US woman campaigns to get airlines to offer free seats, bigger restrooms for plus-size travellers

A plus-size woman in the United States has started a petition to get airlines to provide free extra seats and bigger restrooms to accommodate larger travellers, in a move that has divided opinions.

In her petition, content creator Jae’lynn Chaney said the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) must “protect” bigger-sized travellers by requiring airlines to implement a clear customer-of-size policy that prioritises passengers’ comfort.

The petition, with the hashtag #BodyEqualityinTravel, has been signed by over 5,600 people.

Ms Chaney suggested that plus-size passengers be provided with an extra free seat, “or even two or three seats depending on their size”.

For plus-size passengers who purchase extra seats on their own, the 26-year-old said airlines should offer a refund.

She also said airlines should have larger restrooms and that all new airplanes have at least one wheelchair-accessible restroom, adding that such change will improve accessibility for passengers of all sizes and abilities.

“Let’s just state facts, plus-size travellers need more space,” Ms Chaney, who is from the US city of Vancouver in Washington state, said in a TikTok video.

“We are not asking for special treatment or luxury accommodations. We simply want enough space to travel comfortably, without being discriminated against because of our size.”

Currently, there are no minimum seat dimensions that airlines have to adhere to, said flyer advocacy group FlyersRights.

The group said US airlines’ seat pitch – the distance from one seat back to the next – has shrunk by 3 to 7 inches (7.6cm to 17.8cm) since 1970 while seat width has decreased by over an inch.

Ms Chaney cited instances where she and her fiance, who is also plus-size, were subjected to discrimination and discomfort when they fly.

“Being forced to occupy only one seat can result in pain and vulnerability to poor treatment from fellow passengers, including hateful comments, disapproving looks, and even refusal to sit next to them,” she said.

Ms Chaney acknowledged that there would likely be additional costs associated with her demands, but believed it will be worth it.

“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,” she told Fox News.

Her petition and social media posts have touched a chord with people.

“I am plus size and I get the discomfort, but I feel like it’s my responsibility? If it’s too tight, then I either deal with it or buy myself another seat,” said Ms Abby Espejo Enriquez.

Another person, with the user name Syr.Ben, said the FAA “has bigger things to worry about” than Ms Chaney’s petition.

However, Ms Chaney has also received support for her suggestion.

“Seating space is ridiculously small for both large and tall people. Airlines need to make seats larger for everyone’s comfort especially on long flights,” said Ms Karen Newman.

Some also shared their experiences of being discriminated due to their size.

“I have experienced discrimination on a plane, not just by other passengers (but) by airline staff. I haven’t flown for 10 years because of my experience with discrimination and bullying as a plus-size traveller,” said Ms Sally-Ann Bentley.

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