A size 24-26 woman has brought light to the lack of space and obstacles she experienced when flying with Ryanair in a now viral TikTok video - but trolls have missed her point entirely.
Kirsty Leanne, 29, from Shropshire, shared a video documenting her trip from London Stansted to Hamburg on 21 April, showing issues with being assigned the middle seat, leg room, seatbelts, tray tables, bathrooms and more, with the caption 'Flying Ryanair with no upgrades'.
Leanne, plus-size travel content creator and blogger, usually chooses to pay for where her seat is and to take more luggage. But as it was Easter Holidays and everything was already expensive, she "decided to see what it would be like as a plus-size person flying with Ryanair on a budget" as she "sees lots of tips and tricks for budget travel that aren't easily available to us", she told Yahoo Life UK.
Reporting back on her experience, she says, "The first issue I faced was walking down the plane aisle. I was one of the last people on the plane as I was running a little late so I felt the stares of people, and all I could think was that they didn't want me to sit next to them."
She then got to her middle aisle seat, which she had hoped she'd chance not getting. But, "thankfully", the one next to her was empty, giving her "a little more room". "I appreciate that I was lucky I was able to move over to the aisle seat," she says.
"In terms of legroom, there wasn't much space but this is because I also had an under-seat bag. For the one and a half hour flight, it was definitely manageable though," she adds.
Leanne had planned to do some work on the tray table. "But when I couldn't put it down," she explains, "I quickly decided that it was not going to happen. No matter how much I moved around I couldn't put the table in a comfortable enough position."
The bathroom was another issue she faced. "As I was running late I didn't get to use the bathroom before I boarded so I thought I'd chance using the one on the flight. Unfortunately, it's probably one of the smallest bathrooms I've ever seen and I decided against trying to squeeze in. I filmed a quick video to show how much space there was and then gave up and waited until we landed."
In terms of the seats, she says, "I was comfortable but I think it's because the seat next to me was empty. I was able to put the armrest down but as there was no one next to me I kept it up for that little bit of extra space.
"I did need to use a seatbelt extender, but this is something I am used to and the flight attendant handed it to me discreetly as I asked when I boarded."
Unfortunately, Leanne has since received a lot of abuse, with comments like, "Acting like it's their fault", "How u blaming the airline", and "Popular opinion: it's not Ryanair's fault", to which she responded that everyone had "missed the point entirely".
Rather than intending to slam Ryanair, Leanne says, "I do believe airlines need to be more accessible for plus-size people, but I think a lot of people took that as 'I'm blaming the airline for me being fat'.
"I said what was good and bad and simply showed the experience for those wishing to fly with Ryanair. As a result, I have now received a lot of hurtful comments across all social media platforms."
As budget airlines are often the only options available, Leanne adds, "It's not as simple as 'fly another airline' and I want people to realise that."
Leanne shares her thoughts on what improvements airlines can make generally to help enhance the experience and accessibility for plus-size travellers.
"I know the answer isn't as simple as 'have bigger seats' but I do feel like more options should be available to those who need them. A great example is Southwest Airlines, who have a policy that allows plus-size people to book a second seat and then refunds them for it after their journey," she suggests.
"With so many seats free on flights (I've rarely been on a fully booked flight) I feel like this could be an option for other airlines too."
While Leanne is utilising her social media platform to raise awareness of what it's like travelling plus-size, she admits that "receiving a lot of hate can be tough, especially when it's in large quantities". But that's not going to stop her doing what she loves, and trying to help others do the same too.
"I know a lot of plus-size people worry about what their flying experience is going to be like and because of that, they put off travelling," she says. "I want to show everyone what it's like to travel as a plus-size person so they can see that it's possible (even on a budget!).
"While it may be uncomfortable at times, I hope that showing myself travelling time and time again will encourage people just like me to do the same. I also think it's important to show people who are not plus-size what it's like to travel in a larger body. Airlines are not as accessible as they could be to plus-size travellers and I feel like there's so much work to be done in this area.
"I know this causes a lot of controversy with people but I believe that we're worthy of safety and comfort that shouldn't come at an extra cost because of the size of our bodies.
"I'd happily receive one million hate comments to help make just one person feel like they belong."
Leanne last went viral for a discussion on whether plus-size people should buy two seats, which also seemed to divide people.
Yahoo Life UK has reached out to Ryanair for comment.
Watch: Plus-size traveler says seatbelts on flights cause 'emotional damage'