Can You Bring Your Own Seat Belt Extender on a Plane?

Flights are getting longer and longer. However, airline seats are getting smaller and smaller. This is most especially true for economy seats. And because seats are shrinking in size, seat belts also tend to get shorter and shorter in the process.

Such can cause a dilemma most especially for plus-sized airplane passengers — not only do they have to put up with tiny economy seats but also deal with seat belts that won’t fit their big bodies.

The good news is that there are seat belt extenders that they can use. While these products won’t make small economy seats bigger, at least they can address the other problem, which is having a seat belt that’s simply too short for a full-figured flyer.

So, can you bring your own seat belt extender on a plane?

You can bring your own seat belt extender on a plane. Just make sure that the Federal Aviation Administration approves it for your safety. Note that some airlines do not allow their passengers to use personal seat belt extenders. It is a good idea to contact the airline before flying.

Traveling can be a complete nightmare for a plus-sized individual. This is most especially true when being on an airplane is the preferred option or the only one that’s practical.

So many things about flying cause a big person to have second thoughts or feel anxious about going from point A to point B via a plane ride. They include stressful check-in and boarding times, long travel hours, small economy seats, and a seat belt that’s too tight or won’t close.

If you are a heavy person and you are planning on flying anytime soon, keep on reading this article. Below you will come across some of the most critical matters that you need to know concerning the use of a seat belt extender on a plane.

Small Airline Seat Problem

Before we talk about the crux of this article, which is a seat belt extender and all the things associated with it, let us first devote a little of our time to another very important matter, the kind that has to be discussed, too, when the use of a seat belt extender is the topic.

It’s none other than the size of airline seats. Before a plus-sized person deals with a seat belt that’s too short, he or she will have to face a terrifying matter regarding small airline seats.

Many years ago, airline seats were just the right size. To know that this is indeed a fact, all you have to do is look for old photos of the interiors of airplanes on the internet.

However, these days it’s an entirely different story. You are going to have a hard time coming across online photos of airplane interiors that boast of jumbo seats.

This sad and highly uncomfortable truth about this flying-related reality makes its presence known the moment that you plop down on one of today’s economy seats.

As soon as your hip and belly area press against the armrest, you will realize that airline seats these days do not prioritize comfort, in particular the convenience of large passengers.

Both Seat Width and Pitch Size Have Shrunk

For utmost comfort when flying, it is very important for airline seats to give the butts of the passengers plenty of room.

Having a lot of space can be beneficial, most notably during long flights, as it allows flyers to move around or change positions from time to time. These days, sadly, airline seats are much smaller in width than when commercial airlines first made their presence known.

For instance, today’s airline seats measure anywhere from 17 to 18 inches only. Some even measure 16 inches only, and those tiny seats are usually found in small airlines offering short domestic flights.

Other than the width, the amount of legroom has also considerably shrunk today. The pitch, which is the space between airline seats, now only measures anywhere from 33 to 29 inches.

The pitch of some airlines measures 28 inches only. Some of them include Jetstar of Australia, Cebu Pacific of the Philippines, HK Express of Hong Kong, Scoot of Singapore, Wizz of Hungary, Volaris of Mexico, Spicejet of India, and Iberia of Spain. Having plenty of legroom is important for the comfort not only of plus-sized passengers but also regular-sized ones.

When Your Behind Fails to Fit in the Seat

Because of the shrinking sizes of airline seats these days, traveling by plane can be a terrifying experience for plus-sized individuals. The nightmare begins not only when the plane takes off, but also when they get unnecessary attention as soon as they board the plane.

Such includes the moment that they take their seat and learn that they are simply too big for it, plus their seatbelt refuses to close because it is just too short.

Then there is also the awkwardness of having some of their body parts extending to the adjacent seats, thus making the flight also uncomfortable for their seatmates.

Earlier, we talked about the fact that most airline seats these days are only 17 to 18 inches in width. This can be a huge problem for a passenger who is size 20 with a waistline measuring 40 inches and hips measuring 49 inches.

The same is true for a much larger passenger, such as size 22, 30, or 38.

So, if you are size 22, you probably asking yourself, will you fit in an airplane seat? Well, really large individuals have a couple of options.

First, they may fly business or first class where they have access to seats that are way bigger than economy seats. Second, they may fly the economy but purchase a couple of seats.

The second option comes with complications, and the most obvious of which is that it can be costly. It may also result in missed flights if the extra seat is not purchased in advance, which is the policy that some airlines have when it comes to obese passengers.

Both Seat and Seat Belt Can be a Problem

When it comes to plus-sized passengers, sitting in tiny airline seats is not the only problem that needs to be faced. It’s also very much likely for an issue with the seat belt to come into being, too.

