does it make you feel morally superior? Let me in on a little secret. I am a fatso. Why dont you come over to my house and say these things to my face? Hiding behind a computer screen acting like a bully. Or, why don't you just come up to my cockpit - yeah, thats right, Im the pilot, and have me get off the plane too. Then you can explain to the rest of the passengers on the plane why they cant go anywhere because their captain is going to step outside and confront you!

K. H. Ryesky, May 31, 2011 4:04 AM

Reply to Jason & Miriam

No, I do not consider myself "morally superior" to the adipose endomorphs. I do, however, believe that this social taboo against any discussion regarding a person's hyperobesity only serves to facilitate the obesity epidemic in general and the adipose endomorphs in particular. Humoring the adipose endomorphs has proven to be a failed strategy. It does not work. If you do not agree with my approach, then find one that does work! How the adipose endomorphs manage their bodies is their business -- but it becomes very much my concern when, as has occurred on a number of occasions, I cannot fit into my seat because the adipose tissue of the endomorph in the next seat is bulging out into my seat and displacing me! I'm saying what everyone else is thinking!

(33) Tony, May 25, 2011 12:18 PM

I assume one just suffers in silence ?

I just had this problem yesterday, the guy sitting next to me on my left could not even drop his tray he was so huge. I think he was actually in pain stuffed into his seat between the arm rests etc. To make it even worse I am left handed. He was right handed, and his arm went straight into my space. Try eating like this. He tried his best not to push into my space but he did and it was very unpleasant. My personal take is that it is better not to embarrass the person, and just keep quiet. Yep suffer in silence, because his own personal pain and embarrassment is enough punishment for himself. I think from a Torah point of view that would be the better moral choice, but I cannot backup it due to my extreme limited knowledge of Torah. However does not the Torah etc, make special effort to emphasize that limiting another’s pain, whether physical or mental is a mitzvah ? For the record this was a real hard one.

(32) yehudit, May 25, 2011 9:19 AM

not quite the torah way, but almost

So ironic how in their quest to be thoughtful of other passengers, the airline was inherently thoughtless in their application of their seating policy.

(31) elka, May 25, 2011 9:05 AM

too fat to...

my dtr in law needs a belt extension in order to buckle her seat belt and asks for one when she boards no one should suffer the question of how much do u weigh in public or size of clothing the airline needs to state their requirements way before flite time or readjust the seating if they think there will b a problem

(30) Simcha Gavish, May 25, 2011 7:25 AM

stink not smell

Ben Johnson was not one to take a bath too often. His wife said. Mr Johnson you smell. He answered - no madam you smell I stink.

(29) Anonymous, May 25, 2011 7:23 AM

Rabbi please provide the Torah's answer

I was once on a flight with a very large man next to me. He was dozing and falling over and actually leaning on me. When he saw I got up to speak with flight attendant I think he knew I was requesting seat change. I didn't get to change and he must have been so embarrassed he dozed again but managed to stay upright even though he didn't stop snoring. Another passenger who saw this was quietly mocking the man. Not a good flight. What is the Torah's response to this tough question?

(28) Anonymous, May 25, 2011 2:12 AM

good questions and more

I can't send this to anyone. My dear friends are very fat here in Hawaii. And most of them have diabetes. There is a cultural lazyness here and the other people use that to exzonerate themselves from the responsibility of being fit..

(27) Anonymous, May 25, 2011 1:29 AM

I have no problem with Southwest airlines policy providing they will allow my five underweight children, who can easily sit comfortable in a row of three seats, to fly with me only purchasing three seats for the five of them. If it works for one end of the problem why not for the other????.

