Serious Studies

Lean Times at United

Plus-Sized Passenger

I've been thinking a lot since yesterday about United Airlines' plan to charge plus-sized people more for their flights from now on. It upset me so much that I went out and had a 2000 calorie dinner.

I'm not fat, you know, but I do have big bones. What if some anorexic flight attendant decides that the line between fat and burly no longer exists? I don't need two seats, unless they shrink their size again. And who's saying they won't? I remember when you could sit in a coach seat and recline it a bit and be almost comfortable. Now there's a deathmatch fight for any available armrest, the space allotted to you is a vertical coffin, and the angle of recline is about 5 degrees or a quarter of an inch. Even that is too much, since the way they're spaced front-to-back has shrunk, too. Last month there was a guy in the seat in front of me eating a large bag of salami practically in my lap. He didn't even offer me any.

At the same time, relatively slender people have rights, too. I was riding on a Southwest flight not long ago. I had purchased the Business Select option, where for $15 dollars or so you can board earlier than the rest of the crowd. So I got on and selected the front row, aisle seat. Another guy got on and took the window. Right as the door was closing, some behemoth, maybe 6'3", 320 pounds puffed onto the plane, looked at us and said, "Is this seat taken?" He then plopped his 1/6th of a ton between us and fell promptly asleep. It was not a comfortable flight. He snored, too.

The bottom line on our bottoms is this: As a nation, we're getting fatter even as the space assigned to us on airplanes is getting smaller and smaller -- as their margins shrink too. What is to be done? We're not going to be getting thinner, I don't think. Airplanes aren't going to be getting any more widebodied to deal with our wide bodies, either.

Here's my suggestion: Coach-level service, larger seats, 150% pricing. That is, create a section of the airplane that has bigger seats, but not as nice as Business or First, serve no food, offer no amenities, kill the footrests, even. All you're offering is more butt space as your butt heads into space. Some have to be there. Others may choose to be. The price is way less than Business but way more than coach. It's a middle ground that recognizes the Airlines' need to make a profit, large people's need to fly, and the normal-sized individual's right to some level of comfort in this world.

Premium Coach is a step in the right direction. But it’s not quite good enough, not for folks with really big bones.

37 Comments Add Comment

How should one say this? Premium Coach just isn't, PC.

I suggest Bill Parcells.

Thanks for making me laugh out loud Mr. Bing.
Sometimes that's all I need. Have a nice weekend.

People who recline their seat in coach are one rung below people who shove their arm in a closing elevator door when the cab is already full.

Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

I would definitely buy UltraCoach seats, but I think the expense police would kill it.

Rollerballs have been replaced with ballpoints and kleenex is mysteriously deleted before office supply orders are delivered. Wine with dinner got pulled a long time ago. Pennies are being counted.

I have big bones, too. Except that they are still visible through my skin. They are also getting more visible as the price of food continues to rise and my annual earnings continue to plummet.

What's a hungry man to do?

At times, I think of future vast suburban landscapes populated by herds of well padded humans. Out of the wilds, the lean and hungry swoop in and pick of the slowest of the lot.

That night, the wild tribe feasts... story ends here, out of respect for the faint of heart.

One day, the American Behemoth will become extinct. And it won't be because of global warming.

Bing, you and I have the big boned problem, been 6'4" & 230 lbs. since I was a kid, no fat on me just built that way, people think I am thin, but try and buy a suit or a car that fits and the legs are too short or I have to sit in the back seat to be comfortable.

The current body style seems to be 2 axe handles wide and 5 foot nothing, people are getting bigger but in the wrong direction.

It all has to do with walking, man is designed as a walking animal, go to poorer countries and the people there are slim and healthy,
why??,,, because they walk.

Europeans are in way better shape on average than N. Americans.... because they walk around...

It must drive the airlines nut's trying to figure out if they need single seats or benches for their flights.

Give a discount to thin people.

So the debate is no longer whether porcine flight is possible but how much they should be charged to keep the airlines makin bacon

I am 6'3" and in good physical condition. United and Air Canada are already unfriendly to tall passengers. United tries to extort extra money to sit in the bulkhead seats. I got pinned and had my knee injured on Air Canada when the passenger ahead on me rocketed his seat back. The attendant berated me for not paying for first class and was otherwise unconcerned.

Yet United has been particularly tolerant of the grossly obese. I ended up black and blue on occasions. For example, an obese person jerked convulsively every time she laughed in the movie and threw her forearm into me. She sent coffee went flying off me tray top. United could have easily seated her in the middle and not the edge of her family group.

You don't know discomfort until you've flown back to America on military transport, sitting in sling seats, looking at a casket for 14 hours. The beverage cart very seldom comes around...

