Hello friends! I am safely ensconced in my hotel room in Sydney, after a long and tiring day of travelling to get here. I am seeing lots of fabulous fatties around the hotel, but of course I can’t just say “Hey! Are you a fatty?!” to complete strangers. Just in case they aren’t here for the Australian Fat Studies conference!
If you are reading this, and are attending the conference, and you see me around the traps, I’m the one with the hot pink hair, say hello. I’m friendly, really!
My day started with waking up to find a text message from Qantas telling me that my flight had been cancelled! No other news, just “Hi, your flight has been cancelled, call us!” Eep! Thankfully they had booked me onto a flight an hour later. I’m lucky that I didn’t book a flight late tonight or first thing tomorrow, or I could have been sitting around in the airport for the night, or worse – not been here in time to give my presentation tomorrow!
I decided in the little bit of extra time that I had this morning that I might put Qantas to the test as a fat friendly airline. Because we all know how stressful travelling as a fatty can be, what with airlines charging us for two seats, the hostility from other passengers and the simple discomfort of fitting our bodies into seats designed to squeeze every penny out of passengers.
Now I have flown Qantas several times before, and always been pleased with them and couldn’t remember ever being treated ill because of my size. But I haven’t flown since becoming involved in Fat Acceptance, and I think that does open ones eyes to things a little more. I tend to spend the extra money and fly Qantas because I simply like their customer service. I flew Virgin Blue once and it sucked. They treated their customers like cattle and couldn’t even be bothered to put any effort into anything that could be considered “service”.
I started by going through the Qantas website and all of the policies for flights, looking for any mention of passenger weight or “passengers of size”. Nothing. I couldn’t find a single clause anywhere that even mentioned a passenger’s size. There were a few bits about contacting the airline if you have “special requirements” but they never hinted that size would be considered a special requirement. So they got brownie points there.
The next thing was the baggage check. I know with other airlines, when you turn up and they see that you’re fat, they often change things around to put you in different seats. It happened to me a few times when I was in the US, both at the baggage check point and again at the boarding desk. I’d be singled out and asked to wait a moment while they “Just moved seating around a bit.” They were always polite, but when it’s three fatties being pulled aside, while all the non-fats board… yeah, kinda obvious! Qantas however, not even a blip on the radar.
Next it was the seats in the waiting lounge. Now while I wouldn’t call them generous, I certainly could fit my deathfatz body into them, between the arms with no problem at all. They’re not exactly comfortable, but that’s not because of their lack of size.
Finally it was time to board, and this is where I expected things to get gnarly. From the size of the seats, to the seat belt length, to whoever got to sit next to me, these things are all high risk moments for the fat of the world.
Qantas seats aren’t too bad actually. Again, not at all generous, but certainly big enough to fit my body in without fat overhang, and I’m a deathfatz. I did find that my shoulders were too wide for it, but so were most adults except for the mega tiny. The arm rest went all the way down fine, and I had room to fish my seatbelt out and use the controls for the radio/headset.
Then I waited to see who came to sit next to me. That’s always an adventure – I’ve had some serious hostility from people who’ve had the seat next to me on flights, and I’ve also had some sweeties. I had already dealt with the old lady sitting behind me pulling my hair and saying “I like the colour.” I wanted to turn around and say, “That’s nice but you don’t have to pull it lady!” But I was polite. Anyway a dude turned up to sit beside me, and he was very nice. Never even batted an eyelid. He was even nice when I accidentally plugged my headset into his.
And finally, I decided to really test them. I was pretty sure the seatbelt was going to fit me as is, but thought I’d ask for the extender just to see how they responded. One of the attendants stopped just behind me at one point, so I leant back and said “Excuse me, could I please have a seatbelt extender?” She was very friendly and didn’t make a fuss, just said “Oh yes, of course you can sweetie!” and off she went. Came back a few minutes later with it in her hand, and I said “Actually, I don’t need it after all.” to which she replied “You’re comfortable? That’s great, if you need anything sweetie you just let me know.”
Now THAT is how to deal with a fat customer on a plane. Treated with respect, good customer service and without a fuss, the whole way through.
Qantas folks. The fat friendly airline.