Who would you rather ban from the plane: jumbo passengers — or junior?

It’s come down to this: The two most annoying airline passenger types in the world are travelers who can’t fit in their seat and screaming babies, at least according to you.

Don’t you think it’s time for a runoff election?

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In case you’re wondering how we got here — other than the fact that this Wednesday feature is called “That’s ridiculous!” — here’s the backstory: Last month, my editor and I got into a discussion on Twitter about annoying passengers. We asked for nominations and whittled it down to a few finalists. The top two were kids and XL fliers, and so here we are.

This isn’t an easy decision.

Let’s start with reader Will Smith’s argument that oversized travelers represent the biggest problem on a plane. It isn’t just that they are in your personal space, but that they pose a safety risk, he says.

“If they cannot fit through the escape hatches over the wings, then they could block an exit for others while trying to fit through,” he says. “Some of them would have trouble getting down the aisle and fitting between the seats to get to the wing exits. It would seem that the FAA should have an interest in preventing this type of situation.”

In other words, don’t just cast your vote because jumbo passengers push you out of your seat, but because they could block your way when you need to get out.

I think the safety argument is the most compelling one for giving large passengers your vote. Oh, I know that there are some well-meaning folks on the other side of this debate who believe their size should be considered a disability, but when it comes to evacuating a plane during an emergency, most passengers are less concerned with hurting someone else’s feelings than, well, being hurt.

By the way, I’m told government regulators have an interest in fitting everyone safely into their seats, but enforcement is left almost entirely to the airlines.

Screaming infants, on the other hand, are a never-ending source of controversy. Over the years, passengers have written to me with all kinds of suggestions for dealing with children that won’t shut up, including sedating them with Benadryl, threatening them or their parents, moving them to a special “kids-only” section in the back of the plane and yes, banning them entirely — if not from the flight, then at least from first class.

Toddlers and young children can also present a safety hazard, which is why they aren’t allowed in emergency exit rows. Plus, there’s the whole hygiene issue — diapers, sticky fingers, drool. Little ones quickly turn the interior of an aircraft into a bacteria farm.

Jayne Hanlin, who pushed the “babies” button in the previous poll, tells the story of her recent 12-hour flight from Auckland to Los Angeles.

“There was a screaming infant most of the night,” she recalls. “The mother was standing up rocking the baby, not gently, most of the night, but that didn’t work.”

Finally the flight attendant passed out ear plugs, but those didn’t eliminate the noise.

“I do not want to sound mean-spirited, but this constant screaming made it very difficult to rest,” she says. “On the other hand, my seatmate wasn’t oversized.”

I heard from a lot of parents after the previous poll, and many of them suggested the passengers around them (and especially me) just don’t understand what it’s like to fly with a baby.

Kids often can’t help themselves, they said. When they’re hungry, they cry. When their ears hurt, they cry. When they’re scared, they cry.

And then there’s always this argument: You were once a baby. What if your parents had left you at home?

Actually, that one is the least persuasive to me. When I was a few months old, I probably would have been fine skipping that transatlantic trip, although I’ll admit I now have some neat pictures of me with my parents on a Pan Am flight from New York to Munich.

Of course, we’ll never be able to remove babies or big passengers from the plane. But what if we could?

Which one would you choose?

(Photo: Domi riel/Flickr)

94 thoughts on “Who would you rather ban from the plane: jumbo passengers — or junior?

  1. A quick correction, toddlers aren’t banned from the exit rows because they’re inherently hazardous, but because they can’t assist the crew in the event of an emergency.  There are federal guidelines that dictate who can sit in the emergency row, and they include being able to open the emergency exit, follow oral directions and hand signals, and lift and stow the emergency exit window. 

  2. Until perhaps five years ago I’d’ve struggled with this one. But not only has the size of passengers (or at least, the % of XXL passengers) increased, the quality of noise cancelling headphones has vastly improved. My last Bangkok-Sydney flight featured at least two babies within a few rows of me, but I only heard them when I took the headphones off for meal service and for bathroom trips…

    1. John, may I ask what brand of noise-canceling headphones you use?  When I’ve used them in the past, they reduced the engine noise which caused the other non-static noises to amplify–like screaming babies and loud talking.  I use noise-isolating earbuds now but they can get uncomfortable over long periods. 

  3. I wouldn’t ban either type of passenger, no matter how annoyed I was personally by a particular situation or potential situation. Otherwise, who is to say that someone wouldn’t choose to ban me because they didn’t like the way I looked or some other arbitrary reason? We all have a right to be treated equally. I would like to see more advocacy for compassion and tolerance.

    1. I’m with you, Caitlin. Not sure this is a fair question. I think it’s rather myopic to wholesaley ban either group. Do I like sitting near screaming babies or next to XL passengers? Of course, not. But as long as the person fits into their seat with both armrests down, they’re free to fly. What’s next? Banning little old ladies who wouldn’t be able to vault chairs in case of an evacuation? Should we issue a physical fitness exam to every flyer? As long as both parents / XL passengers possess self-awareness and are doing everything they can to make people around them comfortable, they have the right to fly just like the rest of us…


      1. But that’s the point…if they can fit into one seat.  We’ve all heard examples of XL people who CAN’T fit into one seat and “spill over” into other people’s personal space.  I can deal with the crying baby (God Bless Noise Cancelling Headphones) but not someone squeezing me into space I paid for. 