Fly now, pay later with unsecured debt! Ring any bells?

Bells? Perhaps, wedding bells are a must, flavored with pixie dust?

Buy now, pay later with unsecured debt! Children? Have a few, fun now, pay later!

House for additional tax deductions, buy now, pay later with secured debt!

Skiing at Lake Tahoe, buy now, pay later with unsecured debt!

The cute little leprechauns in the banking system dispatch the funds to finance the secured and unsecured debt to pay for the frolicking, easy come easy go, bliss of splendor in the land of free.

They'll give you a chance to breach before they reach for the macho collection agencies staffed with caballeros, who will ride your ass like you're a Brahman Bull at the Texas Rodeo!

If these new seats are toward the back, won't the plane sort of tilt up at the front, once aloft?
(6 foot 3, 230 lbs.)

"I'm not fat ! I'm big-boned !"
-Eric Cartman, South Park, CO
The airlines should be ashamed of the way they are treating our most precious resource, the children.

yes, Im big boned, not fat just big boned,,,yea right........

Hey, me. That's the joke, bro.

Charge by total poundage: person + baggage.

Not to change the subject; but, Prefan from Pa. mentioned Camp Hill where he's from.

Well, I grew up in Pa. and there was a place called White Hill and another place called Morganza; they were reform schools.

Some of my best friends retrained there. I never saw their glass as half empty; hell, just look at Martha Stewart, Ivan Boesky, Levine, and Madoff etc.; they made the big time too! Golly gee!!!!

This is funny. Why did they have to put more seats in? there isn't room for a normal person because I am small and find it impossible to sit in those chairs. It also is weird to be that close, it's sexual in a way.
You are dead on about the arm rest but you forgot about how difficult it is to eat or drink with out ones elbows jabbing and stabbing in some perverse duel with the people next to you. we ended up eating like a bunch of tyrannosaurus rex's. Also, because you are so close to your seat mate, napping is a bad idea. I saw my husband's head on another guys shoulder, and the guy was too nice to shove him away. (I woke my husband but thought a lot about just letting it go on)
How will they determine size? I don't know but they will have a box, like the suitcase box, that you will have to try to fit into. Dogs get more considerate treatment when animal control nabs them. It might even violate the geneva conventions standards.

Hi Stanley!

May I pls offer you a free Avatar without the cigar?



Sure, Gerardo. Let's see it.

Stan, I just can't seem to get over the hump; being, manicures and pedicures.

In 1952, I was privileged to drive a duece and a half ammo truck in the motor pool.

After driving in the swamps and dirt and dust, we had to clean our trucks at the wash rack.

Sgt. Ward, out of Pittsburgh, Motor Sgt., would would inspect the trucks for maintenance and care taking.

Each grease fitting had a little red circle painted around it; the grease fitting, itself, had to shine like new money.

If that grease fitting didn't fit the specs of Sgt. Ward; he would summon you to the lub stall where would proceed to start punching on you to toughen you up so that you can start passing inspections again.

If there are any inquiries out of Pittsburgh about who wote this blog, please ignore them!

In the meantime, Wall Street, better start checking the HVAC systems in their buildings; or, Sgt Ward may visit them.

I found the solution to the airline problem. In 2003 I retired. Haven't been on a plane since then. I do wear a tie on Sunday so I won't forget how to tie it.

Try Amtrak.

Most uncomfortable flight I ever took was me seated in the aisle seat in the last row. Beside me were two University of Oklahoma football players.

I probably had the most body fat (weight and percentage) or all three of us. But if we lined our shoulders up across the row, my sternum was basically over the armrest. And all three of us had to adjust to let the beverage cart down the aisle.

Admittedly, the obese make flights uncomfortable, but not any more so than some of the most popular atheletes in the country.

So we were at an amusement park last February, and oh my...I needed the special seat on the rollercoaster with the over the chest harness...I've always been barrel-chested, but the big soft bone around my midsection has made the barrel chest less conspicuous...I fear now I am just large (or 2X large, for comforts sake)

I'm sure the day will come when I'll have to squeeze my bulky frame into some kind of measuring device to qualify for normal airfare...

Brown spirits and beer...maybe it's time to give them up...or at least switch to the fat-fighting clear spirits...

My wife says I'm not fat...either love is blind, or it lies!

Premium coach would be great, but if the beancounters at companies won't allow it, the idea will die.

(I can see it now, HR pushing their "wellness" agenda ... "If you all lose weight, you'll be healthy, energetic, save us money on healthcare premiums, AND we can save 33% by stuffing your now-skinny ass in the cheap seats on flights!)

