It’s Hard To Fly Economy When You’re Tall Or Overweight

Ryanair seating is tight, though not as tight as you’d think. There’s no more legroom in British Airways business class on intra-European routes than there is on Ryanair, though that’s more an indictment of BA than an exoneration of the famously-cheap no frills Ireland-based carrier.

When you have special needs on a flight, it pays to do your research. If you’re wide or tall, Ryanair probably isn’t your best choice. However one British passenger took to TikTok to shame Ryanair over its seats and size of its seat belts.

“Uh oh, middle seat,” wrote body positivity influencer Leanne, 29, on the video of the mile-high mishap, which occurred while she was flying the budget carrier from London to Hamburg, Germany, on April 21.

…“I was going to use the tray table to do some work on the way, but when I couldn’t put it down, I quickly decided that it was not going to happen,” Leanne lamented to Jam Press.

Seats are small, but many airlines will let you buy the seat next to you and keep it empty. American Airlines will even let you use trip credits to pay for it. If you’re a person of size who requires the seat, Southwest will even refund the cost if the plane goes out less than full.

The TikToker, though, doesn’t just complain about the seats – she complains about other passengers. She feels judged.

And the awkwardness wasn’t limited to the accommodations: “I was one of the last people on the plane because I was running a little late, so I felt the stares of people,” the flustered flyer said. “All I could think was that they didn’t want me to sit next to them.”

Flying an airline like Ryanair – but really, almost any airline – is a small-d democratic experience and the passenger cabin a microcosm of society. It’ll bring all of society’s problems and prejudices on board. Which is to say that, yes, people are judged and body shamed – and add the stress of a confined metal tube that’ll only exacerbate things.

She offers, “I do think airlines should do more to be accessible for plus-size people…That doesn’t mean I’m blaming them for me being fat.”

@kirstyleannetravels Flying Ryanair with no upgrades ❤️ #plussizetraveltok #travellingwhilefat #plussizetravel #plussizequeen #plussize #ryanair #flyingwhilefat #plussizeseating #fatacceptance ♬ As It Was – Harry Styles

(HT: Paul H)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I am both tall and wide and fly economy all the time
    Not fun but not terrible either
    The fact that she is a “body positivity influencer” says it all
    Just another useless idiot trying to be noticed

  2. Difficult to be sympathetic…what are Ryanair and others supposed to do…turn half the plane to oversize seats and charge extra ?
    I for one always breathe a sigh of relief when an obviously overweight person comes along and passes by.

  3. Simple solutions, slim down and reduce your width or buy the seat next to you. There world doesn’t need to conform to your inability to regulate your caloric intake.

  4. 2808 Heavy – You are 100% right. With those who refuse to slim down, it is all about them. They could not care any less how their obesity affects others, and most importantly, they are the first to complain about the size of the seats. When I purchase a ticket, I am renting a seat and the space that the seat occupies. I detest when an overly large person sits down and ends up spilling over into my paid for space.

  5. We live in a sick world when being fat is not considered disgusting. I’m 40 pounds overweight myself and I don’t pretend it’s appealing. It’s disgusting. Being home during Covid with less exercise and nothing to do but eat was no good. It’s nothing to be positive about. People who are morbidly obese; there’s no rationale. Overeating is one thing but being a 300 pound woman..Wow.

  6. @2808 Heavy Umm and for the tall people who have no frickin control over their height? Just because airlines want to jam in more seats doesn’t mean that people who are larger than average should be penalized. Sick of people who think its ok for airlines to treat people like glorified cattle. If someone is excessively obese maybe you have an argument but some of these seats are too cramped for even average sized people.

  7. @Bill There are other methods of transportation than by plane. The other choices may not be as fast or convenient, but there are other choices.

    If you have such a distaste for how the airlines are “jamming” more people into seats then spend your money elsewhere. Rent a car, ride a bike, walk, or set sail…you have choices!

    If you willingly pay for the seat on the plane knowing that it’s uncomfortable that’s your own fault and we’d all appreciate it if you suffered in silence.

  8. Ryanair has extra legroom seats. I’m 6’2” and I can perfectly fit in those seats, no complaints.

  9. Every airline provides the opportunity for Passengers of Extraordinary Size to purchase two tickets next to each other. She neglected to take advantage of this opportunity.

  10. @2808Heavy – could not have said it better myself no matter how hard I would have tried. Outstanding

  11. You can control if you’re fat, and if you’re late…..

    The world of lack of personal responsibility continues.

  12. From the “You not only need to tolerate me, but you MUST celebrate me, because judging people is wrong – unless I’m judging you” school of thought.

    Just STFU and take your seat.

