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Woman calls plane seatbelts 'fatphobic' after hers barely fits: 'Horrendous'

A recent airline passenger's experience has put seatbelt sizes under the spotlight.

International airline Ryan Air is facing criticism from a passenger who found herself in a tight spot – quite literally.

Katie Higgins, a 33-year-old beautician from Ayr, has raised concerns about the Irish airline's seatbelt sizes, suggesting that their standard belts could be sending a 'fatphobic' message.

Caption. Photo: Facebook/Katie's Curvy Closet
Caption. Photo: Facebook/Katie's Curvy Closet

Katie's recent flight from Glasgow to Cork turned out to be a rather uncomfortable journey due to the fit of her seatbelt. At a size 16, which is the average dress size in both the UK and Australia, she found the belt's maximum length still too snug, leaving her feeling "lassoed" into her seat.

Her discomfort prompted her to share her thoughts on Facebook, sparking conversations around body inclusivity and the need for more adjustable seatbelt sizes.

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"So here I am lassoed into a seat on a Ryan Air Flight," she posted to social media. "I didn't need an extender belt but any shorter, I would have. How in holy hot hell is this normal?"

Katie went on to explain that while she acknowledges the possibility of lower standards on budget airlines, she hasn't encountered seatbelt fitting issues until recently. Ironically, since shedding some weight, her last two flights with the cut-price airline have left her feeling uncomfortably confined to her seat due to the tightness of the belt.

"Basically I want to highlight this because many of us would feel ashamed, embarrassed. These kind of incidents can be so harmful to one's self-esteem, mental health and the rest," she wrote.

The activist is now urging the public to listen to the concerns of plus-sized people, rather than telling them to lose weight or accusing them of demanding bigger seats.

Caption. Photo: Facebook/Katie's Curvy Closet
Katie, a UK size 16, noted that there was hardly an inch of space left once she fastened the metal connectors. Photo: Facebook/Katie's Curvy Closet

Safety concerns

Katie's concern extends beyond mere comfort, to encompass important safety considerations. Aviation regulations dictate that all passengers must secure their seatbelts during takeoff, landing, and when the seatbelt sign is on.

While some passengers can easily adjust the belt to their comfort, those grappling with a belt that's too snug might encounter discomfort or pinching. The common remedy for this situation is requesting a seatbelt extender—an attachment that enlarges the standard belt. However, many individuals of larger sizes have reported feeling self-conscious about having to ask for such an accessory.

"The amount of messages I got last night from posting this on my stories is unreal of how many people have been the same," Katie said. "People have had to request extender belts. They’ve felt mortified and like it's been just them, so I'm letting you know IT'S NOT JUST YOU!"

She went on to ask, "WHY should we be made feel shite because we don't fit the mould?"

Caption. Photo: Facebook/Katie's Curvy Closet
Katie said the short seatbelts pose a safety concern and suggested that the airline might be seen as "fatphobic" by some passengers. Photo: Facebook/Katie's Curvy Closet

Katie's story struck a chord with many, as other plus-sized travellers shared their own experiences of discomfort and embarrassment while flying.

"It's awful," one social media user responded to Katie's post. "I remember I'd only ever flown budget airlines to go to and from UK/Ireland and I always felt paranoid and anxious! I was a larger woman back then but in the same year I flew with British Airways and the seat belts were so different! It winds me up that these really low-budget airlines do this! Makes you feel horrendous!"

Another woman shared her similar experience, "Last year flying to Dublin, the flight out the belt fit fine and I felt really good! On the way home, not a chance, I hated myself so much and it took everything I had not to cry."

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