Sharing Moments

An Open Letter To Airlines

To all airlines:

I travel with my sister frequently in the span of a year, whether it’s for business purposes or for family vacations. I love to travel with her, but I’ll be honest – it’s never been a walk in the park. At 5’10”, I thought I had it bad; but for a girl who is a foot taller than the national average (6’3.5”) with proportionally long legs (37” inseam), your seats are a living nightmare. And I’m speaking about the seats as if they are in the upright and locked position (please don’t get me started on those lovely passengers who you allow  to recline back so much as to peacefully lay in our laps). Fortunately, many times we’ve been able to escape the hell of economy sized seats simply by paying more for seats with more leg room in the exit rows or select comfort sections. To us, it’s always been worth it so that she doesn’t have to spend 4 hours hugging her knees to her chest or having a stranger painfully recline back into the space that is already 200% occupied by her legs.

I’m sure you’ve heard this all before and it’s clear that you don’t care, as I continue to read article after article about the changes you’re making to the legroom in your planes. Not the type of changes that everyone wishes you would make, which is to ADD more legroom – nope, you’ve boldly decided to eliminate legroom in an attempt to add more seats and therefore (in theory) lower ticket prices. We’ll see how that plays out….

The point is, I never thought traveling could be more uncomfortable for my sister…until she had a baby. And in true tall girl fashion, she did not create a baby girl who is average sized. At only 18 months old, she has already grown so much that she was proclaimed by her doctor the average size of a 3 year old. Why is this information relevant? Because at only 18 months old, there’s a 150% chance that she will need her diaper changed on a multiple hour flight. And you have made something as simple as a diaper change a painful, uncomfortable and almost impossible experience while 30,000+ feet in the air.

2 months ago the three of us were traveling together when my niece inevitably needed a diaper change (side-note: this was a harmless #1 situation, not an unpleasant or messy #2 situation). We hardly ever fly first class but luckily this time we were sitting right by the airplane galley in the first row of seats. If you are a tall girl traveling with a child, this is no doubt the best place to be as there is ample room in front of you. My sister reached for a disposable changing pad and began to lay my niece down when the flight attendant approached us and immediately shut it down. Her reasoning? Against FAA regulations. (side-note #2: to this day, I still can’t find any formal FAA regulations on diaper changes and am looking for someone to please send me this regulation in writing). My sister was told (read: yelled at) that she would need to use the changing table in the bathroom to be compliant with these rules and regulations.

We pleaded for mercy with the flight attendant, explaining that using their bathrooms on board is already such a tremendous struggle for her almost 6’4” frame and that adding a baby into the mix makes an already painful situation even more painful. No mercy, empathy or understanding was given to us, which probably shouldn’t have been surprising to us as this flight attendant wasn’t tall and therefore couldn’t possibly understand the challenges flying holds for tall women (and men). So my sister reluctantly made her way to the bathroom. She very uncomfortably managed to squeeze in her own body, my niece and a diaper bag. When she found the changing table, she realized that it would accommodate the size of a newborn infant, not a baby that was the size of a 3-year-old. She came out of the bathroom to plead with the flight attendant about her situation because honest to god – my niece would not even remotely fit on that changing table. The next words of advice? “Lay her on the toilet”. Maybe I’m wrong, but I would be willing to bet my life on the fact that most people would think this is neither a sanitary or reasonable option for their baby. As someone with a germaphobe type complex, this makes me cringe inside. For that reason, we may or may not have rebelled against supposed FAA regulations and maneuvered a diaper change on my sister’s lap when no one else was watching, disposing of the evidence in the bathroom a few minutes later.

That experience prompted me to write this letter on behalf of my sister today. In case you didn’t know, tall girl problems are real. My sister and I both love being tall and in our age are now comfortable with our height, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Doesn’t matter if we’re talking about shopping, or sitting in the backseat of a car, or flying – it’s simply just more difficult or uncomfortable for us than the average girl. I’m certainly not writing this to be all “woe is us” over here, but you should understand that we (and other tall women) get even more frustrated by experiences such as the one I just wrote about for this reason: we didn’t choose to be tall, it’s just the cards that were dealt to us. And even if we wanted to – we can’t change it. There’s absolutely nothing we can do to make ourselves shrink, to make our legs fit perfectly between the seats on the airplane, or to compact our growing babies so that they can lay comfortably on the tiny changing table you want us to change them on. And for that reason, I’m begging you to please be more understanding and accommodating when we are flying with you.

It’s important to know in writing this that I think ALL moms should be more catered to and more comfortable doing their mom duties on airplanes, whether its breast feeding or changing diapers. I would be lying if I said that I knew what the answer to all of this is, but I strongly believe this is an issue that you should give some consideration to. And until you figure out what that answer is (*crosses fingers for a nursing / infant changing room on board*), please please have some empathy and compassion for these mamas. When they are struggling, instead of spewing out FAA rules and regulations, please do your best to smile, lend them a hand and make them feel more at ease. The world is always a better place when we have empathy and respect for one another.

On behalf of tall girls and mama’s everywhere – thank you!




  • Donna Gambino
    5 months ago

    Great article that needs to go to the management of each airline. If they want to compete in the marketplace they should listen to what consumers are saying. I truthfully don’t enjoy flying anywhere and have on many occasions just driven on vacation if possible. 1. I’m more comfortable 2. I can take more of my size 11 shoes that don’t all fit in one checked bag. Lol.

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