An Oklahoma woman has publicly thanked the "hero" passenger who comforted her after a man on their flight called her a "smelly fatty."
In a Facebook post on Monday, Savannah Phillips described what happened on a United Airlines flight from Oklahoma to Chicago.
She began by saying that she's self-conscious when she flies because "I'm not the biggest person on the plane, but I'm not the smallest." So she tries to sit in a row where she doesn't have to be next to someone.
"My worst nightmare is someone being uncomfortable because they have to sit next to me," she wrote.
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She didn't get to pick her seat on this flight because of a delay, and she wound up sitting "next to an older guy who said he was a comedian. He looked like he was in his 60s and had on bright yellow sunglasses," she wrote.
"The flight attendant started the safety speech and he got his phone out (with huge font and the screen brightness turned all the way up). His phone was maybe 12 inches from my face and he proceeded to text someone that he was sitting next to 'a smelly fatty.'"
Phillips turned her head away in shock, describing the words as "confirmation of the negative things I think about myself on a daily basis.
"Before I knew it, I could feel hot, salty tears coming down my face. I sat and cried silently, hoping this guy didn’t try to make small talk, because I didn’t trust how I would react and I didn’t want to get kicked off the plane," she wrote. "I was so hurt.
"The pilot came overhead and said there would be a 30 minute delay before he could take off- great. Just more time I would have to sit next to this creep."
She scrunched her body up against the wall.
She didn't know someone else saw the text, and her tears, too.
Chase Irwin, a father and general manager at Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row in Nashville, was sitting across the aisle.
When he saw the man's words, Irwin was so angry he felt like he was going to vomit, he later told WTVF in Nashville.
He described the man's text: "Hey babe, I can't believe this, I'm sitting next to a smelly fatty. I can't even put the armrest down. I'm gonna vomit. I'm stuck by this fatty."
Irwin got out of his seat, tapped the texting man on the shoulder and told him, "Hey, I need to talk to you."
When the guy took off his earphones, Irwin told him, "we are switching seats. Now."
Phillips wrote that when the man asked why, Irwin told him, "you are texting about her, and I’m not putting up with that."
Irwin told the man he was "heartless."
The men switched seats.
"He asked if I saw the texts and I nodded yes. He encouraged me not to let that guy get to me and that everything was going to be fine," she wrote.
Irwin told WTVF that he was going to wait until the end of the flight to say something to the man but he didn't want him sitting next to Phillips the entire flight and have her thinking he was mocking her.
"It really gets to me deep down when I see someone crying, and when I saw her crying it really hit me hard and actually got sick to my stomach," he said.
Phillips' post has gone viral on her Facebook page, where people are hailing Irwin as a "Good Samaritan" and "angel."
Some people accused Phillips of invading the man's privacy by reading his text.
Some shared their own experiences of feeling self-conscious of their size when they travel by air, one woman writing that once when she had to ask for a seat belt extender "I felt like all eyes were on me. You were so fortunate to have a God send to stand up for you!"
Another woman shared a similar experience. She wrote that a woman sitting next to her on a plane texted someone that she was sitting "next to a 'fat b@tch.' I told my seat mate that they should be thankful I’m not a crazy fat b@tch or she’d have been in a world of hurt."
Irwin's employer lauded him in a Facebook post, too, writing "it has warmed the heart of our entire team."
United Airlines had kind words for Irwin, too.
“We appreciate the efforts of the customer and would like to hear from Ms. Phillips to understand what occurred," United spokesperson Kimberly Gibbs told Newsweek, adding that the airline would review the incident.
Irwin told the flight attendant what he intended to do before he switched seats with the man. Phillips wrote that the attendant "kept trying to give him free drinks and told him that he was her hero."
But he wasn’t her hero, Phillips wrote, "he was mine."