        I don’t care about the safety issue – but it’s a valid point – whether it’s an XL passenger, Grandma or a disabled passenger – are they able to safely evacuate the airplane without obstructing other passengers.

    2. I have no tolerance for XL passengers that encroach in my space, nor for the airlines that don’t force them to buy the two seats they need. I paid for a seat. I’m sitting in a seat, not half a seat, not 3/4 of a seat, but a seat.

      If they can’t fit in a seat with the armrests down, they need two seats. Even worse: XL pax with a lap child. 

      1. I agree with you up to the armrest down isue. The armrests go up for a reason, to provide extra room.

        As to the comment Chris made about the passengers not fitting out the exits, come on! these exits are the same ones that they entered while getting on the plane. And if they made it to their seat, how would they suddenly not be able to make it from the seat to an exit?

        I’m 6’1″ and 255 and I have trouble fitting into a seat as my shoulders are wide. i need window seats so I can lean away from people. the airline needs to make sure the average person can sit comfortably, not just those who are 5’4″ and weigh 120 lbs.

      2. I have to agree here too. I’m a bigger guy but I fit comfortably in a seat with both arms down and don’t encroach on my neighbor’s seat. I’ve had bigger guys sit down and raise the arm rest and I promptly push it back down and say “we need to make sure we’re sharing this space equally, I prefer to keep the arm rest down”. I’ve seen nasty looks and some have shrugged it off. It’s not my problem, it’s going to stay down. 

    3.  this is a hypothetical, “if you had a gun held to your head” kind of question. there is ALWAYS an answer for those. it’s not real life.

  4. I’m not getting why banning the XL passengers is winning out over a screaming baby.  An EXTRA big person is (1) only going to affect the person they’re sitting next to, and (2) if there’s a better empty seat on the plane the flight attendant will more than like move you out of sympathy (I’ve seen this happen).  However, there is no place on the plane to escape a screaming baby.  

      1. I was on a plane from Anchorage to Seattle last weekend, and a fair number of seats were open. The same thing happened on a same-day flight from Chicago to Atlanta- no one was sitting next to me, so I could take both the window and the aisle (it was a smaller plane). Planes with empty seats do exist, you just have to be really lucky. 🙂

      2. Agreed. Granted, I mainly fly domestic. I repeatedly have been on flights that were canceled due to “mechanical” issues. Funny thing is that the next flight that day can accommodate all of the passengers from the early AM flight. Too many times to be a coincidence.

  5. This is an easy choice. If you bring earplugs (or noise-cancelling headphones), you can make the screaming babies disappear. But there’s no way to make Mr. 5 by 5 disappear.

  6. Just a few thoughts…

    First, I agree with those who say neither should be banned. One of the reasons that air travel is affordable to the masses (and if you think it  isn’t, see what it’d cost to own your own plane) is that you have to deal with the masses.
    That being said, in terms of travel, a crying baby is a temporary situation while being large is not. Also, as has been pointed out, there are methods of dealing with outside sounds.

    On the other hand, all of the over-sized passengers have paid for their flight, unlike the majority of infants. Perhaps if airlines ended the practice of allowing infants to fly for free, it might give more parents pause about putting their infants in a situation they may not be prepared for.

    1. I don’t agree with paying for infants.  They are not taking up a seat so what is there to charge for?  I flew with my children when they were infants and fortunately they were great little fliers.  However, I have been on long flights with screaming infants and it isn’t pleasant. BUT I would rather have a screaming infant than an XXL person that would prevent me from getting to an emergency exit if needed.

      1. I’m in favor of the one person one seat rule.  As it is not safe to hold a baby on your lap in your car, neither is it safe to hold a baby on your lap in an airplane.  If something terrible were to happen suddenly before you were able to tuck your baby under your am as if you were a fullback on the way to the goal line, he or she is going to become a projectile. Likely dying and perhaps hurting another passenger in the process.  Buy your kid a seat and secure him safely in his car seat therein.

        1. I agree. That’s why we always bought a seat for my daughter, who flew six roundtrip flights in her first 18 months. She’s 7 now, but when she qualified as a lap baby, airlines routinely sold a seat for an infant for half the price I paid for my ticket. The only downside was I usually had to buy the tickets by phone because the websites weren’t set up for it.

          It was also funny when flight attendants would see us installing her carseat and tell us it was a full flight. They always looked so shocked when I’d tell them that wasn’t a problem because we’d paid for the seat. 🙂

          But seriously, I don’t know why everyone doesn’t. Especially on long flights, it’s tiring to have to hold a baby, especially after they start walking and want to get down to explore. She didn’t fight being in the carseat the way she would have fought being in arms the whole way.

  7. I voted XL.

    Noise canceling headphones can take care of the screaming in most cases.

