WASHINGTON (TND) — A plus-size travel influencer says that airlines need to end their "discriminatory" seat policies that sometimes have larger flyers purchase extra seats, even if that means airline ticket prices go up for everyone else.
While policies vary from airline to airline, it's not uncommon in the United States for plus-size airplane passengers to be required to pay more to travel. Many airlines, such as United Airlines, have policies that require "customers who require extra seating" to purchase an additional seat in advance of the flight.
In a recent interview with CNN Travel, Jae'lynn Chaney claims those seat policies make her and others pay "twice for the same experience." Chaney is a "highly successful Plus Size Travel Blogger, Content Creator, and Marginalized Body Advocate," according to her website.
Back at the beginning of April, Chaney started up a petition on Change.org that demanded the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) "Protect Plus-Size Travelers." That petition has received over 18,500 signatures so far.
Air travel should be comfortable and accessible for everyone, regardless of size," Chaney says on her Change.org petition's webpage.
The FAA should mandate that all airlines have a comprehensive customer-of-size policy that prioritizes the comfort and well-being of ALL passengers," Chaney adds.
As her petition gained traction and attention, Chaney was interviewed by Fox News, where she revealed she was okay with the notion that other flyers would have to pay more for their tickets due to increased demand.
Implementing policies to accommodate plus-size passengers may come with associated costs, but these costs must be weighed against the benefits of creating a more welcoming and inclusive travel experience," Chaney reportedly said.
Chaney admitted to Fox that "it is difficult to provide a one-size-fits-all answer to the question of who will pay for the policies mentioned in the petition," but "what is clear is that the mistreatment and discrimination of plus-size travelers is unacceptable and must be addressed."
Now, during her recent June interview with CNN Travel, Chaney is advocating for a "more standardized" set of airline policies for larger travelers, something airline consumer advocacy group Travelers United reportedly agrees with.
At the bare minimum, we need every airline to have a policy that tells people of size how to navigate their airline," Chaney told CNN.
All plus-sized passengers are appreciative of knowing the rules,” Charles Leocha, co-founder of Travelers United, reportedly added. “It eliminates many misunderstandings."
Adding to that, Chaney tells CNN that current airline seat policies for plus-size passengers are "discriminatory" as "people with smaller bodies get to pay one fare to get to their destination" while larger passengers "have to pay two fares, even though we’re getting the same experience."
Chaney reportedly adds that "if anything, our experiences are a little bit more challenging."
The plus-size travel influencer also told CNN that larger flyers are simply "asking for the same dignity and respect from an airline that someone in a smaller body gets," apparently in response to the notion that plus-sized flyers are seeking special treatment.
There are already some laws outside the United States that prohibit airlines from charging customers for their body sizes. The Australian Consumer Law is one such piece of legislation.
Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet are also prevented from charging customers for an extra seat on domestic Canadian flights due to the country's “one person, one fare” (1p1f) policy. Customers in Canada do have to be considered "functionally disabled by obesity" to not be charged for the extra seat though, according to the policy, as obesity is a recognized disability in Canada.
Canadian air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs tells CNN he sees the practice of making customers pay for an extra airline seat due to their size is a human rights issue.
Being a large-size person is not a choice, as many people mistakenly believe," Lukacs told CNN. "There is, unfortunately, a lot of negative attention and prejudice against plus-sized people... but it’s not as if someone is getting up in the morning and making a decision that they’re going to be a large person."
So through that lens of human rights, I don’t see any justification for charging these people a double fare," Lukacs reportedly added.
These seating policy concerns come at a time when many in the United States believe airplane seats are getting smaller and smaller. While there is some debate on if Americans are losing inches in the size of airplane seats, there seems to be more of a consensus that at least legroom is slowly disappearing.
Given as an example of how big seats are on today's flights, the seat width on United Airlines 787-8/9/10 Dreamliner aircraft is said to be 17.3 (43.9 cm) in "Economy Plus," according to the airline.