On the systematic punishment of the unintentionally oversized

4 Mins read

The Mail Online ran two stories over the summer about plans to introduce passenger weight limits on certain airlines.

The first detailed the practice of weighing passengers after check-in. To many, their weight is a somewhat sensitive issue. “How much do you weigh?” is deemed far too personal a question to be asked by a stranger but, nonetheless, in 2013, Samoa Air became the first to start the use of a scale and, more recently, Uzbekistan Airways followed suit.

Then came a second story; that of a man considered too fat to fly and forced to purchase an extra seat on his flight. This seat, it transpired, was not next to him, but at the other end of the plane.

It doesn’t seem as though budget airlines will bend on the amount of people they deem fit to squeeze into a flying cola can.

The restrictions on size might be a bit insensitive but the intention is a good one: make sure everyone has enough space. But I wonder, do these same rules apply to taller people? Could we perhaps have a little bit more leg room?


[pullquote]While most will refrain from pointing out that someone is obese, or ugly, or a dwarf, they are far less hesitant to point out excessive height.[/pullquote]

I stand at six feet and nine inches (2.06m) tall and often wonder where the average person will draw the line on what physical attributes they can comment on.

While most will refrain from pointing out that someone is obese, or ugly, or a dwarf, they are far less hesitant to point out excessive height.

I’m frequently stopped in the street by curious characters to ask, “how tall are you?” or, by the more confident among us, “can I have a photo?” Some are so struck by awe and wonder that they are reduced to non-sequiturs like “Wow, you’re really tall!” as though I hadn’t noticed, or “my brother is six feet and seven inches,” as though we might know each other – we probably move in the same circle.

But by far the most irritating inquiry is the inevitable “do you play basketball?” – I can’t deny that Michael Jordan and I have something in common, but being tall is far from the only credential you need in order to be good at, or even enjoy, a sport.

It would be just as far-fetched to assume that those with large hands play cricket, and those with large penises become porn stars.

There is no denying that towering a few inches above everyone else is an immediately noticeable feature. I must be forgiving of the double takes and muffled whispers of the astounded passers-by, but what is infuriating is that no one cares to notice when the situation is dire.

When I am wedged, for example, between the floor and ceiling of a tube carriage, no one dares to mention it. Or when I am audibly cramming myself into the inexplicably small space that National Express passengers must endure for hours on end, no one utters a word.

I understand that my fellow commuters might be deterred by the irritation etched across my face, the mouthed expletives and general “LEAVE. ME. ALONE,” demeanour.

I know that for some strange reason, talking on public transport is not the done thing. However, I think that it may have something more to do with the fact that if they were to acknowledge my height, they would in doing so acknowledge my discomfort, and then, god-forbid, they may feel obligated to do something about it.

I don’t expect anyone to stand so that I can sit; I’m young, have four working – if slightly gangly – limbs, and I’m not heavily pregnant. But I know that you are noticing. I know you are bursting to say something. So, why else wouldn’t you?

[pullquote align=”right”]Heavy machinery and a few months of yoga class are not too far off what is required of passengers like me in order to get our bodies into a position that vaguely resembles sitting.[/pullquote]

For the taller-than-average person, nowhere can conjure up more feelings of resentment, fear, and foreboding than the cabin of a budget airline.

While the majority of flyers will see the emergency exit or bulkhead seats as a bit of luxury, for those with a few extra inches in the upwards department it is an absolute necessity.

Heavy machinery and a few months of yoga class are not too far off what is required of passengers like me in order to get our bodies into a position that vaguely resembles sitting.

Sleeping in this awkward, quasi-yogic position is obviously out of the question and, once femurs are wedged in between our backrest and the one in front of us, getting that book from the overhead bins is impossible.

So we just sit, staring into space as the person in front tries to force their reclining seat through our kneecaps.

A Boeing 737-800, a staple part of a budget airline's fleet.

The Boeing 737-800, a staple part of a budget airline’s fleet [Victor via Flickr CC]

The cabin of a Boeing 737-800 jet is just under 30 metres long and about 3.5 metres wide. Into this 105 square metre space, Ryanair squeeze 195 seats, 18 of which are the “luxury” front and exit seats which have an extra 15 cm of legroom and in order to guarantee one of these you now have to put up a fight.

It used to be that some smiling stewardess would take pity on you, or, when checking in luggage, the face behind the desk might utter those beautiful words, “Would you like the exit seat?”

But, now that budget airlines are introducing ludicrous charges for extra baggage, for being overweight, and for a headphone set in order to listen to the small screen that is playing out silently in front of you, such seats must be paid for rather than being randomly allocated to those who might actually need them.

This extra cost is a fine for being tall. I refuse to pay it. I would be happy not to receive special treatment, it’s not as though I need it, but if I must suffer the barrage of idiotic comments, then I damn well want it.

The average person can sit quite comfortably in a standard economy class seat. I can’t. Why should I have to pay extra for something that everyone else got for free?

Featured Image by Ella Taylor-Palfrey

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