'Delta should have longer seatbelts, period': Viral TikTok on flight incident ignites conversation on size inclusivity

Viral TikTok video sparks conversation about inclusive seatbelts on airplanes. (Photo: Getty Images)
Viral TikTok video sparks conversation about inclusive seatbelts on airplanes. (Photo: Getty Images) (Juan Silva via Getty Images)

Delta Air Lines is catching heat over seatbelt lengths on its planes after TikToker Remi Bader made a complaint about not fitting into hers in a video to her two million followers.

The plus-size influencer, who is best known for her "realistic" clothing hauls, took to the platform on Tuesday to say that she had an "interesting experience" flying Delta while she was traveling from California to New York.

The 25-year-old explained on TikTok that she was "freaking out" as she felt that it was unsafe to be without a seatbelt. She also wasn't aware of seatbelt extenders, which are used to make them longer for passengers in planes and cars. "This is not long enough, I don't know what I'm supposed to do," Bader recalled telling a flight attendant later in the flight. "She was like, 'Oh so you’re saying you need an extender?'"

Numerous followers shared that they've had similar experiences.

"I'm sorry a TWELVE/FOURTEEN is where their belts tap out!??? The most COMMON SIZE FOR U.S. WOMEN!!??!" a follower commented on Bader's TikTok.

Another wrote, "We are travelers — seatbelts should be made to fit travelers. Period."

"When I went to buckle my seatbelt for takeoff, I was really taken back to realize that it wouldn’t close around my body," Bader tells Yahoo Life. "I almost thought something was wrong for a second and was pulling it harder because this has never happened to me before."

Bader quickly brought the issue to the attention of her Instagram followers as well when she posted a story this week suggesting that Delta get larger seatbelts. "If it doesn't fit around me that must be a real problem for a lot of other people flying on your planes," she wrote, noting that she's a size 16 or 18.

While plenty of people said that they've become accustomed to asking for extenders on airplanes or even bringing one of their own on flights, Bader tells Yahoo Life that she, along with many others, have had emotional reactions to feeling like their bodies aren't being accommodated.

"This can cause even more embarrassment for people and simply shouldn't have to happen," she says. "I just felt extreme shame and embarrassment and automatically thought this was my fault and a result of my weight gain over the past year. Eventually, I actually got pretty angry as I realized it wasn't my fault at all and an airline as big as Delta should have longer seatbelts, period."

A representative from Delta Air Lines tells Yahoo Life, "We appreciate the feedback received from this customer and have reached out on TikTok with the intentions of further connecting to learn more about the customer's experience."

The airline isn't the only one to have received similar criticism about seatbelt sizes. In fact, the issue is one that has been addressed by plus-size travelers for years on various carriers.

Another TikTok creator responded to Bader's video to bring awareness to the fact that many people have to regularly travel with seatbelt extenders, despite others not recognizing the need for them.

"This is a really good example of how people who consider themselves midsize or even the people that are on the smaller end of the fat spectrum do not have a whole picture of what people like me and even people larger than me on the fat spectrum experience on a daily basis or even when they’re traveling," the user, whose name is Christine Murphy, said in her video. "I am fully aware that [seatbelt extenders] exist because I traveled for my job for almost a year and needed one every single time I got on the plane once or twice a month."

In the comments section of her TikTok, Murphy listed online resources for plus-size travelers, such as Facebook groups where people share information about what to expect from different airlines carriers and planes. For example, in an article titled "Tips for a more comfortable flight from a 'passenger of size'" published on travel blog The Points Guy, seatbelt lengths per airline are provided for readers.

Murphy shared more about these resources with Yahoo Life.

"In the last 20 years, airline seats have shrunk as much as four inches. This is an issue commonly discussed in plus-size spaces," she says. "In fact, a Facebook group I joined in 2019 was started almost 10 years ago to help larger humans navigate the obstacles of travel without feeling ashamed. One of the biggest topics is always seatbelt extenders. Whether you should buy your own, ask the flight attendant while you find your seat, or ask if you can pre-board — these are all things that people who reside in fat bodies have to think about when planning to travel."

While the Federal Aviation Administration allows for one extension of 25 inches through the use of seatbelt extenders provided on flights or brought on by travelers, neither the agency nor AmSafe — the manufacturers responsible for seatbelts on a majority of planes — have publicly shared plans to extend the length of seatbelts on airplanes.

FlyersRights, a nonprofit airline consumer organization, didn't immediately respond to Yahoo Life's request for comment, however, a current petition by the group that seeks to address the size of seats and passenger space neglects to mention seatbelt sizes.

Although a discussion surrounding the topic has reemerged, she says, "This is not a new issue."

"Accessibility and understanding is paramount," Murphy explains. "We need to be listening to people in marginalized bodies, understanding how their experiences differ from our own and teach companies how they can be more accommodating."

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