The airlines make most of their money off the business traveler, and most business travelers are at the mercy of their "corporate travel and assorted harassment and tortures" department.

While working for a Fortune 100 firm for ages, I broke with the travelrez clowns after a 5-hop elcheapo flight left me stranded in Cleveland overnight ... After that, I made my own reservations, or I didn't go.

(My choices usually saved my department money, at the expense of the corp travelrezclowns' kickback scheme, so I got away with it for years ... try it! Revolt!).

Anyway, I fear most have not managed to attain that level of freedom from corporate harassment, and if the travelrezclowns can "save" $14 by putting you on a 15-hour, 5-hop flight to get you halfway across the country, they sure as hell won't shell out for 150% for a fatkid ride.

Yet another reason to take the train. Can you imagine a cross-country bullet train? From NYC to LA in a day, with legroom and the freedom to get up and walk around all you want. Stops in Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Denver, Las Vegas on the way.

At an imposing 5'7", 120 lbs., I suppose I'm not targeted by United. Yet. But even us "little" guys find airline seats way too cramped.

The worst part is dealing with my neighbor's spillover, though.

And why is it that people seem to think - just because I'm petite - that I don't get a fair share of the armrest? I will "upgrade" to Economy Plus - and pay the difference out of my pocket since my company's travel policy prohibits such indulgences. I am all for the oversized paying additional for their inconvenience of others.

My favorite comment from fat or obese people is that their back or knee problems make it so they cannot work out.

OK...if you had a knee, back injury BEFORE you were obese, then that's understandable.

BUT if you were obese and had no injuries until you were too fat which caused your back and knee problems (due to your joints not being able to support your FAT-@$$) then you are just lazy.

There is no reason for anyone to be over-weight beyond a reasonable 5-10 pounds. Exercise, swim (for those with knee issues), cut down your calories, etc.

This may seem insensitive, especially coming from someone who is 5'8" and 125 lbs., but I think those who take up more than their fair share of a seat, should have to pay for 2 seats. I've been in the unfortunate position of flying beside a person with "over-spillage" problems and it just seems very unfair to me that I paid the same amount as someone else who is taking up half of my space. What made the experience so much worse is the fact that the oversized person beside me seemed completely unconcerned about his/her encroachment. Talk about property interests! But I suppose in reality was was that person to do? It's not like he could just suck in.

Maybe one's seating should be determined by the amount of water one displaces in a special tank.

"Maybe one’s seating should be determined by the amount of water one displaces in a special tank."

At least for those with enough mass to exert influence over local tidal conditions.

Maybe one’s seating should be determined by the amount of water one displaces in a special tank.

Posted By Bing

Funny you should mention that Bing,
I have always had trouble floating in the pool, a fellow once told me I was too dense to float, after I punched him a few times he explained that my body was too dense, not my mind.

Him and I are still friends.

I've always found that floating an air biscuit early in the flight usually inspires the guy in the seat next to me to find another seat, thus insuring plenty of space for me. Now if everybody did this on the plane, we would all have plenty of room without any additional charge.

... air biscuit?

Air biscuit = flatulatory greeting

For those sad souls working in cubicle farms; also known as 'crop dusting'. Will result in rashes of cubicle dweller 'prairie dogging' as the offended inhabitants attempt to determine source (long gone if skillfully executed). When you work in the 'Matrix' you take whatever meager pleasures afford you.

I seldom get back to the corporate hive, but when visiting I do what the natives do....float air biscuits on packed elevators. I am, however, always a gentleman, and avoid auditory assaults upon my fellow travelers. That would just be rude.

Feigning quiet disgust with flared nostrils is essential.

Juvenile? Most assuredly...but very entertaining none-the-less. Simple pleasures are always best.

I just wanted to transfer my deceased husband's Mileage Plus miles with the ever so friendly skies customer service at United Airlines. After searching their website for info and answers (and finding very little info), I fired off several emails and several phone calls; the last customer service agent told me: No problem you can transfer, oh, but, you have to pay a $75 transfer fee! Keep in mind: There was/is no mention that I could find of United representing openly to members that they assess a $75 for miles transfer at the website.

Delta Airlines don't do this, (especially transferring between a husband and his surviving wife), yet United is right there to make you realize how much you must pay to use those miles as an incentive to spend more on travel with United. Most experiences we have had with United do not make them the friendliest in the skies, and this fee just makes me want to choose other airlines over United every time we travel. Anyone else out there paying fees to transfer miles? Now, I was just wondering, does UAirlines look at the number of your miles and then decide the fee or is the $75 the same for everybody? Thanks.