I’m back in New York, and I’ve been a bit quiet about this topic lately because I needed a little time to think on everything that has been happening as a result of my story that has been featured on MSNBC, The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, AOL.com and several other major networks.
Several major news organizations have picked up my story, and since then, I have received hundreds of e-mails, comments and tweets – many of which have been supportive. Of course, I’ve also been on the receiving end of thousands comments by people who have simply missed the point completely so it’s time for me to address this…again.
As I said, I am back in New York to discuss this issue on The Today Show this morning. The first part of my interview took place place Saturday morning in Beverly Hills with Richard Simmons before our workout. You can see me on The Today Show during the 7 o’clock hour before I do interviews with CNN and other news programs.
I’ve spent the last two years blogging about anything and everything pertaining to my weight-loss, but right now, there’s a much bigger issue than how Kenz was treated at the airport. And there seems to be some major misunderstandings about this issue that affects millions of people across the nation.
Let me start by addressing those of you who do not have a weight problem. This is not about me asserting that I have the right to encroach on your space. This is a problem with the design of airline seating that can, in fact, be fixed.
It is a matter of equal rights to equal access. Equal rights to equal access.
Our society has come to accept what the airlines deem as the correct size of a human being without regard to the actual size of human beings. One third of Americans are obese.
We are, historically, a nation that evolves and addresses its shortcomings so it is time to consider that the airlines could change the size of some of the seats to accommodate its passengers.
At 400 pounds (and at 300 pounds) I purchased two tickets. And it never occurred to me that I could do anything other than purchase those tickets. I had to fly so I did it.
But in the last week, I have received hundreds of e-mails, tweets and comments from people who refuse to fly because they are afraid to face the same experience that I faced when I was singled out and openly criticized. I have also spoken with those who dread flying because of the agonizing discomfort as well as those who stay at home because they simply cannot afford to buy two tickets.
One reader commented that she regrettably passed up a weeklong, all expenses paid vacation by her employer because of her uncertainty and fear of public humiliation.
Another shared his story in which he missed his daughter’s wedding that was across the country because he simply could not afford to purchase two seats.
And I have heard from people this week that opt to drive 20 or more hours rather than board an airplane. If these people are driving over 20 hours then that means that they can afford to fly and the airlines have just lost a sale.
I am a free market capitalist. I understand that the airlines’ goals are to make money, but it has become blatantly obvious through this, that the airline industry would make considerably more money if they could accommodate all passengers. And it would not require a major restructuring. It’s as simple as changing out a few seats.
The fact is that airlines are simply not required to accommodate all members of the public. Instead, they fail to recognize that as a nation, we are bigger than we were 50 years ago. They cram us into small seats and offer us snacks and drinks that are loaded with fat and calories and preservatives. Does that really make sense?
If they became more aware of their passengers, we would not be discussing this. We would not be worried about encountering public humiliation, and no one would be asking me to appear on a news program.
It is in the interest of airlines to accommodate every guest. Americans who have the money to pay for flights are waiting for someone to create a solution to this problem, and the solution is simple. The airline industry, which is a public service, should provide that public service by providing equal rights to equal access to those who are currently excluded. It would relieve passengers of size and increase sales while relieving those passengers who are smaller in stature, easing the potential discomfort of being encroached upon.
It’s time to address this problem, which can be a win-win situation. It’s time to fix what is broken in the airline industry, and as consumers, it is our responsibility to express desire for change.
Update: Click here to see my appearance on the Today Show. Please note that Southwest Airlines did not provide “monetary compensation” to my mother or myself apart from refunding the cost of the tickets we purchased for that flight which I stated in a previous post. Again, this is not about monetary compensation. It’s about equal rights to equal access.