  13. I’m 6’6″. My BMI is normal so no one judges me but there are really no hurt feelings that can compare to the pain in my legs after a transcon flight in a 30″ econ – or my neck in any econ seat (because their headrests never go high enough). And, as opposed to the issue the body positive crowd has, there’s nothing I can do about my height.

    Oh, and for tall people it’s not just planes. Chairs, tables, doors, ceilings, shoes, pants, beds, etc. There’s only one solution and it’s not screaming as loud as you can until everyone accepts you and loves you. It’s money: paying extra for the things that fit, from clothing to houses. Because this is capitalism, and no one owes you anything just because you’re in the wrong percentile.

  14. UPS charges for weight and size. Therefore, airlines doing it would be reasonable.

    Obesity worsens climate change. Therefore, try to avoid it.

  15. Love Southwest. I always buy the extra seat. I always get reimbursed. I also get to board early to make sure I get all three seats front with my wife. Many customers of 2 to 3 times my size don’t take advantage of this. More reason to do so for yourself.

  16. Try ordering salad instead of a cheeseburger. Maybe quit soda. Walk a few times per week.

    Being heavy sucks, but unless you have a medical condition that prevents good health you have no excuse. The lack of personal accountability in society is as disgusting as this ladies gut.

    Not to mention the tax burden and financial pressure overweight people have put on our healthcare system. The health problems caused by obesity (diabetes, kidney failure, etc.) are some of the most expensive to treat.

    Have some discipline…

  17. Those morbidly obese, fat and disgusting bodies shouldn’t be flying in planes. If anything, they should instead take a cargo ship/freighter across the ocean. I’m not sure why airlines let those people fly?!?

    I fly J/F often but may take a Y flight if it’s only a short hop. About a couple of years ago, the biggest flyer sat next to me on a Y flight. 25% of her cottage cheese body rolled over onto my seat. Too tired to complain (had just taken.a 14 hour flight), I simply just rolled with the punches. Prefer lethal injection or perhaps the electric chair over flying with one of those people next to me.

  18. This world is so accepting of any other type of sub human why not let morbidly obese have their rights too.

  19. Even for those who are neither tall nor obese, it’s gotten harder to comfortably fly economy if the person has wide shoulders or wide hips.

  20. Wow fantastic comments from this crowd. Rare to see on the Internet.

  21. I’m 6’8”. I don’t fit in standard seats. I want US taxpayers to pay for me to upgrade to first class just like they are gonna pay for the deadbeats student loans. Fair is fair, right?

  22. Wow, these comments, are simutaniously cruel and insulting, that’s quite a feat! Usually, your entitled one percenter’s, anonymous anger is reserved for the airlines and their employees. Perhaps start a secondary blog, View from the Right Wing?

  23. Again I’m shocked at the callousness and anger you “frequent fliers” have toward people that are overweight. I’m underweight & dont look good at my weight. Now I’ll just sit back and wait for you all to jump all over me for writing this. Spoiled Americans.

  24. Once everyone has lost weight and become shorter, Ryanair will just make the seats smaller.

  25. If it was easy everyone would be slender. Maybe it’s remotely possible to slim down but it is not easy barring drug addiction, surgery or seriously bad health. People of a certain height or width I expect realize they are the exception to common parameters and endure as best they can manage. Regardless of where the blame rests a little sympathy and kindness for your fellow humans is in order.

  26. Things are getting out of hand, boys and girls. The concept of accepting morbid obesity as normal and expecting the world to accommodate you is nuts. Where will this stop? Airplanes with seats as wide as two seats are now? Fares that are twice as high as today? This ‘influencer’ wonders if other pax are hoping she doesn’t sit next to them. Yes, that’s exactly what they’re hoping; what else would they think? I doubt if there are any travellers who really want to cuddle up to a fat stranger for several hours. These huge people can fly anywhere they want to go in comfort. They just buy two seats and put up the armrest. The rest of us don’t have to cater to their issues. I can’t make my legs shorter, or my shoulders harrower, but I sure as hell can keep my weight in a normal range. When I see a huge person waiting to board a plane, I hope they have made arrangements for themselves to not ruin other pax’ flights. I would never stay on a plane seated next to someone who overflowed the seat. Nobody knows that you’re obese until you show up at the airport. Therefore, you have to accept reality and deal with your size, not expect everyone else to accommodate you.

  27. huey judy – Perfect, well stated, factual reply – and because it is , the obese lard buckets will cry, bitch and moan (between bites) because they have been “disrespected”.

