Flying While Fat Isn’t Just Uncomfortable, It’s Heartbreaking

Unless you’re one of those people who can afford to book yourself a personal room in first class (that’s going to set you back $21,000 per trip), or at least a “pod” that gives you the ability to lean back a few inches to sleep, you probably don’t like flying. Not only is it uncomfortable and tedious, it can also be terrifying — especially when you remember that man was probably never meant to fly and that hurtling through the air in a high-tech aluminum can has risks and consequences.

But for people who are larger, overweight, or fat (that’s no an insult and body positivity activists have written extensively on why that is) taking a plane is more than scary and uncomfortable: It’s heartbreaking, it’s depressing and it can be excessively cruel, with other passengers intentionally slamming their armrests into the bodies of fat travelers, telling the overweight person how unhappy they are to be seated next to them, and even getting airline employees involved.

All this is the basis for a new documentary short by Stacy Bias, a fat activist who wanted to give the public a real lesson in what it’s like to travel as a bigger person. Utilizing animations with voice-overs of women who’ve experienced discrimination on airplanes, Bias — the creator of popular Facebook group “Flying While Fat,” which gives plus-size passengers travel tips and tricks — put together the following film to create awareness of how difficult flying while fat is.

From the video, via Cosmopolitan:

“I’m always trying not to burden someone else with my body,” said one woman in a voiceover. “It’s like I have this hyper-awareness of my body at all times, and other people don’t have to think about it, and don’t have to think about their space or how much or little they’re taking up.”

“For the most part, my tactic is to kind of hug myself and squeeze into the window … and just sort of disappear,” another woman says.

But even hugging yourself sometimes doesn’t work. As one woman in the film points out, a man she was sitting next to was so incensed that she was fat that he kept slamming the arm rest down on her, despite the fact that it was clear to him that he was causing her pain. It’s understandable that the man might have been upset at having even less space to himself than the airlines (who want to cram in as many people onto each flight as possible) advertised, but to be that cruel? That’s terrible!

If nothing else — and we know there will be people who will just say “lose weight, problem solved” — this video should make you think about how some people treat others while traveling, especially as we’re all planning to board planes this holiday season.