New York: Feelings of shame and humiliation bother obese air passengers more than tight seat belts and tiny seats, says a study.
Participants interviewed for the study recounted the typical challenges they encounter while boarding, in-flight and deplaning.
"Most participants agreed that the way people stare at them during boarding and deplaning is humiliating, and at times even shameful," said one of the researchers, Yaniv Poria, professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel.
"We assumed that the greatest difficulties obese people faced on planes were caused by tight, confined spaces," Poria said.
"We were surprised to find that the way other people reacted to them was so 'unpleasant' and 'embarrassing,' causing them to feel universally 'uncomfortable' and 'uneasy',” Poria pointed out.
The findings were published in the Journal of Travel Research.
Allowing obese people to board first and deplane last, and making design changes to rest rooms and seat trays would make everyone more comfortable, the researchers suggested.
Additionally, they argue for the need to offer different-sized seats.
Squeezing down aisles and into seats is particularly troublesome, the participants said, because they are unable to avoid touching other passengers.
Many attempted to be first in line to board so they could easily find their seats "and disappear".
"Obese people think that others regard them as individuals who intentionally decided to be disabled," Poria explained.
"Moreover, obese people feel that they are perceived as thieves, since their 'chosen' disability increases costs for other people. Obesity is a social disability as it prevents obese people from feeling safe in public," Poria noted.