    However, I think kids should be required to have their own seats. I’ve sat next to one too many “lap children” that were HUGE. And, their parent(s) seemed to think that their lap was my lap. Hells to the no.

  8. I didn’t vote since I would not ban either one.

    I am a little disappointed by this entry because this topic has been covered quite a bit in the last little while and will soon degenerate into nothing more than a series of insults against overweight travellers and travelling families.

  9. Until airlines enforce the “you need to pay for as many seats as your rear end takes up” rule, I vote XXL passengers. 

    On a percentage basis, the number of kids who scream for more than just the 10 minutes before landing is very small. On the other hand, the number of XXL fliers who make their neighbors miserable for the entire boarding process, flight, and disembarking process is very high. 

    Look, I know that for many XXL fliers feel it’s not their fault that they are XXL. But how do you think I feel? Like it’s *really* not my fault that you are XXL, yet you are making it my problem by taking up 25% of my space, which you did not pay for, which I did pay for.

  10. Personally, none of the above. The person that drives ME nuts is the one who, during a snowstorm, spends his (usually, but sometimes her) time yelling at the agent loudly in the waiting area and for whom every other sentence is “I am a frequent flyer.” This behavior is often followed by frantic and loud cell phone calls.

  11. Isn’t this a bit like chose your poison. At the end of the day, I vote for XL.  Perhaps we need a size monitor similar to the NEVER-USED “your bag must fit in this rack to be carried on board” devices at the boarding gate.  Obese passengers would be required to sit in a mock-up airplane seat to ensure they fir.

  12. I also didn’t vote. 

    Airlines should provide more extra-wide seats on every flight, sell them for 30% more (or whatever it takes) and REQUIRE that people who can’t lower armrests on regular seats buy them. And yes, that is more work for the airline who has to enforce their policies. Get over it.

    I have a lot of sympathy for people who are extra large (it’s not really a choice, you know?) and think it’s horrible to expect them to choose between buying two seats (waaay too expensive) or encroaching on someone else’s space. What an awful choice! 

    Re: babies, bring your headphones. I wish the airlines would be proactive in telling parents that they are expected to bring toys and snacks and prevent seat-kicking, but whatever. 

    1. it’s not really a choice?! oh i just had a good laugh.

      many airlines, it should be noted, will REFUND the second seat if it was not necessary for the XL passenger to use it (i.e. the flight did not oversell and require volunteers). so the money issue doesn’t fly with me–pardon the pun.

      1. Glad to see that you completely understand the highly complex system that regulates everyone’s metabolism, flutiefan.  Please show me your MD in bariatrics before you tell me that it’s my choice to be overweight.

  13. EVERY fatso is a hazard.  Mostly to the skinny guy next to him, but in case of an emergency landing — to the entire aircraft.  On the other hand, only SOME children are fussy.  With good parenting skills and a bit of luck, the passengers around you won’t even notice that you are flying with a little one.  My then-2-year-old daughter did just that on a 10-hour transatlantic flight.

    Therefore, there is no reason to banish ALL children, but there is every reason to banish all fatsos.  It’s that simple.

  14. It’s not XL passengers and it’s not babies.

    It’s the XL passengers who seem to expect everyone to accommodate them.  There have been plenty of stories here of oversized passengers who want people to switch seats with them, instead of keeping up with their own seating assignment or buying two seats.  I have sat near XL passengers who do do these things.

    It’s the parents that bring the type of baby who does scream relentlessly on a red-eye. Not all babies do – some cry for a little bit and can be soothed, no problem there. Some are champion screamers who seem to scream just to scream.  As a parent, you generally know which type your child is before you board the plane.

    So I would like to have airlines enforce their own policies where XL passengers are concerned, and ban the parents who have a choice, but choose to inflict their child on other passengers without any preparation.  (You get a pass for family emergencies – everyone has ’em.)

    1. Really?

      Honestly I have no idea if my infant is that type.  We’ve avoided any kind of long travel with kid in tow.  It’s perhaps been up to two hours driving and we haven’t tried air travel yet.  I’d think there are a lot of families with a young child who have never tried taking said child on a plane.

      At some time it will be a new experience for any child.  It could be fascinating or it could be frightening.  All of a sudden the child is in cramped quarters with lots of people, along with various noises, motions, and crowds that have never been experienced before in such a short life.  I really don’t know how my kid is going to react to the sound of the engines at maximum thrust for takeoff or the feeling of being planted or (of if a rear-facing child seat is used) pulled from the seat by the acceleration. I don’t know if the pressure change from climbing to 35,000 ft is going to cause a major freakout or will just be taken as another experience.  I don’t know just yet.  Of course if it’s a frightened child, the situation could easily be made worse by flight crew or fellow passengers screaming at the parents to quiet a crying child down. Sometimes it’s a matter of when in a child’s typical day a flight is planned. It might fall into the regular sleep cycle and the kid’s asleep for a couple of hours into a three hour flight. My wife took our kid on a train once, and I was hoping it could be a new and fun experience. It didn’t turn into a nightmare, but it wasn’t much of a new experience after falling asleep and staying that way throughout the rest of the train ride.