(26) Anonymous, May 25, 2011 12:26 AM


your question was not - "what is the right thing to do" (although Rabbi Solomon may have asked that) the question was 'WHAT DOES THE TORAH SAY" Obviously, non Jews (and most of the population in general) do NOT know that EMBARRASSING A PERSON IN PUBLIC IS EQUIVALENT TO MURDERING HIM AND IS CONSIDERED ONE OF THE GRAVEST SINS IN THE TORAH. Therefore, as some of the other people commented, under no circumstances WHATSOEVER should this question have been asked in front of the other passengers, but they should have been pulled aside and been told, VERY GENTLY about the airline's policy. By the way, people who refuse to buy a seat for a child, but want to "hold" the child during an entire flight, or putting children to sleep on the floor, making other passengers very upset is also wrong. i ALWAYS bought seats for all my children if they were old enough to sit.

(25) rochel, May 25, 2011 12:11 AM

airline policies can be very intrusive

I feel bad for people that are so heavy, but the airines should have more respect for their dignity. How much harder would it have been to speak to them privately and explain the problem, maybe there was a later flight that had extra seats so they would have the choice to be inconvenienced monetarily or losing time. Their fat but their still human beings! Airline policies leave much to be desired, I was recently patted down in public in one airport, but on the way back they just let me through, & I was wearing the exact same outfit. I dont think there's any training on how to treat people respectfully!!!

(24) Meira, May 24, 2011 11:51 PM

Very often it's doctors' responsibility

I would like doctor’s malpractice insurance or pharmacy pay for their patients’ comfort in the plane. They prescribe so many steroids with and without reason that water around us and that we use in our homes is full of steroid and other toxic elements – byproduct of pharmacological industry. Nobody cares about side effect of most of medications, which cause patients to gain weight. Diabetes patients have their own challenges of gain weight when their doctors prescribe snacks and never miss regular meal. Not talking about psychiatrists… You pay for the doctor, who not only doesn’t heal you but make you double, triple size of your body. Let them pay for their mistakes!

Alan S., May 29, 2011 7:07 PM

Really Meira?? Please -- come back to reality. You have taken a relatively complex issue, one fraught with emotion, and decided to add a wholly unrelated -- and I stress the word UNRELATED layer to it. Shouldn't you just blame other industries as well, like lawyers for not putting the McDonald's of the world out of business, or accountants because all that sitting must make them heavy. Or, wait, why not just blame, oh, I don't know, the seventh moon of Jupiter for the general causes of obesity that you site, as well as for the airlines making business decisions. It would mean the same thing.

(23) Anonymous, May 24, 2011 11:09 PM

airlines not known for sensitivity and discretion

I think the rules have to be stated very clearly beforehand so that nobody has to be confronted at the gate with having to buy another seat and if somebody didn't do what they should have, they have to be sensitvely pulled aside and told the rules. However, we are living in a day and age where all privacy went out the window with scanners and pat-downs. Isn't it too much to expect that much sensitivity and common sense from airlines?

(22) elise, May 24, 2011 11:04 PM

I'm not sure about what to do for overweight people but I didn't like your comment about the smell of a smoker. What about the smell of people who transpire and don't wash? or too much perfume or too dirty or sick with the flu or...or...? At wich point do we stop?

(21) Anonymous, May 24, 2011 9:27 PM

Personal invasion

I fly frequently and have experienced sitting next to overweight people. I have felt very uncomfortable when their bodies spread to my seat and our thighs were touching each other. I tried to put the arm rest and was told by my seat mate it was uncomfortable, yet she saw nothing wrong with forcing me to be squeezed into a smaller sear area or else forcing me to endure physical contact with her. If it had been a short flight it wouldn't have bothered me so much but this was a fourteen hour international flight. My last flight from Tokyo to the states, the woman beside me reeked of alcohol, and I almost felt drunk from inhaling the fumes. The plane was full and I couldn't change seats, so I had to endure the smell for the entire flight. I think the airlines are doing the correct things, they should be more sensitive to the feelings of overweight people but they should not ignore the feelings of normal weight people.

