Viral Essay Explains What It’s Like to Be ‘That Fat Person Sitting Next to You on the Plane’

March 7, 2016 Updated: March 7, 2016

Seats in airplanes always seem to be getting smaller.

Some of us are left to squeeze into the tight spaces, while others are left to buy two seats or not fly at all.

An anonymous fat person has penned an essay explaining the perspective of a fat person on a plane.

“My breath tightens immediately when the call comes. It’s my boss’s boss, telling me there’s an important meeting in another city. Or maybe it’s a friend, inviting me to her wedding in California. Sometimes, it is a family member who’s health is failing, and the time has come to say goodbye,” the woman starts in the essay, which was published on Medium

My heart is pounding … I will have to get on a plane. And I am fat.

“The news hits hard — it’s a high-pressure time for my job, friend, family. My heart is pounding and my breath is tightening. I close my eyes, feel my feet on the ground and my breath in my throat, trying desperately to avoid the embarrassment of a full-blown panic attack at work. I will have to get on a plane. And I am fat.”

The woman explains how she cannot ride with many airlines because they charge double for people of a certain weight. All airlines also include the possibility of denying fat people a seat if certain circumstances arise, according to the person. 


The author has been through a number of horrible experiences, including a passenger on JetBlue loudly complaining about the author being fat, while sitting right next to them.

The flight attendant “moved him to another seat, switching with another passenger. She wouldn’t make eye contact with me for the entire flight. Neither would the other passengers in my row. I was so big, and so invisible. This could happen again. I blink back tears,” the author wrote.

Even after purchasing the tickets, the stress gets bigger for the woman. She imagines different scenarios where she is embarrassed by her large size, and prepares as much as possible, such as bringing mints so she won’t need to drink anything and thus need to squeeze past people to use the bathroom. 

Finally, the day arrives.

“I get on the plane, get into my seat, fix my eyes on the baggage handlers below, and avoid interacting with anyone unless they address me first. I grasp my arm and cross my ankles, making my fat body as small as possible,” the woman wrote. 

The flight doesn’t go so badly, but the author still dreads the return flight and all future air travels, concluding: “Air travel is sadly familiar, a microcosm of what happens so often as a fat person. I am watched—and judged harshly—as I try—and fail—to fit into a space that was made for someone else. I am always too big, always too much, always unacceptable. I must make myself smaller and smaller, reducing and reducing endlessly, my stubborn body resisting at every turn. Still, I am never quite small enough to make anyone else comfortable.”