      Of course a situation can be made worse (as some have indicated in these comments) because someone feels entitled and perhaps protected for some reason or another because they do have children, because they’re overweight, or because they’re frequent fliers. Sometimes there’s a bit of resentment because the parents act as if nobody should be able to complain, the overweight person doesn’t acknowledge that it’s a difficult situation, or that an “elite” flier feels entitled to hog the overhead bin space. Being polite can go a long way towards soothing any animosities.

      1. Please note I said “make no preparation”.  You sound like the type of parent that prepares.  It’s the parent that doesn’t even try – you’ve seen the stories on here, you know what I’m talking about – that I’m addressing here.

        And you know some babies scream for no particular reason.  (And if you haven’t met those, consider your ear-drums to be blessed.)  If I had a child like that, I know I’d think twice about flying instead of driving, especially if the child was good in their car seat.

        There are always one-offs and exceptions.  For example, an undiagnosed ear-infection for a first time flying infant  = extended screams at the resonant frequency that might cause the plane to vibrate apart 😉

        But in your case, if you’ve taken your baby on the subway (I used to live in DC and NYC, so not unheard of), the noise, crowds, limited space and rumbling are similar enough so you’d know how your baby reacts to that type of environmental change.  If you’re in the DC area, you can even see what happens when ears pop on a few lines as trains go under the Potomac.  If your baby is inconsolable in a situation like that, would you think twice about flying with him/her?  (Actually asking – curious to know.)

        There’s always one-offs for the “XL” passenger as well.  I’m hypothyroid – it took years to get me diagnosed because my old doctor just accused me of having no self control and not being honest on food and exercise logs.  (I have a different doctor now.)  It’s only with proper meds and massive discipline in my diet & exercise that I don’t need a belt extender and can fit between the armrests.  But I’m definitely on the low end of “XL” (getting smaller gradually, but still there).  But between that fact and that part of my work covers accessibility issues, I really hate when some “XL” people talk about how they have a “disability”.

        Sure, some of these people have endocrine issues, but many do not, and I’m proof that even a medical cause of obesity does not mean you are forever doomed to require two seats. 

        Honestly, though?  I don’t like this post at all. You start banning children or XL passengers, where do you go next?  Ban people with disabilities (despite the ADA)?  Ban people with poor hygiene?  It’s a slippery slope.  Common courtesy and common sense should be the norm, but it’s just in less and less supply these days.

    2. And as what most people would call XL passenger, I buy 2 seats (even though I can fit into 1 without spilling into the other seat-I can buckle my seatbelt without an extender and sit without putting the armrest up and spilling into the other seat. I just prefer the extra room as my shoulders are very wide. thanks Dad). Yet just about every single time, I get people bitching at me because their friend can’t sit in their seat so they can talk to each other. Or they want to spread their stuff out into my seat. I hold my ground, even when they try and involve a FA. It’s my seat, I paid for it. (and no, I didn’t pay half price, I paid full price for the extra seat.)

      So it goes both ways sometimes. I’ve even had FA’s give me shit for buying two seats. Saying “well you should give your seat up so someone else can fly/sit there and talk to their friend/whatever.” Sorry, not going to happen, unless you want to pay me double for the seat.

      1. AMEN!  The airlines can’t have it both ways — they need to enforce the seating requirements, but they also need to RESPECT those who have followed the rules and purchased 2 seats — I would be very pleased to be seated next to your empty seat (which I would not encroach upon, as I didn’t pay for it), and just chat quietly over the aisle to a travel partner if that was the case.  HOLD YOUR GROUND, HON!

  15. Neither extra-large passengers, nor babies bother me. It’s the RUDE passengers – especially the ones who have to have their seats back in your face that are annoying.

  16. Looks to me as if this article was published only to generate traffic to the site.  As @BillCCC said, this will soon degenerate into namecalling.  I have my own thoughts, but you know, some things are really left unspoken.  Or unwritten.  On the bright side, I can “like” someone else’s comments as I entertain myself looking through the comments later on today . . .

  17. Why are you continuing this topic that brings out hostility and bad feelings?  Haven’t you covered it enough?  In reality, neither babies nor XL passengers are going to be banned, so why are you furthering this conversation?  And the idea that a person should be banned because they would be a hazard during an emergency exit?  What about old people, people with walking disabilities, blind people, people with babies?   All of these folks coould seriously slow down an emergency evacuation – do you want to ban them all?  I usually like this site but if this nonsense continues I’m going to have to take a break. 

  18. Chris,

    Essentially, your question is nothing more than an encouragement for people to vent their hatred/frustrations/biases/prejudices.  Would you ask a question whether people should ban Jews or Muslims from planes?  It’s pretty offensive and shows a massive failure of judgement on your part.  You look like you’re just trying to whip up hate against specific groups.  While I don’t think that’s your intent, it’s still very poor form.