  28. @Dalo – You’re right, slimming down takes work, but it’s easier never to have to slim down at all. If you’re in your teens or twenties, as many of these Tik-Tokers are, you’ve got no excuse for being obese. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. And although it takes work, it doesn’t take drug addiction, surgery, or seriously bad health – it takes self-control. And I say this as someone who’s 10 lbs into a planned 20-25 pound drop. There is no magic bullet other than portion control and exercise and the determination to do it. And I eat and drink everything, but cook from fresh ingredients. Smaller lunches, a lighter pour of wine or spirits, a smaller dessert portion once or twice a week, split ordered out meals into two, dinner and lunch the next day. And I hate exercise equipment, it’s boring, but find that a 30-45 minute walk outside 4-5 times a week with headphones and a podcast is all the exercise I need to get headed on the right path. It’s a slow and steady path that gets there, not fad diets, crash weight loss programs, or exercise programs that make you feel like hell the day after.

  29. It seems to be just the big women who cause problems.

    I sat next to a dude from Samoa who said he was 550lbs and he was that if not more. He was cool and had bought the aisle seat and the middle seat and was friendly and very kind. Came in, introduced himself said hey I bought both seats but if I start to encroach on your space let me know and I’ll adjust.

    Dude was a pro, took the seat belt from the middle seat, the biggest extension I have ever seen and clipped it into the aisle seat.

    Ended up taking to him the entire 6 hour flight and at the end I waited with him until the plane had deboareded so he and I could walk about without him bumping into people already seated.

    That’s how you do it if your a person of size. On trips were I was unlucky and had to sit next to a fat women it was always unpleasant. All the do is huff and puff about everything and they almost always smell terrible. One women in particular smelled like pickles and Pal Mal cigarettes and consumed an entire family size bag of peanut butter M&M’s I didn’t have any use of the arm rest and had to sit crossed armed the entire 3 hour flight because her roles covered the arm rest (2×2 regional jet). Like legit you could not see the arm rest and the role was laying on my leg the entire flight. My arms and shoulders hurt so bad from sitting cross armed the entire flight.

  30. “obscene lard buckets”? To paraprase Winston Churchill, the overweight passengers could lose weight, but David Miller will be a classless, bigoted POS the rest of his life…

  31. I do wish @Gary would not use these manufactured attention seeking posts from wannabe Internet “celebrities”. It isn’t as if they are peddling a credit card for overweight persons. 🙂
    That said, I am genuinely appalled at the content of some of the replies to this post — one I thought was a wind-up then I realized the writer meant every word. The tone and vitriol they contain is such that, were one to replace fat and/or obese with Jew, Black, Gay or Muzlim we’d never see Gary’s blog again. Maybe too much DBP (drinking before posting) but really, some of this is just too much.

  32. As a 6’4″ and 375lb powerlifter, it’s actually my shoulders that don’t fit into economy seats. I’ve tried paying the extra $20 for an extra legroom seat, and my legs, hips, and torso all fit fine, but my shoulders encroach a few inches on either side.

    So I just always fly business or first. It’s not my seat neighbors’ problem. Trust me, if I could diet my way into economy I would.

  33. Who knew we had so many licensed therapists, MDs and weight counselors “weighing in?” Apparently none of you know anything about people who are morbidly obese due to other causes such as pituitary gland problems or eating disorders having nothing to do with a person being morbidly obese. Welcome to the compassionless, surveillance obsessive world we live in. Don’t forget to take off your shoes and strip, criminals. The TSA suspects ALL of you to be potential shoe bombers, but heaven forbid your waistline is outside the one size fits all metric. Congrats to the TSA for protecting us all from those dangerous small children and senior citizens that get set aside for additional assesment.

  34. @Brian Weir – There has not been a sudden surge in pituitary disorders, which are fairly rare. Those people I can have sympathy for. There has been a surge in people sucking down 50 oz. Double Gulps. Twenty-five years ago, I had an employee who regularly drank two 2-liter bottles of regular Pepsi a day at work, plus massive lunches. Did his job, nice guy, but I’m sure he’s dead by now if he didn’t give it up. Guy was under 30 and had to top 350 lbs. And not in an defensive lineman kind of way.

    Sometimes the best way to be sympathetic not to indulge people, but to tell people the truth – you’re beyond fat, you need to get healthy, or you’re going to die. Not a lot of obese 80 year-olds out there. Sorry you feel bad, but it’s the truth. The rest of us had to endure two years of lockdown because our medical establishment and the media wouldn’t mention that obesity is one of the primary factors in COVID risk.

  35. For those who are upset that we’re calling out fat folks, I say, kick rocks.

    If fat folks didn’t encroach our space 99% of us probably wouldn’t give a thought to their existence. HOWEVER if your WIDE BODY, and your moist, sticky, damp skin makes its way into my space, yea, I’m going to have a thought, an opinion, and some harsh words to say about it.

    My house has a door…that door opens and closes at my will based on who I want in my house. Think of the armrest in the same manner. When it’s down, you and your oven temperature producing body, isn’t welcomed.

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