(20) judith, May 24, 2011 9:26 PM

Moral Integrity first

I was thinking exactly about this couple of days ago. My opinion? There should x number of larger seats. No need to embarrass anyone, never ever, neither publicly nor oherwise - and no need to suffer from someone too large that will limit your mobility/room by your side. I don't think this will cost the airlines much more either. Integrity, good service and good midos are worth the "loss"

(19) Rachel, May 24, 2011 9:19 PM

This is an issue of physics, not ethics

My husband has his pilot's license. He would never take off without weighing everytthing going on the plane, including passengers, luggage, and calculating the weight of the fuel. Likewise, he will calculate for distance, speed, headwinds, etc. (The consequences of not doing so can be disastrous.) This is also standard when flying on a small commercial plane, as someone mentioned regarding an "island hopper" to the Bahamas. Of course it would be nice if the airlines didn't ask these women's weight so publically. However, airlines can also refuse seats to people who appear to be medically unable to fly, or behaving in a disorderly way which might indicate substance abuse. It's not just about passenger comfort -- it's about the safety of everyone on board -- emergency landings may not seem like a big deal anymore, but it can be at crowded airports that have to make room for an unscheduled flight landing due to a gravely ill or out-of-control passenger.. It would be helpful if airlines would put this information clearly on the ticketing website so that anyone with these potential issues would be aware that they might need a second seat, medical certification that they're ok to fly, or diagnosis of a condition that might be mistaken (e.g. a brain injury survivor with slurred, limited speech might seem drunk to a casual observer.) I'll fight for passenger rights all the way when it's about refusal to let people off the plane due to late arrival, broken equipment, etc. But when it comes to safety, I'm with the airlines on this one.

(18) Anonymous, May 24, 2011 8:45 PM

Use compassion but face reality

I sympathize with those who are obese. They should never be publicly humiliated, and asking weight and size was incredibly irrelevant. Sizes are not uniform at all, and two people of the same weight can be under and overweight. However, I was once sandwiched in between two very large people on an airplane. The arm rests could not begin to be lowered and both people were wet from sweat and I (being just barely overweight, maybe 5-10 pounds, but I fit well in my seat, with extra space on each side) had a highly uncomfortable flight. It was an extremely tight fit, and I was much more intimate with both people than I ever wanted. I ended up wet on both sides from their sweat, and I was rather upset by the incident. However, I imagined that they were rather embarrassed, as well, so I said nothing. Situations like that should not be tolerated. However, the flight employees need to handle everything with tact. When I discreetly told one of the flight attendents about the situation, she just said there was nothing she could do. The truth is that an airline ticket entitles you to one seat. If you use more than your seat, then you need to buy a second ticket.

(17) chayah, May 24, 2011 7:44 PM

a wake-up call

I do whole heartedly agree that the airline agent was on the rude and crude side... I like that one airline reimbursed the passenger for the 2nd seat...however, this may be a wake-up call for the obese passenger.. My son was 324 lbs at one time and was always offered a seatbelt extension ( which worked )..but it had an impact on him and his Dr. advised him to have Bariatric By'pass surgery ( the extra weight caused him to not be in the best of health) That was almost 4 yrs ago and he is still in good shape and most imporrtant, in good health.Travelling became personally more comfortable and no more seat extensions! Airlines, let's have a little caring for passengers' feelings and not make them feel worse than they already do..Believe me, they want to be normal size , too!

Gael MacGregor, May 27, 2011 11:52 PM

Gastric Bypass

Yeah... I'm familiar with bypass surgery. My aunt was so anxious to fit in with our fat-phobic society that she had it. It killed her. A waste of a wonderful, compassionate, funny and smart woman -- gone. A woman who had a thyroid which didn't function, and the best the doctors could do at the time was give her a drug for her thyroid that kept her alive, but couldn't fix how her body metabolized the food that came it. I hope your son continues to maintain his health. Make sure he has all his follow-ups and is vigilant about his nutrition and has regular liver screenings. Peace...

