American Airlines B787-9 Dreamliner
An American Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner departing LAX on 29 March 2018. | © Wikimedia Commons

American Airlines has rushed to the defence of two of its passengers after right-wing commentator Sydney Watson complained about being ‘sandwiched between two obese people’ whilst onboard a flight.

What Happened?

Last month, Sydney Watson boarded an American Airlines short-haul flight where she sat in between the two siblings. However, the conservative commentator was far from impressed by the situation and immediately took to Twitter to complain about the situation and share photo footage. In a shocking rant, Ms Watson tweeted,

“I am currently – literally – WEDGED between two OBESE people on my flight.”

“This is absolutely NOT acceptable or okay,” Watson’s tirade continued. “If fat people want to be fat, fine. But it is something else entirely when I’m stuck between you, with your arm rolls on my body, for 3 hours.”

Her tweets did not end there as the well-known Australian commentator continued further.

“If you need a seat belt extender, you are TOO FAT TO BE ON A PLANE.”

She also claimed to have asked one of the siblings to swap seats with her, yet she says that they refused to do so.

In a continued rant, Sydney Watson explained that the flight attendants apologised to her at the time for the situation and that she was even offered free alcohol by one of them as compensation. Her tweets received a huge influx of mixed responses, as whilst many disagreed with her controversial views, some users jumped to the commentator’s defence. However, American Airlines has since released a public statement and made it clear to all that as an airline they do not agree with Watson’s words.

“Our passengers come in all different sizes and shapes. We’re sorry you were uncomfortable on your flight,” the airline offered as an apology. “We offer a variety of seat sizes and styles, so our customers can select what works best for them.”

Sydney Watson
Fatshaming flight: Sydney Watson  sent a series of tweets to the airline © Yahoo News

A Common Occurrence

Though a surprising story, passengers being discriminated against by either passengers or the airlines themselves due to their weight is not very uncommon. Multiple stories and blogs that have been written are heavily focused on the experiences of ‘overweight’ passengers being either abused or even kicked off a flight. In 2020, blogger Robin Raven wrote a piece focused on her experience as an overweight flier and how terrifying her first-ever trip abroad was. The piece gives a list of advice to those who have had similar experiences or are now terrified to fly as a result of their weight.

Is this an issue that needs to be taken more seriously by airlines? Let us know your thoughts below.


  1. If I pay for a seat I would expect not to be touched by the person sitting next to me…that is a reasonable your body doesn’t fit within the seat dimensions, YOU SHOULD BE REQUIRED TO PURCHASE TWO SEATS…Assault is defined as the unwanted TOUCHING OR STRIKING by another individual…Nobody forced you to get obese but you forced yourself into someone else’s seat that they PAID for and that isn’t fair…either buy another seat or complain to the airline for not having bigger seats.

  2. “A variety of seat sizes and styles…” but not at the same price.
    Shame on American Airlines for not providing appropriate seats for all of their customers.
    And for allowing the online debate to continue with their rather passive aggressive comment.

    While I feel sorry for the obese passengers that don’t fit into a coach class seat (especially when they are publicly humiliated for their size) I feel equally sorry for the unfortunate individual who gets wedged in between them and is expected to silently put up with the inconvenience.
    Fair? Absolutely not.
    Whether coach, business, or first class…passengers should all get the space they paid for.
    If you don’t really *need* all that space? Tough. You bought the seat so you should enjoy it all. You should not be made to feel guilty or thin-shamed because you don’t take up the whole 17 or whatever inches.
    Nor should you be made to feel selfish for not sharing part of that seat with a stranger.

    What if you need more space than you paid for?
    Well, it’s not much different than showing up at the airport with overweight luggage.
    Pay the extra price or it doesn’t fly.
    Too large for your assigned seat? Pay for a second.

    The airlines should have protocols in place for this situation and stick to it instead of waiting and hoping (?) that all passengers will just put up and shut up.
    But instead American Airlines seems to prefer that the public debate it online with fat shaming and thin shaming while they stand on the sidelines making snarky remarks.

    (Reason #43 why I refuse to fly American)


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