Plus-size travelers speak out about flying while fat

When seeking a first-class adventure, plus-size travelers are often treated like second-class citizens. 

“Airlines and resorts roll out the red carpet for people with traditional bodies,” full-figured fashion influencer Stephanie Nadia, 33, told The Post. 

“But whenever I’m traveling, and I have to ask for a seat belt extender or for an extra-large hotel bathrobe, I feel like I’m getting the ‘unwelcome mat,’” the Brooklyn native added.

Recently, globe-trotters of size on Twitter, TikTok and Instagram have made viral calls for more body-inclusive accommodations to be available on airplanes, at hotels and on destination excursions. 

Trends like Big Girl Summer, sparked by pop singer Lizzo, and body-appreciation campaigns, like model Ashley Graham’s Beauty Beyond Size movement, are pushing the travel and hospitality industries to properly service people labeled as obese — who constitute more than 42 percent of adult Americans, according to the CDC.

New Yorker Stephanie Nadia wants the travel industry to offer plus-size people the same courtesies and accommodations as anyone else.
New Yorker Stephanie Nadia wants the travel industry to offer plus-size people the same courtesies and accommodations as anyone else.
Credit: stephanienadia/Instagram

And for size-inclusive TikTok star Mary Fran Donnelly, 27, tight squeezes into tiny seats, ill-fitting seat belts and side-jabbing armrests are just a few of the discomforts of flying while fat.

“I love traveling, but having to cram into those small plane seats … gives me anxiety,” she confessed. 

The social studies teacher from Oahu, Hawaii, amassed 7 million views of her “Traveling as a Fat Person” social media series. In it, she pokes fun at the limited amenities afforded to overweight travelers.  

“I don’t want to have to ask for a seat belt extender or worry that they’ll make me buy an extra seat,” Donnelly said. “The traveling industry should outfit planes to suit everybody’s needs without bigger people having to be embarrassed or uncomfortable.”

Southwest Airlines invites plus-size passengers to proactively purchase an extra seat for their comfort. The cost of the additional chair is refunded to the customer at the conclusion of their trip. Larger passengers can also request an additional seat at the airport at no extra cost. 

“We are very proud of our policy, as we feel it provides comfort and hospitality for all of our customers,” said a Southwest spokesperson. “It was a creative solution to what can be a sensitive topic, and we’ve found that our customers appreciate it.”

Mary Fran Donnelly went viral on TikTok for unveiling the ugly truths of being an overweight tourist in her "Traveling as a Fat Person" series.
Mary Fran Donnelly went viral on TikTok for unveiling the ugly truths of being an overweight tourist in her “Traveling as a Fat Person” series.
Credit: maryfrannn/Instagram

But this inclusive approach is counter to the industry norm.  

Other commercial airlines, such as American, Delta and United, require bigger guests — who need more space than the 17-inch width of most airplane seats — to buy a separate seat for the full cost of their initial ticket. 

“But why should we be penalized for our bodies?” plus-size travel guru Jeff Jenkins, 35, questioned. “We don’t want special treatment, we just want the same luxuries as everyone else.”

ChubbyDiaries.com founder Jeff Jenkins wants the hospitality industry to incorporate more plus-size friendly luxuries.
ChubbyDiaries.com founder Jeff Jenkins wants the hospitality industry to incorporate more plus-size friendly luxuries.
Credit: chubbydiaries_

The indignities of flying while fat don’t end at the airport, he added.

“I love hotel robes, but I can’t fit in them,” said the Texas-based blogger, who wears a size 3X. “If you’re not a large in clothes, you can forget it.”

Then there are the beds.

Nadia noted that most resorts only offer queen-size beds, which can rarely hold large lodgers. 

“I’m a big girl and my husband is a big man,” she said. “And most times we can barely fit into those beds together.”

Nadia hopes hotel chains and resorts will begin furnishing their rooms with plus-size vacationers' needs in mind.
Nadia hopes hotel chains and resorts will begin furnishing their rooms with plus-size vacationers’ needs in mind.
Credit: stephanienadia/Instagram

Bathrooms are another trouble spot — especially toilet seats wedged into tight areas, or miniscule shower stalls. 

“I’ve had to literally shove myself into my suite’s restroom in order to use the facilities,” Donnelly revealed. “I’ve even heard of some plus-size people having to be cut out of hotel showers because they’re so small.”

While the Resort in the Bahamas specifically caters to plus-size travelers, with steel-reinforced beds and sturdy chaise lounges, advocates say they’d like to feel welcomed everywhere. 

“We aren’t asking for world peace,” Donnelly continued. “We just want accessibility.”

Jenkins says plus size travelers don't want special treatment, they just want equal accommodations.
Jenkins says plus-size travelers don’t want special treatment, they just want equal accommodations.
Credit: chubbydiaries_

Here are the five traveling changes plus-size sightseers want to see

Size-inclusive seats and seat belts

Size does matter — especially on an airplane. Plump passengers often feel punished by airlines that force them to pay double their airfare to fly. 

Durable decor

Trying to enjoy a sweet dream can be a nightmare for plus-size travelers, who fear the hotel’s bed or lounge furniture won’t support their weight. 

Roomier restrooms

The close quarters of most standard hotel bathrooms often make full-figured travelers flush with anger. 

Roll out the robes

Hotel finery — like the complimentary robes swanky lodges offer guests — is a treat for most tourists. But for voluptuous vacationers, the “one size fits all” regalia is often a misfit.

Excursions for everybody

Snorkeling, zip-lining and bungee jumping are just a few activities heavier travelers hope to enjoy without being hindered by weight restrictions. 

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