I am a passenger of size. What does that mean? Basically, I am obese and will not comfortably fit in a standard airplane seat. I can fit if I squeeze in, but my hips and arms extend into the neighboring seat areas. That is not comfortable for me or for my seatmate(s).
My sister-in-law, Angie, and I are flying from the United States to Portugal in March 2022 to look for housing and open a bank account or two. I do not want to be uncomfortable on the flight, nor do I want to encroach on Angie’s space or the space of the person on my other side.
My First Attempt to Get Tickets
It was my job to book our plane tickets and reserve housing for the week we will be there. I thought it would be great to fly on TAP, the Portuguese national airline, because they have a direct flight from Newark (New York City area) to Lisbon, Portugal. The first thing I did was go to the TAP website (flytap.com) and look for information on how to reserve two seats for my big butt and one seat for Angie.
That was unsuccessful. I couldn’t find any information on the topic.
Next, I looked at the seating arrangement for the airplane. The 3-seat section with a window was perfect for us since I needed to get three seats. Additionally, buying three economy seats was less expensive than buying two business class seats.
I entered the information needed for Angie’s seat and for my first seat, but I couldn’t figure out how to enter the information for my second seat. I tried re-entering the same information I used for my first seat, but the reservation system wouldn’t accept that.
Not knowing what else to do to reserve the extra seat for me as a passenger of size, I cleared the information for the third ticket and reentered what I had written previously. Again, to no avail. I must have tried that five or six times. What is it they say about doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result? Yeah, I felt stupid.
I looked at the website’s Contact Us page but couldn’t find a U.S.-based customer service number. I found one in Portugal, but I don’t know how to make an international phone call. I did the only thing I could figure out and started a chat with someone at TAP.
My Second Attempt, Using Chat
I don’t know if it was a language barrier or I was just not coming across clearly. Maybe the TAP representative never had to deal with my problem before. As a general rule, Europeans are in much better shape than Americans. They usually don’t need a second seat for a passenger of size. Regardless, the person on the other end of the chat just could not answer my question.
I must have tried three or four different ways to get my point across, that I needed to order a second seat for my butt. No matter how I phrased the question, the representative couldn’t answer me. Each time I asked, I got more and more frustrated. Eventually, I got a little more information from the person, but none of it was helpful.
By this time, I was almost in tears from frustration. I fought with the website for several hours by that point and was ready to give up. But I persevered.
My Third Attempt, New Airline
I gave up on TAP and switched to United (united.com) to see if I would have any better luck. What did I do? After unsuccessfully looking for the passenger of size information on their website, I tried again. Not learning anything from my TAP experience, I again tried to get two tickets under my name and one for Angie. I was not surprised to see it didn’t work again.
This time, when I looked for a customer service number, I found a U.S.-based phone number. I spoke with a lovely woman and told her my problem. I think I gave her too much information, but she was pleasant enough and let me talk. By now, it was around 2 am so I’m sure she wasn’t too busy.
This lady was happy to help me. She said that a special code was needed to reserve the second seat for me. Ah-ha! That was information I could have used six hours ago. Rather than giving me the code, she said she would enter the information to reserve the three seats. We did get the set of three seats near the window for both flights to and from Europe. However, we need to fly into Frankfurt, Germany, before transferring to a flight to Lisbon and when returning home.
What Did I Learn From This Fiasco?
I learned that ordering an extra ticket for a passenger of size is impossible to do on my own. After spending a total of seven hours trying to get tickets to Portugal, I needed help. As an independent woman who hates asking for help, I learned that sometimes I need to have help. And that’s okay. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it is actually a sign of strength to know when you need help.
Finally, I learned that when it’s time to book tickets for our final move to Portugal, I’m just going to go to a travel agent and have them deal with the passenger of size and extra seats issues. I don’t need the headache.
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