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Airlines Shrink Seats While Passengers Expand

Airlines Shrink Seats While Passengers Expand

Does any trip go off without a hitch?

Almost never.

Last weekend's getaway was no exception.

Luckily, my headaches came at the end.

I boarded my sold-out Delta flight in New Orleans early Monday evening, and took my place by a window back in the cheap seats. Boarding took forever and it seemed everyone was on and buckled up, yet the seat beside mine remained empty. I was in one of those narrow two-passenger rows.

Was I going to be uncommonly lucky?

Not a chance.

Suddenly I saw a large man lumbering down the aisle. A really large man.

And yes, he was headed straight to seat 27F. The one by me.

I know it wasn’t the Christian thing to do, but this was a cramped aircraft with seats made for Lilliputians, so I whispered a prayer.

Please, God, no.

I studied my fingernails hoping that if I didn’t make eye contact, the man and a half would pass my row.

Didn’t happen.

Next thing I knew he lifted the armrest and whomped down next to me.

He spilled over into my seat and there went my plans to write something for y’all during the flight. No way could I reach my tablet and keyboard in my tiny pocket of air.

I peeked between the seats hoping to flag a flight attendant but we were wheels up in a couple of minutes.

If a drink cart came down the aisle I never saw it. Then again, I couldn’t see or reach anything in that direction because my view was obscured by my neighbor.

I felt bad for the guy. I didn’t want to embarrass him. I know good people come in all sizes. And heck, I’m not at my thinnest right now (Did I mention those 3 beignets on Saturday night?). 

But let’s be honest. In their craven attempts to fatten profits, airlines have reduced seat size and leg room at the same time people have been expanding.

Bad combination.

So it’s up to the airlines to figure out a way to accommodate really big passengers without relying on much smaller ones to roll themselves into little balls.

As soon as the longest 57-minute flight in history landed in Atlanta I found a Delta rep and explained what had happened.

She was sympathetic but said the airline can’t discriminate against people who are overweight. 

“But what about me?” I asked. “I paid for a whole seat and only had half of one.”

She patted me on the arm and gave me two drink tickets. Cleary, I looked like someone in need of a cocktail.

Instead of a martini I pulled a Donald Trump - I threw a late-night Twitter fit about Delta - and felt much better afterwards. Twitter really can be therapeutic.

The next leg of the trip was uneventful. We landed in Norfolk around 10:30 p.m., but I still had a 2 1/2 hour wait for my son who was coming in on Southwest from Salt Lake City.

My daughter met me at the airport and suggested we kill time at the only place in town open 24 hours.

Lightly browned lettuce leaves. Delish.

Lightly browned lettuce leaves. Delish.

Which is how I came to be sitting in the Military Highway International House of Pancakes at 11:30 p.m. Monday.

After a weekend of rich creole food and too much alcohol, I craved something light.

So I ordered a Caesar salad. At almost midnight. At IHOP.

I know. I know. I got what I deserved. 

It’s good to be back. 

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