    Some people can’t control their size and the actions of infants can’t always be controlled.  But these groups also need to fly and while they can be annoying, so can someone who consumes too much alcohol, someone who wears too much perfume, someone who snores or even someone who hogs the overhead space.  Frankly, the airlines have methods of dealing with all of these situations.  Obese passengers who can’t fit into a seat need to purchase two of them.  Airlines can pass out earplugs if an infant is having a difficult trip.  It’s not that hard to figure out and there’s no reason to EVER discuss a ban against a specific group.  

    1. “Some people can’t control their size.” Maybe some, but the vast majority can. Babies have no choice in being babies, or having ear pain from pressure. People who have gotten so huge that they can’t even fit in a plane seat have made a long series of bad choices to get into that state. And they could correct it (or buy a larger seat), but don’t. Comparing this to religion is ridiculous.

      1. Fine, if you prefer a different example: Who do you hate more, the mentally handicapped or the physically handicapped?

        It doesn’t make the question any better.

        As far as your apparent dislike of the obese, if the airlines just enforced their own policies there wouldn’t be any problems, would there?  Since the airlines have the ultimate say-so, they are to blame when they don’t enforce their own policies.

        1. ok, Walt, YOU be the petite, thin woman (or even man) who has to approach these large folks on a regular basis and tell them that, by your judgment, you feel they do not fit into 1 seat and must buy 2. and then get cursed out, called all sorts of names — including prejudiced, because clearly you are skinny and must hate fat people — and then see if you EVER want to do it again.  and then when senior management will just refund their 2nd seat purchase anyway, since the flight wasn’t full, then you just got verbally abused for nothing.  and the next time, when the flight IS full, and you really NEED to tell the XL passenger that a 2nd seat is required, watch them go even more bonkers. it’s a lose-lose-lose, for the uncomfortable passenger, the XL passenger, and the airline employee. 
          p.s. we have asked, no–begged, for a “sizing seat” at the counter/gate, much like the carry-on sizing box. we have been told NO by the head honchos over and over. i feel it would be useful for not only judging XL customers, but fearful flyers could use to it get an idea and feel more comfortable with what they’ll be facing. just my opinion.

          1. If you’re avoiding “approaching these large folks” because it’s unpleasant and that causes the discomfort of another paying customer, you’re not doing your job.  I resent as much as anyone having part of my seat taken up by a passenger of size, but I resent the airline far more for allowing it to happen in the first place!  

          2. i actually DO my job, i’m just saying i completely understand why many agents are reticent to approach these people when they can be downright cruel.

          3. And then I feel they should be DENIED boarding altogether — but the honchos need to enforce this as well — I worked for an airline long ago, and gate agents just seem to be the whipping boys for a lot of folks who know better and just want something for nothing and are willing to cause a scene to get their way – horrible!

          4. In today’s evironment of anything and everything ending up on the internet, I can understand why it would be a PR nightmare if Agents started making judgement calls on people’s size.
            What they should do is have a question on the ticket Buying Screen for “Waist Size” and have a standard if you are above X Size, you must purchase a second ticket.  If someone lies about their size and they are forced to be removed from a plane, then they are charged the Walk-Up fair for the second ticket they were supposed to purchase in the first place.
            If every airline actually started enforcing their own rules, this eventually would be a non-issue.

          5. That’s why the seat should be outside TSA entries — let them enforce the rules, rather than the airlines —:)

          6. Wow.  First I thought you were just insensitive in thinking that overweight people choose to be overweight.  Now I realize that you’re a “petite woman” who works for an airline.  I pray that I never fly your airline — or at least, not through your airport.  Tell me, would you make me sit in your Seat of Shame even though I’ve paid for a first class seat?

          7. when did i say that all overweight people choose to be overweight?? there are definitely those who have medical conditions, even though they are in the minority.

            and you probably do fly my airline. i don’t do anything wrong. i tactfully approach the larger passengers and gently ask them about fitting in the seat. many are indignant, at best, that i would ask such a thing, but it’s part of my job requirements. it’s seen as particularly insulting, or even prejudiced, that i am the one who asks them because i am a smaller woman. THAT’S ALL.  i’m not judging anyone personally. i am tasked by my superiors to “eyeball it” to determine if someone needs to be asked about buying 2 seats.  i actually would prefer what you call “Seat of Shame”, because then it WOULDN’T be me making a judgment call, it would be a non-biased, matter-of-fact, non-judgmental way of doing business, and i would not be accused of being “insensitive”.

            you are so far off base, it’s not even funny. i will no longer engage in this discussion with you.

          8. Artemisia Jones said:

            “I have a lot of sympathy for extra large people (it’s not really a choice, you know?)” 

            To which you, flutiefan, replied:

            “it’s not really a choice?! oh i just had a good laugh.”

            What exactly did you mean, if not that overweight people are choosing to be that way?

            I realize that you feel uncomfortable doing the job that your employer expects you to do, asking people if they think they’ll fit in one seat.  I do not condone your employer shifting that thankless job to you.  What I *do* hold you responsible for are your remarks in this forum.  I do not think that hiding behind the anonymity of a screen name makes it okay to post ignorant, hurtful comments.

            Perhaps if you really feel that uncomfortable confronting people that obviously are choosing to be overweight, you should request a position at ticketing to avoid this problem.

