Reader Blake sent me the rebuttal below to my story yesterday on the fat-shaming passenger on United. I am publishing it, in full, because it is well-intentioned and does not denigrate others.
Your over-the-top political correctness blinded you to key facts in the story about a woman bitterly complaining about being stuck between two passengers of size on a United flight.
First, I am a passenger of size. And I do resent hurtful comments made about my weight, when done to tear me down. I travel frequently and am usually in first class on domestic flights, but do find myself in economy class from time to time. I see the looks of disappointment as passengers sit down next to me, though I have never experienced a passenger quite like the lady you wrote about yesterday. Even so, you are correct that we need to treat one another with respect and dignity. Not every obese person is overweight due to a lack of self-control.
But respect and dignity is a two-way street. Let’s not forget that the two passengers of size on the United flight from Las Vegas to Newark were traveling together but deliberately manipulated their seat choices, with one sitting in the aisle and the other in the window. Of course they hoped that the middle would stay open. That’s a strategy I use when traveling alone, usually booking a seat toward the rear of the Main Cabin Extra section in hopes that it remains empty.
Here, these two passengers chose these seats knowing that a passenger seated between them would find herself very uncomfortable. That is selfish and that is wrong. These passengers should not have been in the emergency exit row in the first place, since their size would cause them to block egress during an emergency.
Another thing. The woman in the middle was boorish and rude, but so was the passenger in the window seat. In fact, she was the one who repeatedly called her complaining seatmate a “bitch” while the woman in the middle never used foul language. The two overweight passengers displayed a remarkable sense of entitlement. Such behavior should not be rewarded.
Ultimately, you were right in your suggestion that passengers should discreetly approach flight attendants if they find themselves in a similar situation. But let’s not whitewash the fact that it was not the lady in the middle who was first rude.
We all have a responsibility to be nice to others, especially in the confined space of an airplane. That goes for passengers of all shapes and sizes. At least two people failed here.
Judging by many of the comments yesterday, I suspect that many of you are sympathetic to Blake’s position. My only point is that words hurt and no one should be verbally degraded in the way in which those two obese passengers were.