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Flying While Plus Size: What Flights Are Really Like for Overweight Travelers

Relentless stares. Seat belt extenders. Narrow seats. Plus-sized travelers battle these obstacles and more to fly, a mode of transportation that many of us take for granted. A mother turned to the internet to share her embarrassing flight experience, sparking overweight travelers to respond.

Where It Began

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A flight attendant informed a plus-size mother flying with her daughter on RyanAir that she couldn’t request a seat belt extender. The reason? Her first-row seat was in the exit row.

Embarrassment Sets In

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The mother had to make her self-proclaimed “walk of shame” to row 17, intending to switch seats with her daughter.

The Unwanted Surprise

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As it turns out, row 17 was an emergency exit row too. Not wanting to repeat her walk of shame, the mother squeezed herself into row 17. Anxiety built up as she squished herself between the narrow armrests and meditated on the “skinniest thoughts” she ever had.

The Sweet Click

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The mother’s skinny thoughts worked. She heard the buckle click and didn’t have to face another embarrassing scene in front of the passengers. But her anxiety was still running high, and she felt on the brink of hyperventilating.

Humor Comes in Many Forms

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The mother recounts that she went to reach for her Xanax. But she realized she had left her bag in row one. She joked that she found something new to give her anxiety.

Leave Sympathy at the Door

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The mother clarified that she isn’t seeking sympathy by sharing her story. She acknowledged that she’s overweight and wanted to share her story for some comic relief.

The Internet’s Reaction

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Sympathy wasn’t in the cards for the mother, but respect and people relating to her story were. Messages came in droves, with plus-size individuals sharing their horrific flying stories. Some also shared tips to make flying while overweight easier that many heavy travelers didn’t know about.

Be Gone, Seat Belt Extender Requests

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Asking for a seat belt extender is embarrassing. So, overweight travelers in-the-know commented that passengers can order seat belt extenders online with websites like Amazon. 

The Caveat

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Not all seat belt extenders bought online work with all airline buckles. Furthermore, overweight travelers should check with their airlines to ensure they allow passengers to bring their own seat belt extenders.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

Man who can't get seat belt buckled on plane.
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Some plus-size readers commented that they don’t wear a seat belt to avoid the embarrassment of asking for an extender. Their solution? They place a sweater or coat over their laps. Please don’t try this, folks.

What’s the Deal With Banned Seat Belt Extenders?

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Federal aviation regulations ban seat belt extenders in exit rows because they’re a hazard. In the event of an emergency, there’s a higher chance of seat belt extenders tangling or tripping fleeing passengers than standard seat belts.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

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Did you know that many exit-row seats are narrower than standard seats? Furthermore, the table and entertainment screen are often attached to the armrest, digging into a plus-size person’s stomach.

Not All Planes Are Equal

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Plus-size passengers may easily slip into some plane seats while other seats can practically take their breath away as they try to squeeze into them. Contact the airline before booking your ticket if you’re concerned about plane seat sizes.

The Belly Roll Trick

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One reader commented that they have no issues using a standard seat belt as long as they lift their belly roll. They said it would be impossible to get the seat belt to click if they tried to do so above their belly.

Lesson Learned

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Overweight travelers who know or think they may need to use a seat belt extender should never book an exit-row seat. Flying while plus size comes with enough challenges; changing seats with a normal-size passenger doesn’t have to be one of them.

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