In the USA if you’re a large passenger and you’ve been bringing your own seat belt extender to buckle yourself in on flights, the government has an order: Stop it.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued a reminder to the airlines at the end of last month that their extenders — which add 25 inches to the length of a regular seat belt by being buckled to the ones on planes — are the only ones to be used.
But that’s making some people who use or sell the extenders unhappy.
Peggy Howell, spokeswoman for the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, says airlines often run short of extenders on a flight.
That, she says, can add to the embarrassment or frustration large passengers already face when they fly, such as being required to pay for two seats in some instances, she says. “Sometimes the airline doesn’t have very many of them,” Howell says. “Sometimes it’s embarrassing to ask someone.”
Many companies have long sold extenders for about $50 to $80. But the FAA said in its notice that it’s concerned they may not be inspected and maintained as well as those the airlines use.
But the FAA says it’s also concerned about the maintenance of personal belts, which can become stretched and less effective after a jolt.
In addition to potentially embarrassing large passengers, some of them say, the FAA’s order risks slowing flight departures and inconveniencing other passengers, too.
While most non-Americans will probably be baffled by this story at the moment, Europeans should be looking at this with horror or growing business potential.