Question: Would You Be Thankful? Embarrassed? Offended?

I wrote this while traveling to New York yesterday, but I got distracted before posting it.  I’m still curious about the answer to the question so please take a minute to hear me out.


I’m currently on a flight to New York City, and when I arrived at the gate I learned that I would not be sitting in first class today. We’ve been through this. My anxiety level drops to zero when I know I’ll be seated in a 21 in. seat, but it rose quickly today as I realized that I was about to board a tiny airplane.

Prior to boarding I had a conversation with a woman named Alice. She’s around my height, but she’s on the smaller side of average in weight. Our conversation, which started with last-minute flight prices eventually led to the size of seats, how the industry could make flying more comfortable for passengers while continuing to make money.

I shared all of my typical thoughts and ideas, but it didn’t solve today’s dilemma.
The seats on this plane are less than 16.9 inches. I prepare for every flight by making sure that I know the size of the seat before I choose a ticket. I check and double-check, but Delta representatives don’t always provide accurate information. I’m not complaining. I get it. Most people don’t call in with these questions, but I’d be willing to guess that I’m not the only one who inquires.

Anyway, I when I realized that I wasn’t sitting in a 21 in. seat, I got a little nervous. I didn’t panic the way I used to because it’s usually fine, but I was concerned.

Once I boarded I realized that I’d be fine. The lady sitting next to me was friendly and not at all bothered by me. I told her that the flight attendant would try to move one of us once everyone had boarded, but she insisted that she was fine. I told the flight attendant that if she was fine, I was fine, and a woman on the other side of the aisle offered her space so we switched.

I explained that I didn’t want to encroach on anyone’s space, nor did I think that my comfort was more important, etc. They thought I was silly for worrying about bothering them, and we departed without issue.

Alice, who was sitting in first class, came back and chatted for a few minutes, and she asked how I would feel if she offered me her seat. She said wanted to know if people, in general, would consider it offensive, and I explained that I couldn’t speak for everyone. I think I’d be grateful for the offer, and I’d survey the circumstances before deciding whether or not to accept the offer.

There was a time when I was drowning in insecurity and pride, and I might not have responded well to the offer. That said, it seems like most people would be happy to be offered a seat with more space.

I didn’t take her seat. I’m fine in economy class, at least today, but it poses a question that I find interesting. If you’re reading this, please take a moment to answer.

If you were uncomfortable on a flight (due to your size) how would you feel if someone of average size offered you their roomier seat? Would you be thankful? Embarrassed? Offended?

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  • Reply
    July 5, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    At this point in my life, I’d be thankful. I bet if it were 10 years ago and I wasn’t in the awesome place I was now, I’d be embarrassed.

    • Reply
      July 5, 2014 at 6:11 pm

      That’s very similar to my thinking. At one point, I probably wouldn’t have recognized the graciousness for the same reason.

  • Reply
    July 5, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    oh, sweet girl!!! what a conundrum!!! so thankful you have grown in quelling your anxiety.

  • Reply
    Emily Willard
    July 5, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    I would feel embarrassed, but incredibly thankful and take the seat. And hide my face in shame. No lie. I am very fearful of flying only due to the seats and feeling like I’m making someone else’s trip/experience bad. I recently moved from Oregon to PA and have a trip home next month. As I type this I can feel my stomach getting quesy thinking about the moment I get to my seat and the “what if” questions around if I fit: If others are upset, if there isn’t another seat to switch with, if I’ve ruined someone’s flight experience. Endless fear.

    For my trip next month, my ticket was a gift from family and I’m very thankful it was purchased for me. I’m not able to afford first class all the time (I did once and it eliminated all these issues). Losing weight for my health is my primary reason, losing weight to fly without these fears and issues is my second reason.

  • Reply
    Margi Hansen
    July 5, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    That did happen to me, only it wasn’t up to first class, it was a single seat offered to me, over sitting next to someone. Of course I was embarrassed, but I took it. That was about 12 years ago. Now I’d take it, not be embarrassed and be happy about it. 🙂

  • Reply
    July 5, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    I’d be both embarrassed and thankful.

    Thankfully I’ve never had this issue, and I don’t think I would handle it very well if I was ever in that position. I’m not very brave when it comes to other people talking about my weight.

  • Reply
    July 5, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    I would be thankful with a ting of embarrassment. Several years ago I would have been offended, hopefully in the near future it won’t even be an issue.

  • Reply
    Dre (Mission Meltdown)
    July 5, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    I’ve had people offer me their seats on many occasions. Most of the time, I’m thankful. I remember once being offended because of the tone in which it was offered. Sort a, “Well, no need in HIM (the guy I was sitting next to) being miserable,” with a disgusted look on his face. Been a big boy for a long time, so I chucked the embarrassment a while ago. 🙂

  • Reply
    Becky H
    July 6, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Hey Kenlie!!

    I’ve actually seen this situation handled VERY well and I think the key to it was that the passenger offering the seat for trade should approach a flight attendant or gate agent to communicate their offer. Then THEY can offer it to you. I think a big part of the discomfort comes with seeing the person that’s offering to make things more comfortable to you – it comes off as a battle of whose feelings matter most, etc. This way it can appear as though the airline was willing to accommodate due to some faceless person, not having to have that awkward interaction.

    I’ve done this before to offer my first class seat for uniformed military and I think it makes them feel less awkward as well, but no less grateful/honored.

  • Reply
    Carly T
    July 6, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    Basically what everyone else has said…I haven’t flown by myself in a very long time, so it hasn’t been too much of an issue. I’m usually flying with my husband (who LOVES being that close) or my sister (who could care less). At this point in my life and depending on the manner in which the offer was bestowed I would definitely be grateful, maybe a little embarrassed. If they were snarky about it there’s a chance I’d tell them to take their large seat and stuff it where the sun don’t shine…

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