The bane of any traveler’s existence are the airlines fees slapped on passengers carrying overweight bags. The ways in which passengers will avoid fees runs the gamut from inconvenient to hysterical. The chaotic combination of luggage, the spilling of intimates on tiled airport floors, the (rather impressive) feat of a passenger wearing all his clothes to avoid checking in a bag. Dodging penalties for heavy suitcases is a song-and-dance we all perform; but what if a passenger is being charged for a different type of weight? What if an airline were to penalize you for excess body fat?
Earlier this week, two Samoan businessmen filed complaints against the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) after being weighed prior to boarding a Hawaiian Airlines flight in Honolulu. Hawaiian Airlines insists the newly implemented policy is a safety precaution to ensure even weight distribution; while the men argue it’s a form of discrimination against body type. “The aircraft hasn’t changed in many, many years,” commented Hawaiian Airlines passenger Avamua David Haleck to Daily Mail. “Why has the weight distribution (suddenly) become important?”
The airline policies for overweight passengers have always been scrutinized by the public. Major airlines such as American Airlines and United Airlines will require overweight fliers to purchase an additional seat or upgrade should they encroach on another passenger’s space. JetBlue and Delta do not list any overweight passenger policies on their websites, although will move a passenger for the sake of “weight distribution.” Virgin America will ask its hefty travelers to purchase a second seat in advance, while Southwest Airlines can bump heavy set passengers to another flight should space be limited. Such policies have always ruffled the feathers of people who tout the unfairness of such regulations; yet this latest Hawaiian Airlines “weigh-in” debacle has sparked nationwide controversy. Weighed at check-in, slapped with fees, and rolled over to later flights, overweight fliers are being treated like luggage, which begs the question: are these rules really safety precautions or – horror of all horrors – just another form of fat shaming?
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
“There’s a lot of fat shaming involved in it,” expressed Joanna Farley, travel writer and founder of Vintage Girl Travels. Farley went on to recount the story of a heavier-albeit not obese friend who had been made to change seats despite not inconveniencing other passengers. “No one was being impacted” says Farley, “there was no reason but shaming to move (my friend).”
Regardless of the emotional implications such policies may have on heavier passengers, the question of safety seems undeniable. “I don’t think it’s fat shaming,” said an American Airlines flight attendant who preferred to remain anonymous. “The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) requires a passenger to be able to sit in their seat. If a passenger cannot fasten their seat belt with a seat belt extension or lower their armrest, that’s a safety issue.”
As far as the argument of weight distribution, it seems this is more of a sweeping response airlines will offer frustrated travelers. “They’re just trying to cover themselves,” confessed the American Airlines flight attendant, who explained that an airplane’s balance would hardly be affected by a heavy set flier.
“It should be an issue of respect, comfort and safety for all passengers,” added frequent traveler Tiffany Crystal Bowens, “why should I or anybody else be made to suffer through a flight next to someone who clearly doesn’t fit into their seat and is spilling into yours?”
In the end, there is no right answer. An overweight person being made to purchase an extra seat and pay double for a flight seems as unfair as an average weight customer enduring eight hours of cramped discomfort. Meanwhile, airlines are put in the uncomfortable position of appeasing both parties; of having to enforce safety regulations, tactfully address frustrations of heavy set passengers and appease the comfort of other guests; even getting slapped with lawsuits in the process. Whether the overweight policies of airlines are in fact fat shaming is a debate that may never reach a conclusive answer. “In all incidences,” Farley adds, “it could be done with a hell of a lot more respect and compassion.”
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.