Home and Thoughts on Flying

3-8-16 Home again and the return trip, thanks to Spirit’s the Big Front Seat was much much comfortable.  First of all my trip was great. The warm weather there and coming home to the snow melting and spring birds chirping is wonderful. You all have read that there are people who have hidden in tiny boxes and endured suffering in travel to escape a miserable situation.  Flying Spirit to Florida, I have sympathy for what they endured for a chance of  better things! In fact maybe the PAIN makes the promised land sweeter, maybe?  The rewards were great- the beach will inspire me forever. It is worth it to go to Florida.  Probably worth it to go other places like the Islands or the west or even Europe.  It was a suffering.  First of all I was patted down by TSA again, as the x-ray obviously is concerned my abdominal adipose is contraband.  I swear it is fat, and if you want it, you can lipo it!  The Fort Myers TSA agent was kind and full of gentle explanation.  She was very good at making this embarrassing irritation non-intrusive, despite the public situation.  It is small and gentle kindnesses that really help the world out, and I will remember her sweet southern charm.

Tall Man relaxes on Big Front Seat
Only the front seat on Spirit is for Tall or Large people.

The big front seat on Spirit is worth it, IF you truly get the FRONT seat and not the second seat which is sometimes labeled big.  They overcharge for the second seat however, which is worthless, and is not perceivably better than regular tiny seats.  The front seat however was wonderful. On our flight home, the plane was larger, an airbus, and the second seat was only two, instead of three like on my flight down, so perhaps a half inch or so wider.

Tall man crammed in Row 2
Row 2 is a not a big seat for a Tall man.

There was a very large though  short gentleman in the window seat row 2.  It would be seat 2A.  Despite the hopeful but in-observable tiny possibility his seat was a bit wider than mine was on my To Vacation Flight,  his leg room was horrible.  He had short legs and he was suffering.  Sometimes he breathed so heavy I thought he was going to have an asthma attack, and I could do nothing but pray for him. I cannot understand how the stewards and stewardesses can take looking at their customers in pain like that.  On the way down, my 17.5 inch seat was very crammed. It was not just awkward, it hurt.  It did not just hurt-it caused bruising on my leg I had to see when I swam the next week.  Since then I have met three other people who were on the heavy side who claimed to have serious bruising FROM THE ARMRESTS.   I have a picture of the bruising, and I believe it is made by the end of arm rest jamming into my legs. The picture below shows the armrest pressing in my leg and it is a square shaped bruise. I have two bruises, of the same size, spaced about an inch apart, probably for ascent and descent.  (Even astronauts are not supposed to be that bruised up! If a representative from Spirit would like to contact me, I would be happy to send the pic. ) On the way back with the Big Front Seats, the seats were much more luxurious, in the front, 22.5 inch wide.  Lots of leg room and lots of depth in the seat. The seats could recline on this airbus, which sure was not great for Row 2 and we out of respect, did not recline.  A reclining front seat was part of the suffering endured by the man in 2A. Spirit is prejudiced against larger people in a way that should be legally challenged.

Leg room and seat width in row 1 of Spirit
Leg room and seat width in row 1 of Spiritan in seat 1d, the big front seat-wonderful!
uncomfortable Spirit Airline seat
The belt buckled but legs were in pain and could not move- seat 2A

My tall man says bathroom was a fail.  He could not stand up making matters difficult.  I found the shape big enough for my width but it took all my nimbleness to turn around with the door close.  My round friend seemed upset leaving the bathroom. May have even been stuck in it somehow for a while.  Might be better to turn about BEFORE closing the door. On the way back, we used better planning and less fluids to avoid the necessity.  I joined some kind of Spirit club when making by flight plans, and closed my membership after I was safely home.  I am expecting better out of other airlines.  Spirit needs to understand that Greyhound buses are much more comfortable than their flights.  Actually  even the local bus system is much more comfortable, cleaner and polite. The programmed jokes made by their attendants are tasteless, and worse a second time around. Does Spirit have much repeat business?

In short, they will deliberately put a woman inquiring about seat size into the worse seat on the flight so they can get her to refuse to fly when the booking is tight.  Spirit will overbook and has the worse record for reimbursement for compensating bumped passengers. In addition the extra financial cost for being large on the two trips was approximately 100 dollars for reserving large seating going down, which was bumped for my CPAP and cane need, but nice to have on the BIG SEATS coming back.  It was an additional 60 dollars for both of us to share a suitcase, as it is impossible to fit large clothing, including large shoes and sandals, in a personal bag even using the best of packing tricks.  There was a total extra 160 dollars for size fee paid, or a 160$ fat tax, despite not having any extra seat available to sit next to for money or “charity”.  I still have bruises from the down flight and it isn’t an experience that encourages a flight this summer to a wedding I am invited to. In other words, it cause this heavy person to prefer NOT flying, which is the worse business model ever.