          9. oh, jeeeez Sonia. the statement was: “I have a lot of sympathy for extra large people (it’s not really a choice, you know?)” 

            To which i replied:

            “it’s not really a choice?! oh i just had a good laugh.”

            The original statement encompassed ALL overweight/”extra large” people; the writer did NOT qualify the statement, which paints it with broad strokes. i wrote that i “laughed” because it’s absolutely ABSURD to claim that all oversized people have zero choice.

            please learn how to read actively, instead of immediately becoming defensive. and for the record, my employer requires anonymity on websites such as these. i said nothing “hurtful”, nor “ignorant”. in fact, i just said that it’s hard to approach these larger customers, and that it’s laughable to think that no overweight person has a choice to be that way.

            (also, i DO WORK AT TICKETING! and guess who is required to question the overweight people if that is the 1st point that we see them?!)

            And this will be the LAST time i give you any more response on the subject. good day, ma’am.

      2. No it isn’t.  It reminds me of the  southern US mentality back in  the 50’s and 60’s.  Remember when some people couldn’t ride in the front of the bus?  Another travel writer suggested just yesterday that babies be put in the back of the plane.  Don’t want to offend the elite travleers.

  19. And what about mis-behaved children?  That’s way worse than a baby, who, as irritating as they are, don’t know any better.  Case in point:  There was this kid on a flight I was on.  As long as he was allowed to stand up in his seat, he was happy as a clam.  But the instant he was told to sit down, he started screaming at the top of his lungs.  Eventually they just let him stand on his seat while the plane landed.  You know, if we’d have hit some turbulence and that kid went flying, I wouldn’t have felt sorry for him at all.

    1. I’m in agreement here.  We flew with our son to the cayman islands a few years back and our son made a little noise during takeoff and landing, but as long as he had his pacifier, no one other then us would’ve been able to hear him.
      But the 6-yo in the seat in front of us was a mess.  His mom had bought Mcdonalds in the terminal and brought it onboard with her so the entire cabin instantly smelled like french fries.  He proceeded to eat the food, which I was cool with, until he put his trash under his seat right on my carry on bag.
      After that, he started chewing gum and somehow during hte flight, it ended up on the bottom of my sandels.
      These two things alone really wouldn’t have bothered me much, but the child also proceeded to watch a movie on a portable player without headphones and would cheer at the movie from time to time, startling our son awake.

      Mis-Behaved children are worse then crying babies.

      1. Something very similar happened on a flight I was on last year. The child (at least the same age if not older, I would guess he was a second grader) was watching a movie without headphones. He was two seats away (in the window seat) but it was loud enough to seriously annoy me almost immediately.

        I waited a a moment thinking at some point the headphones were coming out, but they didn’t. I asked the mother if her child could please watch his movie wearing headphones.

        Her response… no, that headphones hurt his ears.

        Honestly, I’m a pretty meek person. Asking if he could please watch it with headphones was about as far as my polite spine was willing to go. Then, the man sitting behind the child leaned up over the seat and said, “Young man, then either turn it *way* down or turn if off. This *isn’t* up for discussion.”


        1. That parent sounds like some I’ve encountered when loading cars with parcels at Christmas.  There are signs that clearly state “Turn off engine while waiting.”  For the ones that won’t, the excuse is usually, “but the baby will get cold”

  20. There are a few solutions 1.  have the airlines place a % of their flights as family friendly and give incentives to families to fly there by mostly moving kids to the same flights and allowing business travellers to choose the less family friendly flights. 2.  Have the airlines adjust their seat size to accommodate the growth of their customer base.  Both probably come at a cost, however I am not sure how the airline restrooms meet the ADA requirements when a % of the employees almost cant fit in them.

    1. But when you have irregular ops and business flyers have to be reaccomodated on family friendly flights or vice versus, your in the same position you have now.

    2. Problem you run into with adjusting the seat size UP is that you are now penalizing the “Skinny” people that fit into the standard seat now.  I say penalizing because now there will be less seats on the plane and therefore the airline would need to charge more per seat for the remaining seats.
      A better solution is to enforce the airline rules about large passengers buying 2 seats.  Put a Test Seat outside each boarding area that people can sit in.  If they fit, then there is no problem.  If they do not, then they are forced to buy another ticket and potentially bumped from the flight.
      I’m a larger then average person(6-2, 280), and I fit into the airlines seats.  I’m a firm believer in paying for the space you take up.  If you can fit into 1 seat, you pay for 1 seat, if you can not fit into 1 seat, you pay for 2 seats.

      1. I don’t want to sit next to a guy with shoulders like a football player either–this may not be you, but making accommodation for this is akin to the person who is “in their own seat” (not using seat belt extensions) but is more comfortable with the armrest up because it adds that inch and a half between two people.
        This person would be XL but is not any danger because she has to turn sideways to getting out of the plane than Mr. 6’2″ who has to bend way over in a rush to get out.

