Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Guestie: I am not a suitcase

Very happy to bring you another guest post by hazel. Her flatmate reacted to this rant with a concerned "have you been reading the comments on Stuff again?".

On being told that fairness in air travel would consist of everyone paying one fare for person + packages, so that fatties like me don't get more than my fair share of the space:

I am not a suitcase. I am not the floral bouquet you take to your mother when you visit on her birthday. I am not the box of illegal copies of movies you bought from a street vendor in Bangkok. I am not your luggage; I am not your third-best pair of jeans or your stained underwear or the pair of shoes you just couldn't pass by. I can't leave bits of me behind in the hotel room when I check out; I can't abandon myself in a convenient rubbish bin outside the airport. When I go I take all of me (and frankly I'd rather not have you either, but I put up with it). I do not fit into a test compartment by the check-in counter; and unlike your box of condoms and your shampoo I care about whether or not I am weighed in public. The span of my hips is not for public consumption.

And your grand plan for social equity won't solve the dilemma of you being pressed up against my thigh; I can't put my left calf above your head shut away for three hours as we cross the Tasman. The seats aren't bigger because I've paid for my tits, lady, for my nose and my size 10 feet and my wide wide shoulders level with your eyes.

I know you are angry. I know you suffer, crushed up against the thickness of my waist for this trip we share. I know it is very hard for you, trapped in a claustrophobic tube eight miles high floating above the clouds and caught between the screaming baby three rows back and the air hostess asking if you want milk in your tea; and me, my shoulders (level with your eyes) and my fatness and the bright pink of my dress and the way the seatbelt presses into my flesh: it offends.

I just don't give a shit.

That's a lie - I totally do, because then you talk at me in newspaper columns wide-eyed and earnest as though you have solved the world's problems with your perfect logic and stellar pragmatism. Because you want to take your mother a floral bouquet on her birthday; and you do not see why I cannot put my left calf above your head shut away for three hours as we cross the Tasman. And if I question your perfect logic and stellar pragmatism you ask me if I am not maybe just a little bit it only seems the sensible thing concerned about my health.


Mikaere Curtis said...

One option is for everyone to get a maximum mass allowance, and this could include personal mass and all baggage - both checked and carry-on.

When travelling in a group, this could be aggregated so those in the group that have less than the maximum gift their unused mass to the others in the group.

This idea (which may well turn out to be a bad idea, I'm simply interested in exploring it to see if it has any merit), could mean that if you are a more massive person who is travelling with less baggage then you could expect a larger seat. Likewise, if your are a less massive person then you could expect more baggage checked allowance. Carry-on baggage may well be limited because the overhead lockers are limited in size.

However, men are typically more massive than women. This means they would receive a lower overall baggage allowance. This may not be such a problem when you consider that men may have fewer presentational requirements (less makeup, fewer shoes), than some women.

The main idea is that if everyone pays the same, they should be able to take the same mass with them. It is up for the traveller to decide the makeup of that mass.

In the case where a traveller wants to take more mass, then they could purchase more mass allowance.

Mikaere Curtis said...

On the floral bouquet thing, then there needs to be a mechanism for volumetric mass - which takes into consideration the volume of an item as well as it's mass.

The upshot of which would see travellers pick up bouquets once they arrive at an airport, not wastefully transport flowering stems via aircraft.

hazel said...

Mikaere Curtis: this rant was written in direct response to your suggestion (which has been made many times before), as evidenced by the first sentence.

It will not solve the problem of the seats being too narrow for me/people who sit next to me.

And I am still not a suitcase.

A Nonny Moose said...

"Personal Mass"?! How dehumanizing.

I presume the concern trolls so bent on making air travel "fair" for everyone are lobbying all the airlines STRENUOUSLY to change their seat sizes back.

Oh no, sorry, forgot, they're too busy fat shaming people. What a trick eh? Airlines change seat size, CUSTOMERS get blamed. PR (asshole) genius.

Placebogirl said...

I straight up love this post, and I wish we could email it to every airline exec in the world.

Air NZ are a fine example of an airline that have made their seating miniscule: their 777-300 which flies from AKL-LHR via LAX has some of the tiniest long-haul seating of any major airline. They should not be allowed to externalise the cost of doing this: that is more people will simply not fit in the seats. While I have not flown this particular economy class, I have seen it in action and it looks beyond awful: as a result I will never fly this aircraft, and in fact am inclined to shift my business to airlines who care about the comfort of all those who fly with them, not just those with enough financial privilege to pay for better seating.

Placebogirl said...

PS: I am a frequent traveller who is actively disturbed by being in physical contact with people I don't know. When it happens that I sit next to someone for whom the seat is too small, I do my best to make room for them (I'm short and I have thin privilege), and fume on the inside that the airline did not accommodate them, because I figure they are WAY more uncomfortable than I am. As far as I can tell, this is the only reasonable response to such a situation. If it happened that the person next to me were so ill-accommodated by the airline that I was sitting in a position that caused me physical pain, I would ask to be moved, but I would do so discreetly, all the while pointing out to the flight attendant that the airline has an obligation to accommodate ALL customers. I would also email the airline afterwards to let them know that their lack of accommodation made me and no doubt my seatmate uncomfortable afterwards.