IDEAS FOR  NEXT TIME:

  1. There needs to be pages of information collected on all airlines for heavy people. In forums I have heard the idea that the way the large consumer is treated at airlines is basically BAIT AND SWITCH.  They are sold an airline flight for one price, and then forced to pay even twice as much to make that flight.  The way a large sized person is treated is an important need to know subject.  No one is helping large sized, tall or overweight consumers with this issue, certainly not the airlines.  It is not the customer that should be ashamed. The general size of the American consumer should be considered in planning accommodations.  What with all the TSA scans they certainly should know the dimensions of the average traveler, and with a little foresight they would realize that MORE large people would choose air travel if the accommodations were not so uncomfortable.
  2. If you are heavy, allow even more  time for TSA.  Their machines actually do seem to see something in fat pads and rolls. NEVER wear sparkly or gold and silver painted clothing through TSA.
  3. An empty water bottle goes through TSA in the carry pack quite fine, and can be filled up on the drinking fountain after. On the other hand, staying dry has it’s advantage.
  4. Hand wipes or other sanitizing for tables, armrest and upholstery and your hands before lunch are important. Really helps mentally to rest on the surfaces you do have.
  5. Having a lomotil, anti diarrhea pill handy can help a queasy stomach, or excessive need for lavatory. Chewing them helps faster.
  6. If you are in the front seat of the plane, as in Spirit’s Big Seat, you are not allowed your personal bag on your lap, or underfoot while the seat belt use sign is flashing which is most of a short trip. Book or small electronic can be stowed in the pocket for easy reach.  I think I will have a plane entertainment bag, similar to my front pocket on carry on for this situation.
  7. Spirit had about five belts for extending seat belts on the flight.  Tell the Stewardess as you walk in.  “Hi, I am concerned I will need an extender. I am in seat blank.  Will you help me in a little bit? ” Then she can ask you later if you need it.
  8. There is no real bigness to the seat in row 2 on Spirit, despite charging extra and a diagram that makes it look like first class, and being only two seats instead of 3.  The plane slopes smaller  in the front and they do not allow much extra room at all.   Only ride on Spirit if you have a confirmed booking for Row 1, or can be helped by the 10 inch extended leg at the exit which is still a tight  17.5 inch seat, on the center emergency exit.
  9. Of course on Florida flights, the Spring Break time is heavily booked and the weekends are the worse.  Better luck on Tuesday and Wednesday and odd hour times.  Also the end of the month and the beginning of the month are busy to Florida and other popular vacation places, because of snowbirds and vacationers renting by the month.  The end and beginning of terms in university areas may be similar.  Peak time information is critical because there is no possibility of an empty seat, for fat tax or for free, next to your bottom spilling out of a 17 inch space on an overbooked flight.
  10. There are E-copies of documents outlining the rights of passengers bumped by airlines, or otherwise poorly treated. However it says nothing about compensation for bruising people who are hurtfully seated. Download to your smart phone this:   http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/publications/flyrights.htm
  11. There are also federal guidelines for disabled passengers.  http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/publications/horizons.htm  For instance you are not charged extra for a cane or breathing machine or other medical necessity even if it does not fit in your allowed personal luggage. If you need help in the airport what they have to do is spelled out, but it is still easy to be warehoused in that wheelchair waiting.  Once in that chair you have no choice of what to do and when to do it.  I used the wheelchair service one way. I found it made TSA more difficult, not easier.  I also was terribly embarrassed that they seemed to look around and select the 80 pound woman to push me even though they had some hefty people on their team.  This was both in Sarasota and Detroit Metro.   I do not know if it is a game for tips, or a nasty joke on the chair pushers, but it was ridiculous and humiliating enough I did not use the chair on the way back despite my knee injury. So less jobs for them and no tip.

HONORAH

Author: Honora Mellarick

Honora is a large woman with a large family and she is a pro at buying big shoes and clothes, furniture that endures rowdy big teens, and understands that one size fits mosts probably is not helpful. She writes this blog to encourage people who happen to be in the upper tenth percentile of weight and height. You are outstanding, awesome and wonderful.

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