Tweet Goes Viral After Passenger Calls Seatmates Too Fat to Fly

"If you need a seat belt extender, you are TOO FAT TO BE ON A PLANE. Buy two seats or don't fly."

Man using a mobile phone in the middle seat of an airplane

Even under the best of circumstances, air travel is often…not great. And if you happen to find to yourself in a middle seat, in economy class, sandwiched between two unwitting passengers, it’s even less great. That said, most discerning travelers chalk it up to part of the experience and keep it moving. They don’t, instead, pen a public screed, for the consumption of thousands, shaming those passengers. And certainly not shaming those passengers for their weight. Unless that traveler is Sydney Watson, apparently.

“I am currently – literally – WEDGED between two OBESE people on my flight. This is absolutely NOT acceptable or okay,” the conservative commentator, who goes by Dr. Sydney Watson on Twitter, tweeted out to her 330,800 followers on October 10. “If fat people want to be fat, fine. But it is something else entirely when I’m stuck between you, with your arm rolls on my body, for 3 hours.”

The tweet, which has since garnered nearly 2,600 replies, ignited a heated discourse, with Watson ultimately demanding a response from American Airlines.

“Our passengers come in all different sizes and shapes. We’re sorry you were uncomfortable on your flight,” the carrier eventually replied…before issuing her a $150 credit, of course.

Though, that wasn’t enough for Watson, who immediately resumed her rant by tweeting, “I just experienced getting sweat on, touched without my consent, smacked in the face and subjected to hours of no personal space. And your response is essentially “too bad”? Is that what I’m getting here?”

What exactly Watson was after in retrospect isn’t explicitly clear, however many chimed in pledging their support. More still were disturbed by Watson’s commitment to fat shaming the two passengers who she deduced to be siblings, eventually referring to them as “the fats.” How humiliating it must be to find yourself the subject of a viral, weeklong tirade because of your weight?

And, sure, it’s probably a situation she shouldn’t have been put it. American Airlines’ own policy states as much. But isn’t the onus on the airline then? For the uninitiated, the current policy — per iFly — is as follows: “Any traveler who requires an additional seat will be given an additional seat whenever one is available. Airline attendants will search the plane to see if there are additional seats available, and, if there is, they will move passengers around to provide the airline passenger of size with two empty seats. This is cited as not only an airline policy, but as a safety precaution as well. When an airline cannot find an additional seat for a passenger, that passenger may be required to purchase a second seat and wait for a new flight.”

The thing is, as far as I can tell, Watson didn’t ask the airline for anything. She references pointed looks but never actually mentions addressing the issue, inflight, with the flight attendants. Instead, she seems to have spent the better part of her flight live tweeting horribly offensive things about her seat mates, which is wholly unproductive. Particularly because, it stands to reason, that they weren’t exactly having the time of their lives in a too-small plane seat, either.

If there is a lesson to be gleaned here, however, is that plane seats need to be bigger. “Seats have continued to shrink by some airlines, and people are continuing to get larger,” president of Paul Hudson has said. “Our estimate is that only 20% of the population can reasonably fit in these seats now. It’s beyond a matter of comfort, or even emergency evacuation, there are serious health and safety issues when you’re put in cramped conditions for hours on end.”

But, despite the legislation and being given years to establish a standard — and save for a few studies — the issue has gone largely unaddressed by the FAA. Perhaps Watson’s plight will, somehow, instigate some semblance of change, (though my guess is it probably won’t), but — in the meantime — let us not forget that, if you don’t want to bump elbows with your seat mates in economy you could quite simply… not sit in economy. And if you don’t want to pay for an upgrade? Snag an aisle seat at check-in. It truly is that easy.


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