Today, something about my job suddenly occurred to me, which is actually quite worrying considering I've nearly been there a year.. but it made me think.
As most of you know - on Twitter anyway - I am a Travel Advisor. I won't pretend to be the best because if I'm honest, I'm absolute shit at sales. Somehow I always manage to hit target but I'm not sure how.. anyway, enough of that.
On our airline, we offer "Extra Leg Room Seats"
To book an Extra Leg Room Seat on our flight.. you must not be disabled. You must not be old. And you MUST NOT be obese.
Is this, or is this not, discrimination central?
And it suddenly occurred to me today.. If I have an obese couple sat in front of me and they ask for these Extra Leg Room Seats.. Am I supposed to say "Sorry, you can't have those because you're fat?"
The reason for this is because these seats are located directly next to the emergency exits. You know the ones, right? Loooooads of leg room because there's like two meters worth of space in front of you. Sometimes you get a flight attendant sat across from you too if you're lucky. But these seats need to be occupied by the fit, young and active, because if the plane were to make an emergency landing, these are the types of people who would be able to open an aircraft door and guide everyone to safety (I must add, I don't think most of these people realise when they buy these seats..)
I recently had to make a call to a customer who had booked these seats, and then applied for Medical Assistance during his flight, and tell him that because he had recently had a new hip, which he needed to exercise so the Extra Leg Room Seats would be perfect for him - he couldn't have them.
This also leads to children. Children are also not allowed to occupy these seats - which actually isn't a problem because what child under 12 needs Extra Leg Room?
It is very easy to justify these reasonings to parents or the elderly.. but what about the obese? I am by far from a skinny-minnie, but I would be mortified if I went in to book a holiday and was told I was too fat for my seats. Why is this situation left to us on the front line in the Travel Agents? We don't make the rules, yet we are expected to take the brunt of things.
I recently had a customer who walked in to my shop, sit at my desk and asked me about wheelchair accessibility abroad. I asked her if she had filled in a welfare form, where she was going and what she intended on doing. She answered that she was wanting to take a boat ride over the bay to the other side of the town, so I nodded. I asked her what her disability and limitations were - uncomfortable, but I needed to know. Her answer was that she could not walk long distances due to her weight and that she was worried she could not get her wheelchair on board the boat.
I'm sorry.. did you not just WALK in to the shop, WALK to my desk, sit down, and then WALK out? I was all ready to fire up my systems when I simply suggested: Could you not be wheeled up the boat dock and then step down on to the boat? It appeared this thought hadn't occurred to her and she thanked me profusely. I love that I get paid for common sense.
I do agree that those who are large enough to take up two seats should pay for them - why on earth not? You are using up the seat which another paying passenger could not. Maybe a group of 5 passengers could not travel because an obese person would take up both of the seats? I can recall my flight to Ibiza in which I was seperated from my friends and forced to sit next to a very LARGE couple. I sat on the aisle seat - so I could walk about if needed - only to be basically shoved out of my seat by this ladies obtuse arse. In theory, this couple needed the whole 3 seats. Their excuse of "Oh look, she's only tiny!" did not suffice. I endured 2.5 hours of continuous elbow knocking and really bad side pain from being so twisted as to get myself comfortable.
I'm sidetracking here, I realise. But since when has it been my job, the tiny, chubby lady, to tell someone they are too fat to ride on a plane?
Thank fuck it hasn't happened so far, but it would be just my luck that tomorrow, my first day back, this will be my first customer.