It was one thing when you could just shrug and say an overweight airline passenger should just go on a diet. But perhaps when a passenger is too tall to fit his legs in the space allotted between rows, can we please just acknowledge that when airlines are trying to cram ever-more passengers on a plane, no adult in even the normal range of sizes is denied even basic comfort?
When Brooks Anderson boarded a Spirit Airlines flight from Chicago to Ft. Myer's, Fla., to spend Christmas with his family, he said he didn't expect to be standing for the next two-and-a-half hours.
"I was in an aisle seat and I clearly didn't fit into the seat at all," he said. "I couldn't even stuff myself in there."
The 25-year-old is 6'7" and as he tried to squeeze his knees under his chin, his tall frame proved to be too big to fit into Spirit's tiny coach seat.
"This is the most crammed I've been by far," Anderson said.
Even though he was in the last row of the plane, Anderson said the flight attendants wouldn't let him stick his knees out into the aisle, so he was forced to sit with them jammed into the metal tray table on the seat in front of him.
"It's incredibly painful," he said.
Anderson said he asked to be moved to an exit row seat, which typically has more legroom.
"The stewardess and I talked before the takeoff," he said. "She asked if anyone in the emergency row would switch spots with me [but] came back and said, 'You're stuck'."
Brooks Anderson stands at 6'7" and is shown here with his grandparents.
When none of the other passengers offered to help, Anderson said he decided to take matters into his own hands and asked if he could stand for the flight.
"I said, 'I need to do something about this, is it O.K. if I stand after the seatbelt sign is turned off?,'" he said. "She said it was O.K."
It got to the point where if the attendent wouldn't let him stand, Anderson said he seriously considered getting off the plane and missing the flight altogether.
"If I had to sit in my seat the whole time, I would have been in physical pain, with metal jamming into my knee caps for the whole flight," Anderson explained.
He then spent the remainder of the flight "dodging people going to and from the bathroom."
"It's like being in a subway car for two-and-a-half hours, which is awful," he said, adding that there was luckily no turbulence during the flight.
"It's bizarre," said Anderson's mother, Katie Anderson. "This was the first time he's been treated like this."
One could argue that if you're flying Spirit, you know that what you're getting is to be crammed into a sardine can. But other airlines aren't significantly better. Standing on a crowded subway train for a half-hour at rush hour is gruesome enough. But you paid two-and-a-half bucks for that ride. To pay hundreds of dollars (after including fees and taxes) to fly, and then be told that you have to stand if you don't want your legs crushed, means it's time to speak to the airline industry in the only language it understands: money. Just stay home. Now that there's Skype, you can have face-to-face conversations with your relatives that way.