Am I Too Fat To Fly?

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We have heard many stories of overweight passengers’ experiences being embarrassed on the public at the airport, being compelled to buy two-seat tickets, and the worst scenario is being kicked out on a plane. Because of the nightmare and psychological trauma, it may bring, plus-size people are anxious about flying.

However, how would you know if your size is too big for a single seat on a plane? Well, I have researched this thing, and here is my finding below:

The definition of being “too fat” to fly in a single seat is when you are unable to lower both armrests. These armrests are the definitive gauges for a customer’s size and serve as a boundary between seats. Another sign to look for is when you already compromised any portion of adjacent seating.

Airlines’ Obesity Policies in the U.S. and Abroad

Here is a run-down of some of the major airlines’ customers of size seating guidelines:

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines requires the purchase of an additional seat for any passenger who cannot comfortably fit within one seat with both armrests in the down position.

However, if all Alaska Airlines flights in each direction departed with an open seat available, you will get a refund of the second seat you have booked.

American Airlines

American Airlines requires another seat if a customer’s body extends more than 1 inch beyond the outermost edge of the armrest, and a seatbelt extension is needed.

It is better to book and reserve two adjacent seats early because if you did not book an extra seat in advance, there is a chance that there will be no more seats available and the need to pay for the fare difference.

Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines does not require you to book for an additional seat, however, if you really need extra space outside the standard Economy Seat, you will be asked to pay to upgrade to First/Business Class.

Frontier Airlines

Frontier Airlines requires you to book two seats beforehand if you are unable to lower both armrests and/or you compromise any portion of adjacent seat or aisle.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines recommends booking an extra room in advance because if there is no safe alternative seating can be found, they will not be able to transport you on your ticketed flight.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines requires the purchase of the needed number of seats prior to travel if the customer has compromised any part of the neighboring seat.

Passenger can also wait on the same day of their flight to discuss with a Customer Service Agent at the departure gate if they can accommodate you with an additional complimentary seat.

Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines recommends the booking of an extra seat if the customer of size encroaches an adjacent seat area and/or the customer is unable to sit comfortably in a single seat with the armrests lowered.

United Airlines

United Airlines requires the purchase of an additional seat or upgrade if the customer does not meet one of the following criteria:

  • The customer must be able to attach the buckle properly and wear the seatbelt with one extension if necessary
  • The customer must be able to remain seated comfortably with the armrests down for the entire flight
  • The customer must not compromise any portion upon the adjacent seating space

Seatbelt Lengths by U.S. Airlines

Seatbelt length varies by airlines, so the table that I will show to you will give you an idea if there is a need to bring extenders on your own; however, several airlines have policies that prohibit the bringing of your own seatbelt extenders. Therefore, it is better to request to flight attendants on board to meet your special needs.

AIRLINESEATBELT LENGTH (inches)EXTENDERSEXTENDER LENGTH (inches)
Aeromexico51YES22
Alaska Airlines46YES25
Allegiant Air40YES21
American Airlines45YESUnknown
Delta Airlines35-58YES12
Hawaii Airlines51YES20
JetBlue42-49.5YES25
Southwest Airlines39YES24
United Airlines31PRE-RESERVED25
Virgin America43.7YES25
Seatbelt lengths by major airlines

12+ Flying Tips When Overweight

Being oversize while you travel is not something you should afraid of. You don’t let yourself lose to judgmental societal norms that say only “fit and normal-weight people” can board on a plane. Nah, don’t let them bother you and don’t limit yourself and your life adventures just because you are big.

With this attitude in your mind, you can fly to your favorite destination and enjoy the dream vacation you deserve. Here are some tried-and-true-tips that can get rid of your flight anxiety.

Consult your doctor

If you are suffering from hypertension, or you have a history of heart problems, like a heart attack or chest pain, it is better to see your doctor first before you get on a plane. Nobody wants to get sick while you are on a trip, of course!

Moreover, overweight or obese people are most likely to have health problems. That is why; you had better have yourself checked beforehand, so these health problems will not get on your way.