Canada has the right idea about this: it is against the law to require a person who due to size or disability requires a second seat (perhaps for a travelling companion) to purchase it: instead the airline is required to offer it free of charge. Someone had worked out the cost per passnger who travelled of doing this and it was less than $0.50. I'm more than happy to pay that cost so that everyone can travel safely and in comfort, and would be if it was more. I also like that it means the airlines can't have it both ways the way they so often currently do: if a single traveller purchases a second seat for ANY reason other than another traveller, the airlines mostly reserve the right to a) not provide those seats next to one another and b) resell the seat if there is demand.

Mikaere Curtis said...

@hazel said: t will not solve the problem of the seats being too narrow for me/people who sit next to me.
It will if you trade some of your baggage allowance for a larger seat.

Also, a good airline would allow passengers who have extra mass allowance to gift it to other passengers who have more total mass than is allowed. This could see larger people getting larger seats AND full baggage allowance without having to pay more.

Would you be happy with that ?

anthea said...

Mikaere - I think you are fundamentally missing the point. This is only in part about whether, on a particular journey, hazel or myself or anyone else has sufficient seat space. It is about punitive measures being presented as fairness, or worse, concern. It is about fat bodies being categorised along with (inanimate) excess baggage. It's about why transport needs to accommodate different bodies as a matter of course, rather than those of us who don't fit some norm/ideal being penalised or accepting some charitable option.

A Nonny Moose said...

"It will if you trade some of your baggage allowance for a larger seat."

That's a GRAND solution...except it would require the airlines INSTALLING BIGGER SEATS.

Go on, I'll wait for them to find that economically viable and impliment it across their entire fleets. *taps foot, stares at watch*

hazel said...

Oh Mikaere, I am so pleased to know that some of my fellow humans might be willing to gift me space for my breasts out of charity. That is kindness indeed!

(More seriously, as others have said: I think you are rather missing the point here, which is that I am not an inanimate object that I (as a rational human being) can choose to leave at home while I go on a trip to Auckland.

I would also point out that baggage holds on airplanes also have limited space, which might well prove problematic if a flight happened to have a lot of luggage-toting small people on it. I point this out merely as a flaw in your policy design.)

GoodGravey said...

As I commented on the Stuff article, the people taking the Curtis approach fail on so many counts.

This thing about weighing people and their baggage - in addition to all the points anthea makes, there is a fundamental flaw in the concept - one of practicality.

Most people buy their tickets online, even choose their seats. They don't know how much they will be carrying, they don't even know how much they will weigh on the day of travel.

When do you expect people to be weighed prior to boarding? At checkin? And then you have the issues of either getting a refund or having to pay more. What if you buy something between check-in and boarding that puts you over one of these magical boundaries? Maybe if I take a crap between my weigh-in and boarding I should get an additional discount.

How do you handle any dispute over the weight measurement?

And I wonder, I seriously wonder whether these asshats bitching about all teh fatties spilling over into their space - if teh fatties paid more that they would stop bitching. Actually I don't wonder. They wouldn't.

Many have made it clear that it is not a matter of cost fairness - they just hate being seated next to teh fatties. Well, I hate being seated next to bigoted arseholes and all those smelly sweaty sporty people, loud people, behind people who put their seat back. Because I don't like it, I guess they should be made to pay more or get off.

No, all of this is just one big continuation of the fat-bashing that has become so prevalent. And again, I REALLY want these fat-bashers to talk about excessive weight to the All Blacks.

Acid Queen said...

Good to see the Greens continuing to promote health at all sizes, Mikaere!

Wait, what/

Annani said...

Besides the fact that (as Hazel so eloquently said) human beings are not equatable with luggage, it's just a bloody ridiculous idea. It's not unusual for people to weigh 100kg - not just fat people, who folks are so desperate to discriminate against, but athletes and big burly blokes. So the "combined mass allowance" would have to be at least 110kg. It's also not unusual for people to be 50kg. So in the scenario proposed, a delicately boned 50kg woman would be permitted a massive 60kg luggage allowance, while Richie McCaw, for instance, who weighs in at 106kg, would somehow have to condense his luggage down to 4kg, unless someone oh-so-benevolently "gifted" him extra mass allowance.

Airline seats are just ridiculously small. I am 5'3" and a size 16 - I'm just a little fatter than the norm but notably shorter than the norm - and I find the seats too narrow and with only barely sufficient leg room. Am I suggesting the 6'4" bloke behind me who spends the trip with his knees digging into the back of my seat should pay extra? Is anyone suggesting that? No, because 6'4" blokes aren't societal scapegoats.

Lena said...

I'm taking a long haul flight in a few months, and am dreading the cramped seats. I'm not very tall, nor particularly heavy, but I have wide hips which make the small seats uncomfortable. Your weight doesn't always determine your width in the hips/backside - my brother weighs the same as I do, but he finds no issue with the seats. Mikaere's 'solution' would do nothing to help in that situation!

I'd happily pay extra for a wider seat if I could. 2 seats isn't much of a solution, as it's very uncomfortable to sit across them both, and also probably not very safe.

Airlines really do need wider seats!