(16) Anonymous, May 24, 2011 6:50 PM

You're right here. This is a tough one to consider. I would say that the counter people should use discretion in asking for weight in front of others so as to not embarrass an overweight person. Just as you wouldn't ask out loud for someone's social security number or make a big deal about someone paying for food stamps at a grocery store. It happens that people are overweight for different reasons. That's life. On the other hand, overweight people would have to consider other passengers as seats are not large on planes in general. Since severely overweight can sometimes be considered a physical handicap, maybe they could designate an area or row of seats for these types of passengers and give them a half off discount on the second seat or something. Automobile makers don't make car seats special for overweight people just because they are out there, planes probably don't for the same reasons (production). However, it's a reality that there are different sized people out there and it's an issue to be addressed whether people like it or not.

(15) Anonymous, May 24, 2011 4:35 PM


I agree that the agent who asked those questions publicly did the wrong thing. That agent should have pulled those women aside and discreetly and sensitively asked them what was important for Southwest's rules. Their clothing size was NOT appropriate nor their weight. What Southwest claims is that the arm rest must come down comfortably with room so that no passenger infringes on the space of another passenger. Ultimately, that answer has to do with body shape more than anything. And, one can always fly other airlines whose policies differ. I am quite overweight and try to fly only Jet Blue. They are respectful and discreet. I usually try to purchase the extra legroom seats as gives me more room. If I travel with my children then it doesn't matter to Jet Blue if I take up a little bit of room from my kids and my sons surely don't mind! But Southwest does care and it is clearly stated so on their website. As for what the Torah would say, the Gemarah (baba metziah beginning 9th perek) says that two Tannas were so fat that a big oxen carriage had room to pass between the space made by their enormous stomachs. The Tosafos claims the lesson to be learned from this is that we should not shame overweight people as such Torah greats were so very obese.

(14) david frankel, May 24, 2011 3:48 PM

yes i think fat slaps should requre to buy 2nd seat its thier fault for being fat they choised that ugly life style

nancy, May 24, 2011 8:34 PM


Shame on you for being so judgmental, and no, I am not overweight! I think extra seating would be helpful, but D.F., your sensitivity is only surpassed by your spelling and grammar skills.

Anonymous, May 29, 2011 7:13 PM

Nancy, good comment. I too note horrendous spelling and grammar skills in these comments. People that are as judgmental and insensitive as some of these commentators are, speak with lashon hara.

Nancy Zwiebach, May 25, 2011 5:27 AM


Several years ago I co-led a couples' group with a colleague. He happened to be a gay man. He once said that with all the"political correctness" it was still okay to mock gays. I said it was also very still okay to mock and ridicule fat people. Yes, the popular belief is that fat people choose to be fat. In many cases that's not true. However, in every case a person can choose to be cruel, crass and insensitive. I never met you, David, but I already know what you choose!

michael shenny, May 25, 2011 6:51 AM

what would you say if the person has a medical condition, say a thyroid problem?.......

(13) Anonymous, May 24, 2011 3:44 PM

How much of premium must they pay?

There are rows with 3 seats. Mother & daughter could by one ticket between them and share the row. Two tickets each is an excessive demand. What is SW Airline doing in public.That would be a Saturday night live skit but its not funny. Having won the right to view under passengers clothing for security purposes, airline officials have become crude discussing weight and dress size in public.

(12) Anonymous, May 24, 2011 2:14 PM


As a person who is severely overweight, I think that it is important to chime in here. The first time a counter person asked me to buy a second seat, I was insulted, however it is important to realize reality. The last 2 times that I have flown, I have purchased a second seat, and frankly I am more comfortable, and others are as well. In addition, Southwest in particular will refund the 2nd seat if there is even one open seat on the flight. In most cases, I have been reimbursed for the 2nd seat. Since people buying 2 seats are seated first, I was also able to have the bulkhead, which is more comfortable with leg room as well. Finally, I think that while counter staff need to be sensitive to the difficulties of passengers, the overweight passengers themselves need to be sensitive to the needs of other passengers as well. Not accepting reality is simply not an option. By the way, I think that the idea stated above of special seats could really go a long way towards solving the problem.

(11) shunrata, May 24, 2011 2:10 PM

what about little people?

