The Fat Tax Is Real—and It’s Getting Worse
Inflated prices, surcharges, and limited employment opportunities are expanding the wealth gap between fat and thin
I am booking a work trip across the country. It should be a simple task: find a flight at a reasonable time, for a reasonable price, and purchase it. But this otherwise mundane task isn’t so simple for me, so I brace myself to pay double—or more—to reach my final destination. I am fat, and this is one of the many prices I pay for it.
My destination is a new one, and there are no nonstop flights between here and there, so I will have to change flights, and my itinerary will require me to fly on two different airlines. That means researching the frustratingly inconsistent “customer of size” policies for multiple carriers to find out who will allow me to stay on the flight and for what price. Some airlines allow fat customers to purchase two seats in advance, but may sell the second seat without that fat passenger’s knowledge or consent. Others will simply wait for a fat passenger to arrive, then inform them they’ll be charged for a second seat at the day-of price, regardless of availability. The policies vary greatly from airline to airline, and only the worst of the bunch fly from my hometown to my final destination.
I research airlines intently and find a transfer flight with one whose policy may charge me more to fly, but makes no mention of kicking me off the flight. Ticket agents and flight crew are rarely trained on how to enforce “customer of size” policies, so what comes to pass remains a gamble. If the flight crew is thoughtful and kind, if they’ve thought about what it’s like to fly as a fat person, I may emerge unscathed. If they are not, I will be humiliated and charged for the privilege. I feel my heartbeat gaining steam, a heavy locomotive chugging its way up a steep incline. I pour myself a drink and try not to think about boarding the flight.
Next, I look at ticket prices. A standard ticket to my final destination will cost $390, which my employer will pay. To ensure my ability to retain the seat I purchase, I’ll need to either buy a second seat or purchase a first-class seat, both of which are costs I’ll need to shoulder on my own. A second seat will cost an additional…