This is Thin Privilege

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Flying While Thin Privileged

Do you mind giving some commentary on this story?


Mod response: 

I don’t mind. For those who don’t want to click through, the basic story:

"The flight was completely full and after boarding an adult passenger who was not originally booked for this flight, we learned a young customer traveling alone once onboard needed more than one seat to get safely to her final destination," [Southwest spokesperson] McInnis said. "We requested the adult customer take the next flight to accommodate the young, 14-year old traveler who was being met at her destination."


The article is written by an obvious fat-hating hack who needs to go back to Journalism 101 and retake the “tone” segment of the course. 

It’s also a bloody mess. The article author quotes a SW spokesperson above who says the ticketed passenger was the fat 14 year-old girl and the standby passenger was the thin adult, and then says,

George Hobica, president of, said a ticketed passenger normally has precedence over one flying standby. However, whoever was picking up the 14-year-old girl might have panicked if she wasn’t on the flight.

Which seems to contradict that.

For anyone who wants to break down bias in articles, here’s a hint: look for the adjectives and verbs. In this article the thin woman was “kicked off” a plan to provide room for an “oversized” girl. The girl is painted as the interloper from the outset, and fat people like her as thoughtless monsters who are “so obese that they can’t squeeze into their chair and never thought to purchase a second ticket.” (“obese,” “squeeze,” “never thought to”)

Now, this story is set up to be that the fat girl (or her guardians, rather) bought one ticket instead of two, and when a standby passenger was told there was room for her, the only seat was next to a fat fatty who was ‘oversized’ (taking up too much space, rather than the exact amount of space she needs — the size of her body). 

The thin woman says this, which is placed high up in the story:

"It didn’t seem right that I should have to leave to accommodate someone who had only paid for one seat," the anonymous woman told the Sacramento Bee.

The thin stand-by passenger is made out to be a victim, when in fact, she was able to get on another flight to her destination within the hour (how often do you think this happens for fat folks — ticketed passengers, not standbys — who are much more routinely asked to deboard when the flight is ‘too full’?). And what an asshole, by the way, getting pissy about accommodating a 14 year-old girl. Fuck you, lady.

What rubs me so wrong is this:

McInnis acknowledged that the airline should have first sought volunteers and said Southwest apologized to the woman and refunded her one-way airfare.

Yet you NEVER see this said about fat people who are booted off flights. It’s ‘their fault’ that they were so ‘thoughtless’ that they believed they could ‘squeeze’ into the seat. No mention of asking volunteers to get off to accommodate a fat person, and refunding a fat person’s ticket for the inconvenience. Nope. Thin people get apologies and refunds, fat people get aspersions and a doubled fare. Thin privilege, folks.

But, but! This story about the fat passenger having only bought one seat is apparently something the thin stand-by passenger could very well have made up. No one actually knows if the fat girl’s guardians bought two seats. Buried in the story, we find out that:

It is normally Southwest’s policy that passengers who are too big to fit in a seat buy two tickets in advance and then are refunded for the extra seat if the plane isn’t full.

Southwest’s coach seats are 17-inches wide, according to

Southwest wouldn’t say if the girl had purchased two seats.

A story I have heard fat people tell is that they comply with the ‘person of size’ policy (which this article calls the “Obese Passenger Policy” — bias, folks, watch those adjectives!), purchase two seats, and then get pressured into giving up their second empty seat to stand-by passengers.

What could have happened here — just as likely as the “OMG but she only paid for one seat!” story is that this fat 14 year-old’s guardians paid for two seats, and one of the flight staff saw an empty seat in the cabin (or on the seating chart more likely) and offered it to a standby passenger. Then when they realized it was a passenger-of-size seat they had to ask the stand-by person to take another flight, instead. 

The article author really jumps the shark (I know, who thought it could get worse) when he starts pearl-clutching about how he couldn’t get any info about the statistics on how many fat people need two seats on a plane. And of course, like any reasonable person, I’m wondering why the fuck this is relevant to the story, except to capitalize on the “obesity epidemic” hysteria with stats about How! Many! Fat People! Take Up! Two Seats! OMG!

Oh. But there’s a second page. And this is when the conversation about this poor thin person on stand-by, who had to get on another flight WITHIN THE HOUR so a 14 YEAR OLD GIRL FLYING ALONE who’d paid for her ticket(s) in advance could get to her fucking destination, starts to satirize itself. 

But not everybody is so forgiving of Southwest.

"This is crazy. The gate agent obviously made a bad judgment call," said John DiScala, a travel blogger known as Johnny Jet. "Did they ever think how embarrassing it is for someone to be taken off the plane? Other passengers might have thought she was a terrorist. The agent should’ve made the 14-year-old wait for the next plane. After all, she was late."

Did people ever think of how embarrassing it is for fat people to be routinely kicked off flights for 17” wide seats not being big enough to accommodate them, and not having the money to purchase two seats and gamble on not being on a full flight (or having the ability to leave at non-peak times) so they’re refunded that fare? Southwest isn’t Luxury Airlines. Many folks who travel Southwest travel it because otherwise they wouldn’t be able to afford to fly at all, and they need to get from point A to point B. If these people could afford to pay for two seats will-nilly, they could afford to travel another airline. (not all people who travel Southwest do so b/c they can’t afford to travel otherwise, but I’m not talking about those people here) 

And this doesn’t even take into account the fat people who DO comply with “person of size” policies, buy two tickets, then face airline staff trying to sell a standby passenger their bought-and-paid-for second seat. 

So yeah. Apparently we’re supposed to take people’s feelings into account — how embarrassing it would be to be kicked off a flight, with some hyperbolic story about how people might think the poor thin person is a TERRORIST! — if they’re thin, but fuck ‘em if they’re fat, even if they’re 14 year-old girls. This is thin privilege.

There’s some mention of “extra-large” seats that would cost extra, but not the price of a double fare. Which is an interesting concept which basically turns flying into a straight-size/plus-size adventure, where straight-size people up to a certain point get some low foundational rate, and plus-size people have to pay an exorbitant fee for an extra couple inches.

And of course, there’s the inevitable othering of fat people as either physically or mentally diseased:

"Whether or not we treat obesity as a medical or mental condition, facts are facts … there are a lot of wide people," Hobica said.

Cuz hey, it can’t be an article about fat people without questioning whether fat people deserve nice things, amirite?

So, crap article, written by a total hack, biased to all fuck-out, and obviously don’t read the comments.



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