      2. I am barely 5’5″ and 113 lbs. I have to duck to get to a window seat and don’t really find the legroom sufficient in most rows if the person in front of me reclines their seat. Don’t even ask how it is with my very tall husband, who risks being thrown off for not being able to get his legs out of the aisle and behind the seat in front of him. I would be happy to pay a bit more to have a livable amount of space on domestic flights without having to spend a ton to fly first class. It’s not just XL passengers airlines are failing to accommodate it’s also rather small ones and tall skinny ones. I’m not really concerned with which direction passengers are exceeding the space allotted (horizontally or vertically), just that it seems to be a common problem that the airlines are not addressing, as I’m sure they’d rather have customers blame each other.

  21. Ban BOTH or better yet, correct both.
    1) charge extra for the extra large seats that can be place in stategic areas around the airplane foe wait and balance. Nornmally all you need to do is charge 150% of the fare for the extra large seat.
    2) all babies are in the back of the plane in the infant / family section with a draped bulkhead to separate cabins. It might be nice to have an attendant that is a parent attend to this section. (This would lower the suicide rate that tends to occur after a miserable flight with a uncontrolable child.

    1. Excellent suggestion — and I’m a parent who travels with a young child.  Being in a ‘family’ section accomplishes three things. First, move annoying children to the back of the plane so others are not inconvenienced, (2) the kids have other kids to play with and talk to and (3) help the parents so they won’t feel guilty or embarrassed about normal children behavior.  

    2. I’m in agreement with both, except about the flight attendent.  Better to find someone with a lot of patience that are not parents because while I love MY kids and will put up with their crap, I don’t always extend the same curtiousy to other people’s children. 
      I will say that as a parent, I am great at tuning out baby crying noise and can sleep right through it.

  22. I am not sure the point of this article other than to be provocative and get fairly decent people posting some rude comments.  Very disappointing Chris and honestly, quite questionable in your motives.  I am losing interest in this website.

  23. XL passengers can be annoying when the airline allows them to sit in one seat but truth be told, since falling ill, I’ve put on some weight so I might actually be in that category now.  Last time I flew was over a year ago and then I fit in one seat…  People rant about “Fat People” but there are times we “Fat People” really can’t help it.  Before I fell ill, I was a svelte 165 lbs – and before you say it, I am just over six feet tall.  Now?  Since I can no longer exercise the way I used to, I’m ashamed to admit…  We “Fat People” know we are size-impaired…  Making an issue of it on the airplane really embarrasses us and no one needs to be privy to my medical history nor do I owe anyone any explanations as to “why” I am the way I am now.

    However, crying babies drive me more than a little crazy.  I have kids so I understand there are times they can’t help it and that’s much more understandable, IMHO, but as we jettison into the “Kids raised on the ideals of Dr. Spock” who are now becoming parents, it’s the kids that run amok through the plane that should allow us to throw the parents off the plane.

    Too many times I’ve seen parents of small children blissfully reading a novel with headphones on while their kids wreak havoc on the cabin.  To be fair, the flight crew should have stepped in at some point but these clueless parents go ape if you even remotely suggest they take control of Little Johnny or Jane.  How dare WE attempt to stifle their “freedom” to express themselves?

  24. This has just turned into a blog of hatred and mockery and insults, and frankly, I’m done reading it. Sorry we can’t all be as perfect as you, Chris…from the XL passenger, to the screaming babies, to the mothers who DARE to breastfeed their child. Hopefully one day, the would will conform to your idea of acceptable..until then, see ya!

    1. “a blog of hatred and mockery and insults” – I’m not sure I agree with this at all.  This article was well written and gives both sides of the arguement equal attention.  There was not hatred or mockery or insults in the article, just straight up both sides of the aisle.
      I also can’t say I’ve seen you post much up, so there won’t be much lost if you choose not to come back.

    2. To be fair to the author I believe that the article was couched in terms that weren’t inflammatory on its face.

      However, I could have easily predicted all the ranting and name calling.

  25. Chris – what is the point of this column/poll?  Crying babies/out of control kids and XL passengers have all been covered (and recently) in your column and everyone who comments came on to say what they think.  Is this poll going to change anything?  No.  This was lazy at best and pot stirring at worse. 

  26. Thank you for all the comments. I think this is a worthy topic, and tried to present it in the least inflammatory way possible. But I see some good people here who disagree, and I’m sorry if this story offends them.

    Some comments are being caught by the Disqus spam filter. It typically stops anything with profanity and all-uppercase writing. If you have a comment that hasn’t appeared, or if you see a comment that you believe is patently offensive, please let me know.

  27. I really don’t care for either but I think that screaming children are the bigger problem. The jumbo only annoys his or her seatmates. The baby can make the whole plane miserable.

  28. First off, who’s arguing that obese passengers should be *banned*? That seems pretty ridiculous. (The rationale that they should be banned for safety reasons – that they’d slow down an evacuation – makes sense only if you feel that the elderly, blind, deaf, mentally/physically handicapped, and of course children should be banned as well).

    I do agree with the majority opinion here that anyone who cannot fit into one seat should be required to purchase two, and that no one should be made uncomfortable due to being seated next to a large passenger.