I'm short and skinny. Shouldn't I get a discount? Seriously, if you're going to charge some people for being above average weight and size, then be honest and charge less for small people. (There actually is a provision for VERY small people - babies travel at a fraction of the cost as they do not take a separate seat.) And what if I'm taking less luggage? I should get a discount for that too, right? The airlines have to decide if they are running a client service (price per person) or shipping freight (price per kilo). And if they go for freight shipping (true cattle class!) being discreet would be in order.

(10) Anonymous, May 24, 2011 3:07 AM


I think girth rather than weight might be the issue. Just as there are cradles/devices for limiting the size of hand luggage, airlines could have a "girth-ometer" to gauge the volume of passengers. Those who cannot fit into the girthometer must buy two tickets and get two seats.

(9) Heather, May 23, 2011 9:39 PM

Judaism Says

I think the real issue here is that Judaism asks us not to embarrass other people. If Southwest asked these women their weight and size in public and made them embarrassed than Southwest was wrong. They could have been more discreet.

(8) Aliza, May 23, 2011 10:59 AM

another thing to consider

Before airlines shrunk seats to miniscule size, on one of my flights, I had a window seat. The person who took the middle seat was enormous, and had to have a seatbelt extension to be able to close the seatbelt. Once this person was settled in his seat, he could not move the rest of the flight. Which meant *I* could not move the rest of the flight. I was unable to use the washroom, or get up and stretch. I think there needs to be a more discreet way of asking passengers their weight, but something needs to be done. Perhaps have a certain number of larger seats alloted to those who won't fit in regular seats (who should pay a little more, but not two seats' worth)? Assign them to bulkhead seats or last row? It seems discriminatory, but with the size of airline seats, it's a safety issue for the passengers next to them. Fortunately, my flight was only 4 hours, and I was able to "hold it" but if it had been longer? Or if I had had that extra cup of coffee in the morning? What if I had been a pregnant woman? Elderly? Sick? Also, since the person overflowed his seat into mine, I had about 2/3 of the room I would have otherwise had, leaving me crammed into the same position for those 4 hours. It's not safe or healthy. I feel for people who are large (especially since I've had my own bouts with being overweight), but there are certain circumstances which have to be exceptions.

Rami, May 24, 2011 5:27 PM

ask, dont be shy

Aliza, you simply should have suggested to the overweight person to switch seats, so at you could get out. If he would not comply ask the attendent

(7) Lisa, May 23, 2011 8:58 AM

OY.....this one is a biggie (no pun intended!)

I once asked to have my seat moved bc the person next to me was way too close!!! And I did get it changed...not an easy size does not fit all!! But bottom line...if they were too big could they have fit in just one seat?? Probably not....

(6) OliveU, May 22, 2011 10:59 PM

different perspective here

I think the problem is that airlines are trying to scrunch so many people in to planes so they can make more money. The seats are uncomfortable for people or average size and weight. I think they should have seats for larger people with a little higher cost instead of requiring a person to purchase a second seat. I do think it's discriminatory to tell someone they are too fat to fly. Not everyone is the same size and so we shouldn't expect people to all be the same size that fly. Even movie theatres have different sized seats so people can be comfortable. Perhaps we should stop saying if you don't fit our vision of what size you should be and instead say if you are this size purchase this seat, etc instead of causing pain or uncomfort to anyone physically or emotionally.

(5) Dorothy Frances Goldstein, May 22, 2011 4:31 PM

Do we trade compassion for others for comfort for ourselves?

Some years ago I traveled with someone who made nasty cracks about overweight women "is she pregnant or just fat?"I was mortified to be with him. I have not been his friend for many years. These days, it's not that hard to avoid second hand smoke.The line I think has to be drawn where we rank our own physical comfort above the feelings of another human being.

