On Tuesday, Twitter user @yrfatfriend (Your Fat Friend) tweeted a thread about what it's like to fly "as a very fat person," and it went viral.
"I hadn't written about what happens when I follow all the rules that are laid out for fat people. Because even when I do, I'm still at significant risk," she told BuzzFeed.
Her first step was researching the airline's customer-of-size policy, which requires her to buy a second seat — whether it's available or not. If it's unavailable, she will still be charged.
@yrfatfriend also had to bring her own seatbelt extender, which is sometimes confiscated by TSA.
She said she isn't embarrassed to ask for an extender, but she does worry about others complaining. When they do, more passengers usually do, and she will often be "reseated, charged double, or escorted off the plane, stranded" — sometimes with no refund.
When there is a complaint — which she said happens 50% of the time — her body is openly discussed.
For this flight, @yrfatfriend bought a first-class ticket — which was $900 more than a coach ticket — because seats are wider. The tray table didn't fit around her, however, which meant she could not do work or eat the first-class meal she paid for.
She also can't request anything on the flight because she doesn't want the flight attendant reaching over her, since it might disturb her neighbor.
No one complained about her on this flight. But, six years ago, @yrfatfriend said the man sitting next to her complained about her to the flight attendant.
And then he came back and said, "This is for your comfort. It'll be better for both of us."
She was humiliated.
No one acknowledged her for the rest of the flight — including the flight attendant. She said no one spoke up and stood up for her.
At the end of the flight, the man who complained said this:
After that flight, @yrfatfriend didn't fly for a year and a half. Despite the incident, she continues to fly — for her family, for her job, and because she won't let others' perceptions of her body control it.
@yrfatfriend said she hopes her story will make people show some compassion. "I'm hopeful that when [people] hear about what it's like to fly as a fat person, they're able to extend a little more compassion, a little less judgment, and that they're willing to think more carefully about airlines' roles in making flying challenging for all of us — fat and thin," she said.
Thank you for sharing your story, @yrfatfriend. You can read the full thread here!
Additional reporting from Delaney Strunk.