Summer is coming and after working hard all year, the thing on my mind is getting away from it all for a week or two and relaxing in the sun…
As we all know, the weather in England can be unpredictable, so I think I’m going to opt to go abroad this year.
I’ve never flown before, and as a very large (and fabulous) person, I’m feeling nervous about getting into the aeroplane seats, so I phoned around a few companies to get an idea of the provisions they make for a person of my size….
I started by calling American Airlines, who seemed puzzled at first by my query about seat width, I’m guessing they don’t get these kind of requests every day! When I explained my situation, they were very helpful. Seat size varies depending on the type of aircraft you choose, and of course whether you go economy or business class (can’t really picture myself squeezing in with a bunch of suited males…). They suggested that I should consider going at a more off-peak time of year to minimise embarrassment as there would be less people on board. (Cheers, feeling good about myself now.)
Okay….I can’t let this stop me from going away, so I proceed to ask how to go about booking the seats, and if I have to pay twice, I know I’m, taking up two spaces but I’m still only one person, and is it really my fault that their seats are too small?!
‘Yes!’ Was the answer to my question, of course I would have to pay twice! In fact of the 20 airlines I attempted to contact, only two were willing to give me a discount on the second seat. These were British Airways and flybe.com, who even have a name for the special extra purchase, it’s called a ‘protected seat’. (Posh!) You don’t have to pay tax on the second seat, so it’s slightly cheaper.
Then horror of horrors, I thought, ‘What if they bring me out 2 meals because I’ve bought 2 seats, then everyone will stare and point at the fat person, who is sooo big she has to have 2 meals to everyone else’s 1!!!??’ After enquiring about this I was informed that meals are purchased separately, so there should be no fear of having 2 thrust upon my lap!! Phew!!
It was a tough morning spent on the phone, and let me tell you I did not feel good about myself at the end of it. The worst conversation I had was with ebookers.com who provide ‘a complete travel solution’. (Yeah, right!) The man I spoke to was very rude, and barked: “No airlines let passengers have 2 seats!” (He may as well have added “You great big fat pig!” As I’m sure that is what he was thinking.) I told him that they do, and he said that I was wrong, and that the seats are big enough anyhow. (‘Try getting me into one, sweetheart,’ I mused, ‘I’ll have to go get it surgically removed from my backside at the other end, but I’m sure you know best!’) I did persevere with this difficult conversation by telling him for a third time that airlines DO allow passengers to book 2 seats. ‘Who?‘ he asked sarcastically. (Obviously his mother never told him it’s the lowest form of wit.) So I proceeded to list the airlines I had already got in touch with. ‘Hmmph! Well you’ll have to get in touch with them yourself, because I’ve never heard of such a thing.’ This was his helpful ‘complete travel solution’ response.
There were communication difficulties in some cases, the person at BMI baby spoke little English and struggled to understand what I was talking about. Now I’m not racist, but you really can’t let a person answer the enquiry line if they can’t understand the enquiry!! I had to give up on that one in the end, and a similar thing happened with Ryanair – the lady had never heard of an ‘aisle’, and she asked me to spell it for her!
Many of the people I spoke to had never had such queries before, so I spent a lot of time on hold (listening to such delights as ‘Fly Me to The Moon’ and ‘I Believe I Can Fly’) whilst they asked the supervisor about seat width, pitch (the space from back to front) and aisle size. Some simply said that they had no access to such information (thanks TUI fly.com and Virgin – who, by the way sounded pleasant until I explained about the fat thing, then they seemed pretty disgusted – maybe they’ve gone all judgemental since opening a chain of gyms?!) Sterlingdk on the other hand had their enquiries manned by a short tempered employee, for whom it was most definitely that time of the month. She seemed disgusted by my questions, and squawks: “ALL OUR SEATS ARE THE SAME SIZE!!!” “Yes, and what size is that?” I asked. She put me on hold for what seemed like a hundred years (yes, I’m exaggerating, but bear in mind I’m getting tired of being made to feel like a freak by now). Eventually I heard an automated message: “The other person has cleared”….Narky menstrual lady had hung up on me! I couldn’t believe it!!
I spent ten minutes on hold before I got through to anyone at British Airways, then spent a GRAND total of half an hour on the line, whilst 3 different people tried to answer my questions, each time putting me on hold AGAIN to find out the answer to my queries. I waited 20 minutes before giving up on First Choice; I didn’t even get through to an operator, and thoughts of the phone bill prompted me to terminate the call – plus there’s only so much on hold banter one person can take.
Jet2.com were hilarious, I asked for seat width and put on hold for ages (‘Come Fly With Me…’), and finally the lady told me that the seat pitch was 29 inches. I explained to HER that width was different to picth. She went away AGAIN, (‘Flying Without Wings…’) and came back with no information, suggesting that I should just buy 2 seats and be done with the questions! I hadn’t actually told her how big I am…but I can see how me wasting money on an extra seat I might not need is more convenient that her actually having to earn her wages.
I couldn’t get through to Flyglobespan, and the general enquiries number advertised on the ‘Condor’ website did not receive incoming calls (very helpful)!
EasyJet did exactly what it says on the tin, and had details of seat dimensions and booking 2 seats in an easy locate place on the website, so I didn’t need to trouble them with a phone call.
Monarch were helpful, and said they could allocate me a seat with arm extensions, and Thomson fly.com were helpful in a clumsy kind of way. They suggested I could arrange pre-boarding so I could sit down before the other passengers, then I wouldn’t ‘block people from getting to their seats’ (her very words). She also said that unfortunately I would not be able to sit in the extra legroom seats, because I would block the emergency exit; and one of the questions when booking that seat is ‘Are you obese?’ It felt really good being such a health and safety hazard!
Aerlingus were my final port of call; the lady I spoke to was very sweet and said “I understand” a lot, without sounding patronising. She said I would be able to sit in the much coveted extra legroom section. ‘Even though I will be blocking the emergency exit?!!’ I asked with disbelief. It turns out that as long as you are strong enough to open the door in an emergency; it is fine to sit there. She found out the width of the seat in inches for me, and then offered to convert it into centimetres without me even requesting it. It felt like I was talking to a friend , and most of all I felt normal, and that my size was not a problem.
So it looks like I’ll be going to Ireland on my holidays….okay, it may not be as hot as some places, but at least I won’t feel like a health and safety hazard!!