(4) Rosen, May 22, 2011 1:03 PM

odd/awkward situation and customer service

It's odd to hear Southwest Airlines ask an "overweight" mother and daughter how much they weigh (I doubt this would be a question with the security at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport). Plus, I read an article online a couple weeks ago that Southwest Airlines was regarded as the best in customer service, so there seems to be some conflicting info out there (I thought Jetblue may be the best in customer service, but I may be wrong with that too)...All in all, when it comes to asking appropriate questions at the airport, just think what the security protocol would do at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv - they're passenger profiling is a lot more streamlined and comfortable than that in the US.

(3) SusanE, May 22, 2011 1:01 PM

Personally Had the Experience.

Was flying with husband and children from West Palm to Outer Islands in the Bahamas in a 6 seater plane. Luggage was stowed in the wings. The pilot asked our weight to balance the plane. I wasn't embarassed or offended. Heaviest were in front and back of wings to balance. It's for safety. On airplanes, in an enclosed area, size and weight is important. Baggage/Cargo size is exactly measured and weighed. Seats are designed to hold an average sized person with armrests and trays, safety devices, etc. A fully booked flight can be estimated to be of a certain weight. I think there should be limits to the size and weight of people on airlines. If a person is overweight and doesn't fit into the seat, then they should purchase another seat. It's also for the comfort of the other passengers. Airlines should have established rules about body weight posted before the people buy their tickets, just as they have rules about luggage. They have guidelines about ages and sizes of children needing separate seating. ~~~~ Safety first, - then passenger comfort, - then accomodations. ~~~~~~ I can't see why there is a controversy.

(2) Alan S., May 22, 2011 12:05 PM

Excellent commentary Rabbi. There is a big difference between respectfully challenging someone based upon the physical limitations of an aircraft (or bus, taxi, etc.)and challenging someone based upon the color of their skin. Common sense dictates comfort for all.

Anonymous, May 28, 2011 3:40 PM

discrimination and hatred comes is all forms

and discrimination is still discrimination

Anonymous, May 29, 2011 7:20 PM

Please get real. There is a tremendous difference between disciminating to a physical characteristic that has little to do with the safety and comfort of others, and discrimination based on a physical characterisitic that does have to do with safety and comfort of others. If a cigarette smoker blew smoke into the air that you directly breath, and you ask him or her to move, are you discriminating against a whole class of people (smokers)? Or, are you championing your right to breath clean air?

(1) Fattolerant, May 22, 2011 11:13 AM

Yes it's discrimination

Obesity is a medical condition. You don't ask someone who's sitting on wheel chair to pay two tickets, why are you allowed to ask an obese? And with regard to those who smell, they should not pay to tickets, they should be just denyed the permission to fly untill they take a shower and show upp again with clean clothes on.

Gary Katz, May 26, 2011 4:56 AM

middle ground

Obesity is a medical condition, but it's not something you catch like a cold. An obese adult totally controls his/her weight, through diet, unless there's a separate medical condition that immobilizes the person so they can't burn off many calories. In any event, if a person doesn't fit into the seat, they don't fit into the seat. It they take up their seat and half of mine, it shouldn't be my problem. Perhaps the airlines can install a certain number of wider seats, specially reserved for larger people. If the airlines want, they can always charge a bit more for those (partially to prevent abuse, because who wouldn't like a larger seat?), and that would be fair to everybody, thin and not-so-thin. Certainly very obese people would feel more comfortable in a 50% larger seat anyway.

Fattolerant, May 28, 2011 2:27 PM

Not true...

... that "an obese adult totally controls his/her weight, through diet"Some obese people have ormonal problems and can't loose weight. Others have psychological issues that make dieting impossible for them. If they could loose weight they absoloutely would. Who likes to be ridicolized and discriminated? The image of the overweight guy happily indulging in ipercaloric meals is totally false. Those who overeat do so because they can't help doing it. Believe me I've been one of them. And for what concernes exercising, for a very overweight man or woman can be a problem even going out of home to take a walk, because people make fun of them all the time.

Anonymous, May 28, 2011 3:33 PM

finally a reasonable response !!

Airlines need to become more accomodating - they should install a certain number of wider seats. How many would they need per pane ? Not many --- two ? four ? this is such an easy solution --


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