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Big Win in Canada: Two Seats for Fat People

As you've seen over the past few days, the biggest news in the fat community is that Canada's Supreme Court has ruled that fat people are entitled to two seats for the price of one. Air Canada and WestJet had sought to overturn the "one person, one fare" policy enacted by the Canadian Transportation Agency that we covered back in January.

The agency ordered the companies last January to adopt a policy of “one person, one fare.”

That would mean, for example, that a disabled person who needs additional room for a wheelchair, or an obese person who needs an additional seat, could not be charged extra.

It would also mean that, if a disabled person has to be accompanied by an attendant, the attendant would ride free.

Naturally this has brought thousands of truly brave (cough), anonymous (cough) internet trolls out of the woodwork on myriad newspaper sites, citing how terrible this is and how we're all just fat and need to lose weight, how not-fat people are "subsidizing the lifestyle choice of the obese", and all the usual crap. Glad they're being constructive.

The CBC has a more contextual article on this ruling. A WestJet official wondered how his company would implement this policy in a non-discriminatory fashion. Here's an idea: at the airport, include two actual, real seats from your planes. If a person can not sit with the armrest down, that person needs two seats. Seems simple. Is simple. And go the extra mile by making this a private area, too.

All in all, this is a superb ruling and the Canadian Transportation Agency should be applauded for upholding our rights, enforcing their ruling, and allowing fat people to fly with dignity - something that the loudmouthed "thin" people on the internet are taking for granted. [links via DeeLeigh, CarrieP, and roughly 40 others!]

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rachelr's picture
November 24th, 2008 | Link | I absolutely agree that no

I absolutely agree that no one ought to be financially penalized and ostracized for their size, but I remain uneasy about classifying an inability to put the armrest down as a "disability." There are many people for whom their size inhibits mobility or results from or is the cause of a classifiable handicap and these people should absolutely be accommodated just as any other disabled person would be. But my size does not pose a disability or handicap and I dislike and fear the implications classifying fatness in itself as a disability would hold. I oppose this for much the same reasons why I don't think fatness ought to be classified as a disease. Distinguishing fatness as a clinical medical-related disorder only perpetuates and further promotes the idea that fat is an unnatural state. Other than that, hurrah Canada.

levye November 24th, 2008 | Link | I agree with you, Rachelr,

I agree with you, Rachelr, especially when I think about how a number of weight-loss memoirs have to insist, a la AA, that they have the disease of overeating (whatever that is). However, as I see disability as a social construction, I have no problem with seeing myself as (or even "being") disabled in any specific social circumstance. I understand this as much as a commentary on the social situation and circumstances of the moment as I do a comment upon or accurate diagnosis of my body. In fact, in this case, I see the ruling as a criticism of the airlines with their mass-produced standardized seats.

buttercup's picture
November 25th, 2008 | Link | I'm glad of the ruling, but

I'm glad of the ruling, but I'm with Rachelr in disliking the designation of disabled. Would be better to word it "needing accomodation". But yeah, yay Canada.

vidyapriya November 25th, 2008 | Link | As levye pointed out, this

As levye pointed out, this case uses a social-constructionist understanding of disability (as is becoming increasingly the norm in Canadian law). Fat bodies are 'dis-abled' by the environment (as are, of course, other disabled bodies).
I'm curious about the opposition to using the word 'disabled'. Obviously, I oppose any appeal to medical authorities / 'certification' in fat or disability issues, as this is oppressive, exploitative, and prevents those people (like myself) who do not patronize allopathic so-called 'doctors' from accessing accommodations. But as this is not the case here (it is a matter of bums-not-fitting-seats = accommodation needed), is the resistance reflective of the negative associations around the word 'disability'? If so, isn't this a vital point for us to work with disability-rights activists to fight these stigmas?

JennyLinsky November 26th, 2008 | Link | Why not just make the seats

Why not just make the seats bigger? Normal airplane seats are made for anorexic sardines.

Kunoichi November 27th, 2008 | Link | A columnist I won't bother

A columnist I won't bother naming complained about this, saying something along the lines of "then my 6'3" husband should insist on business class seating so he doesn't have to fold up."

Here's a novel concept for her. Since people some in all shapes and sizes, airlines (and other passenger services, car manufactures, etc.) should try to accommodate them. Simple customer service. You know... customers... those people who pay for the service and therefore pay for their wages.

So yes, her 6'3" husband should be able to sit comfortably, too.

Of course, no one's going to say he's got a disability in order to justify allowing him to have a comfortable flight.

Tamina November 27th, 2008 | Link | It's funny that the airlines

It's funny that the airlines never offered us petite passengers any discounts on flights, but felt perfectly justified in charging large people double. Seeing as the size of seats is something they can put up and down at will.

It's also interesting how people will react to this differently when you ask them if a very tall person should pay more and when you ask them if a fat person should pay more. Being fat is seen as immoral while being tall is obviously genetic.

One person = one fare. It really shouldn't be an issue.

rebelle December 1st, 2008 | Link | The Denver Post weighed in

The Denver Post weighed in on this in a Saturday editorial. Their take: it's "surreal" and a failure of "common sense," and, oh my goodness, what next? Tape measures and scales at the check-in line? (I don't recall the DP being outraged when the airlines talked about doing that so they could charge fat people as though they were freight). And, of course, the DP used the common, nonthink myth: fat is a "lifestyle choice," so, essentially, fatties deserve to pay. Stupid and offensive. And, sadly, nothing new.

nati's picture
December 26th, 2008 | Link | story dear to my heart.

I have been thinking of this issue for decades! they keep making the seats smaller
and I'm not that fat...i'm a size 18/20...and I have to lift the arms up in coach to settle into my seat...but I always
feel bad for the person next to I'm looming over them...exuding too much heat...invading their space...

I love's become a popular destination spot for indie bands like mine to gather a following and tour...
so yay for canada...


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