Advance your booking for your flight

If you have the means to do so, DO IT NOW. Book your flight a couple of months ahead of time, and you can do this online. Through this, you have a greater chance to choose your seat, and you can avoid being stuck in the middle chair. If I were to choose, it is better to have the aisle seat because it will give you more space on one side. In addition, it is easier to access the restroom so that you do not have to crawl over people and will cause inconvenience to them.

Book a seat that has a two configuration instead of three

Some airlines like Delta Airlines and KLM have an extra seat space policy wherein obese passengers do not require booking an additional seat.

However, if passengers still need extra space outside the standard Economy Seat, you can simply ask to be reseated next to an empty seat, or you can pay to upgrade to a First/Business Class.

If you want to check a plane layout, visit this helpful site to give you more information.

Travel with someone

It is better to travel when you are with someone, not only you can ask your companion to take pictures for you or accompany you on a trip. Hence you do not have to worry about bumping him on your seat. You can ask him to take the middle seat, letting you have the aisle seat.

However, this can be awkward if you are traveling alone, and you are seated next to a stranger, and that stranger is not fond of your size, so what will you do next is …

Do the negotiation thing

I know this can be a little embarrassing, and some flight crews are discreet, but there is nothing wrong with trying if your comfiness is on the line. Try to switch seats, so that you are sitting next to a skinny person or to a child. If you got the middle seat, try to talk and ask the aisle passenger if he/she can switch with you. Explain and persuade them that switching seats with you will make all of you more comfortable. Trust me when I say, no one wants to feel squeezed and compressed while flying, so if you are uncomfortable, try to make a swap.

Have your own seatbelt extender

This way, you do not have to ask the flight attendant to get you one, plus not all airlines offer seatbelt extenders while on board. Make sure that the seatbelt extender you bought matches with the airline, which you are boarding. However, if you do not have an extender, you can just request a flight attendant to get you one.

Note: Some airlines do not permit flyers to bring their own like Delta Airlines and Southwest Airlines. For Alaska Airlines, it does not permit to use seatbelt extenders if they are sitting in an exit row.

Pee as much as you can beforehand!

As we know that airline, bathrooms are small and confined. If you have a shorter flight, maybe you can skip using the restroom. However, if you are on a longer flight, this might be bothersome. No worries, I will share with you this helpful advice to ease your agony:

  • Try to go during unpopular times (while eating their meal, or nap time). This may give you more time to squeeze yourself into the restroom easily
  • Ask for flight attendants if you can use the restroom in first class. Some flight attendants you may encounter are usually kind and cooperative

Go to the airport early

Getting to the airport can be exhausting, especially if you are not in good shape. There will be long lines and long walks to get through the gate. Therefore, my advice is to go to the airport early as you can so that you still have more time to relax and freshen up as you make your way through the terminal.

Pack light and have a print out of your boarding pass

This tip has nothing to do with your weight; it has something to do on how you could get in the airport more quickly, saves money, and not losing your luggage.

For one thing, this can also help you as an overweight person because it can lessen your waiting time standing on lines, and you can keep an eye on your bag, which contains your plus-sized clothing.

Remember that not all country sells or have available for your size; this is just to make sure you have clothes to wear for your #ootds!

Join a program where you can earn airline miles

As they say, “Little things when combined can make up a whole,” just like when you earn enough of these, you can upgrade your economy class to business or first class where seats there are larger.

Book your flight during the off-season

If you take a very early morning flight or fly during the winter or off-season, there is a greater chance that there will be many empty seats on the plane. You can also ask the flight attendants if you can sit on an emptier row so that you can stretch out and have a great sleep during your flight.

OPTIONAL: Buy two seats or book on a first-class

Most of the airlines really require you to book two seats if you are uncomfortable within one seat with both armrests in a down position, so again, try to consider getting air miles so you at least save money or you use to upgrade.

Never feel bad or ashamed of yourself!

This is the most important tip of all. Just like anyone else, you too deserve to fly and go with different destinations. Stop living with the standard set by the people. Take it and enjoy that dream vacation you have been longing for!

Image credit: Flikr

Reed Harris

Reed is a traveler and blogger. He's planning to visit all states in the USA. He's been in 31 states so far.

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