    I’m going to say that I’d rather ban babies, though, primarily because an obese passenger who’s too large for his seat generally affects at most two other passengers, while a loud and unruly child can annoy dozens.

  29. Good grief, hasn’t this been covered time and again?  And since the goal of this article seems to be generating passionate reactions, why not go for the trifecta and add TSA to the “what fliers hate” list.  I doubt the posts could get any more obnoxious.

  30. Judging by the comments this is hugely controversial and topical question.  I am torn with my thoughts.  Having just become a dad three weeks ago I guess I can’t ban little ones from the plane! Oversize people is tricky! People are getting larger, it’s a fact.  Is it right? Perhaps not, but should the airlines adapt? Airlines should welcome everyone, noise and space restrictions are just something we have to deal with!

  31. Smacks of elitism to me – people pay their money, just the same as you.  I had to put up with smoking passengers for YEARS before that was banned and that was an actual health hazard, not just an inconvenience.  Let these people go where they need to go!  Sheesh!

  32. We should be accommodating and respectful of peoples situations. The only people who should be banned are the ones that dont behave this way. Hopefully everybody can show a little more consideration of others.

  33. I don’t want to ban either.  My belief is if you don’t fit in your seat with the arm rests down you should have to purchase 2 seats.  Recognize your size is an issue and if it takes 2 seats, (or a seat in a section of the plane that has wider seats ie business) to be comfortable and not unduly infringe on the person next to you that is your responsibility.

    I organized a group trip to Europe a few years a go and one of the participants (my company paying the bill) asked if they could purchase a second seat next to themself becasue of their size.  There are some people that do not expect the world to cater to them.

  34. How about a “Federal Mandate” that two rows have larger seats.  They already charge us more to pick “prime” seats so these larger seats are reserved for passengers of size with a “premium price” until a certain percent of ticket sales then opened up to all passengers. Use the last rows, they don’t recline so it’s not like we’re loosing good seats.  Airlines have to figure out proof on selling those seats but people of size i’m sure would buy them because they would rather be comfortable then embarrassed. The cost of two tickets isn’t feasible in this economy but a premium seat just might be and who can afford a first class seat?

    1. It’s true…I’ve had to seriously cut back on my flying because I choose to purchase a first class seat so as not to crowd the people around me.  But I’m lucky: I don’t have to fly for business.  I guess if you *have* a choice, and you’re traveling for leisure, XL people like myself should save up for a first class ticket.  Sure, it may mean depriving yourself for other things, but that’s what a recession is all about.

  35. Wow.  I am saddened by this poll.  I love to travel, and often need to fly because of time constraints.  I’m an “XL” passenger, and I consciously choose to pay for a first class seat, so I’m not crowding any of you “normal” sized people who paid a heck of a lot less.  Yet you’re going to tell me that I’m in your way in case we crash?  And by the way, I have no problem moving down the aisle.  So where do you draw the line if you’re going to put a size restriction on who can fly?  Do you propose we have a walk-in size cage, to provide a human carry-on type of measurement?  And how will this affect online purchase of tickets?  I can just picture getting to the airport:  “No, I’m sorry, you’ve gained weight since you purchased this ticket.  You don’t fit, you can’t fly, and by the way, we’re not refunding your money.”

    For the record, I get irritated by children that are disruptive when they fly.  But I teach elementary school, and I understand small children.  So they don’t make me angry.  What makes me angry is when parents know that their children are being irritating — not just screaming/crying, but kicking seats, throwing things, etc. — and the parents ignore the misbehavior.  So parents, if you choose to fly with your children, understand that you don’t check your responsibility to actually *parent* at the boarding door.

  36. It’s the industry at fault.
    The babies I’ve encountered on planes are usually quiet until the landing when the air pressure causes pain to their sensitve eardrums.  Aircraft manufacturers design cabins for cost, not for the best comfort during pressure changes.
    Airlines want to pack ’em in like sardines with minimal seat width and pitch.  So, if the ever-expanding size of Americans continue to chose to be fat by eating more than their bodies require, they should have the choice made for them: pay for 1st class or two seats or drive in their vehicles they configured for their comfort.
    Airlines used to weigh passengers to calculate fuel.  Passengers accepted that.  But they also accepted coninuous smoking by everyone and the occasional handgun.

  37. Airlines should enforce rules.  There should be rules of conduct (especially for business/first class cabins) which need to be adhered to.  People pay extra money for business class so they can rest and not fall asleep at the wheel when they arrive at their destination.  People who are parental failures shouldn’t be allowed to have their demonspawn in an upgraded cabin.  There are lots of places in this world that are adults only and there’s a reason for that.

    Airlines should track people with bad kids.  They already track bad adults.  There are lots of good kids but certainly lots where you know they should not be on a plane.

    As for the “fat people”, it should be a rule that they can sit in the seat with the armrests down and not using up another person’s space.  I liked the suggestion where the airlines should have some larger seats and charge say 30% more for them.  That would solve the problem in a lot of ways, although how many of these seats should be on a plane, and should people who aren’t fat be allowed to buy them?

    Finally, enforce the carry on luggage rules.

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