• Helen Avaient

"You are too fat to fly" - plus top tips for fat travelers

Updated: Jan 2

“You are too fat to fly economy. You will have to pay for a second seat!”

These were the words whispered across the table as I sat in the travel agent’s office. The sized 2 person (definitely not a lady), was too ashamed to say it aloud to me.

“The airlines have a policy you see….” She continued whispering, whilst looking sideways as if to make it seem a shameful secret.


By this stage my face had gone bright red, just knowing that every person within a kilometre had their ears pricked, holding their breaths to see what I would say.

“Ummm, OK,” I muttered, “I will come back next week”. Iscurried out as fast as I could, both of us knowing I would never come back to that travel agent, or that mall, or that suburb every again.

In a world where being larger than a model in a magazine is seen as a crime, I was guilty. Guilty of being fat. “But you have such a pretty face”, “You dress well for your size”, “You have a great personality”. ARRRRGGGGGHHHHH! These are NOT compliments people!

Fat, large, obese, cuddly, voluptuous, buxom, chubby, plump. You say it, I have listened to the fat shaming words most of my life. I wish I had been proud, confident, assured, determined.


My children and I had season tickets to Dreamworld amusement park when they were younger. I would let them swim in the water park area, and sit on the seats watching. Years later, one of my sons asked me why I never came in swimming with them. I replied, “Because I was fat, and didn’t want other people to think bad things about me.” My son answered me sadly, “Why did it matter more what strangers thought of you, than having fun with us?”

How right he was.


I wasn’t always big, I once weighed 8lb 3oz! My highest weight was 150kgs (330lbs).


Airline travel was the worst. The seats are only wide enough for a certain sized person. Seat widths have gotten narrower as the years have gone by (true). Airlines have different policies regarding sizing, but basically if the armrest won’t come down between you and the person next to you and you don’t fit into a seat with a seatbelt extension you will probably be asked to book a second seat or a business or first class seat. Which means your flight is going to be at least twice as expensive as it would be if you were lighter.


Then there is the drama of not being able to eat your meal because the tray table will not lie flat and your food ends up spilled everywhere. So, you don’t eat or drink during the flight (bad news if it is a long haul 15 hour flight).


I lived in fear of the day when there would be a test seat at the airport lounge for you to try before you board (like the hand luggage scales).


My 10+1 tips for fat flyers (because plus is gorgeous)

1. Get to the airport early so you don’t have to rush and be out of breath when you get to your gate.

2. Go to the bathroom in the airport, to minimise the need to go on the small sized ones on the plane.

3. Bring your own seat extender if you have one.

4. If you need one, board early and ask the flight attendant to be discreet.

5. Be extra nice to your seatmates, introduce yourself. It is harder to be nasty to someone who is kind to you.

6. Once the plane has taken off, check to see if there are open seats you can move to.

7. Overweight people are more at risk of developing DVT than lighter people. Remember to stretch, rotate ankles and calf flex every two hours.

8. Do not take your shoes off during a flight. The floors are dirty, plus your feet can swell, making putting shoes back on quite difficult.

9. Dress in comfortable clothes, preferably layers that you can take on and off as your temperature adjusts up and down.

10. Have spare clothes in your carry on. If your luggage gets lost you may not be able to find plus size clothes readily.

11. NEVER EVER EVER EVER say sorry for being larger than the person next to you.

A few years ago, I was very ill and became so light, my specialist told me to put 10kgs back on. (I put 20kgs back on, after all – I am an overachiever!)

Whatever size you are, for whatever reason, do not be ashamed. Do not shame others. Get out there and travel if you want to. Do not let the opinions of others stop you from doing what you want. Remember the words of my son in the story above… “What does it matter what others think of you?”

Happy Travels!

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