Naturally, small seats have to go with short seat belts. Attaching long seat belts to them is not being done for the apparent reason that regular-sized people are the ones in mind when airplanes are being designed.

What’s more, making seat belts longer than they should is a costly move on the part of the airlines. This is why they choose to deal with the matter only when a problem arises.

So, in other words, it is only when a big person steps inside the cabin when an airline company will attempt to address the problem at hand. They do so by providing the passenger with what’s referred to as a seat belt extender.

It’s important to note, however, that it is possible for some airlines to have not enough seat belt extenders for all of their plus-sized passengers. Some airlines may also require passengers to call in advance to have a seat belt extender reserved. Indeed, the matter of using a seat belt extender is more complicated than it seems initially.

Getting to Know Seat Belt Extenders

On this planet, there are only a couple of types of people who could benefit from the use of seat belt extenders.

First, there are pregnant women. This is especially true for those whose bellies are already very big, and regular seatbelts are simply too short to accommodate them.

Second, there are heavy individuals. This is especially true for those who are regarded as morbidly obese. An individual is considered as someone who is morbidly obese if he or she is 100 pounds beyond his or her ideal weight, and has a body mass index or BMI of 40 or higher.

According to health experts, a healthy BMI for most adults is anywhere from 18.5 to below 30.

Passengers who are too big to be able to use an airline seat’s seat belt correctly need to use a seat belt extender in order to deal with such a problem. Just like what the name says, the product is something that makes a seat belt longer so that the available seat belt may be worn or appropriately fastened.

So in other words, using a seat belt extender is the quickest way to make a seat belt longer, thus allowing a plus-size passenger to fly safely. By the way, a seat belt extender can be used not only on a plane but also on a bus, in a car and other vehicles in which a seat belt is normally worn.

Not All Seat Belt Extenders are the Same

Because this article is all about whether or not a seat belt extender can be brought and used on a plane, we will strictly talk about seat belt extenders that are meant for flying.

When it comes to a seat belt extender that can be used on a plane, there is a fundamental matter to check: the product has to be approved by the FAA. This is to ensure that experts in the field of aviation have seen to it that the seat belt extender can, in fact, make it safe for its user to fly.

If an airline learns that an obese passenger’s seat belt extender is not FAA-approved, he or she may be prohibited from using it.

This is the reason why some airlines forbid their plus-sized passengers from bringing their seat belt extenders. What they do instead is provide the product to those who request to be handed with a seat belt extender.

This way, airlines can have the confidence that what their heavy passengers are using have been approved by the FAA. The use of a seat belt extender that’s not FAA-approved may keep the user from being completely safe. This is most especially true if the product is of poor quality and does not meet high industry standards.

A Quick Seat Belt Extender Shopping Guide

When shopping for a seat belt extender, you’ll be surprised to learn that the product is available in different shapes and sizes. It is a definite must for you to get your hands on the right seat belt extender for use on an airplane.

Otherwise, you may be prohibited by the flight attendant to use what you have brought with you to the fight. This is especially true if the one you own is not approved by the FAA other than it being the wrong kind. Luckily, it’s not that difficult to buy the correct seat belt extender. This is provided that you have an idea of what the different types are.

Basically, today’s seat belt extenders are available in rigid, regular, and adjustable types. Just like what the name says, a rigid seat belt extender comes with an inflexible stalk — it connects to the receptacle of the seat belt and stands upright.

Due to its rigidity, it may press against your side, thus causing discomfort. There is also a regular seat belt extender, which is made from the same materials as a seat belt. The product can range anywhere from 3 inches to 25 inches.

On the other hand, an adjustable seat belt extender can be adjusted to varying lengths — some available ones these days can extend up to 26 inches long, depending on the brand and for which consumers they are meant.

Different Airlines Have Different Seat Belt Lengths

Generally speaking, it is a good idea for a traveler who needs to use a seat belt extender to purchase an adjustable seat belt extender. This is recommended because of a couple of reasons.

First, it can be of service at all times, even if its owner’s weight fluctuates.

Second, it allows the owner to be able to use it regardless of the length of an airline’s seat belt. Yes, different airlines tend to have different seat belt lengths, and this is why it is a risk for you to go for a regular seat belt extender whose length cannot be adjusted.

Thanks to an adjustable seat belt extender, you don’t have to worry a lot about the airline’s length of its seat belt. That’s because all you have to do is adjust your personal seat belt extender accordingly and attach it to the seat belt of the airline.

However, sometimes an airline’s seat belt is longer than the seat belt of other airlines, thus eliminating the need for you to use a seat belt extender. Let’s take a look at the seat belt length of some airlines:

  • Aeromexico                     51 inches
  • Alaska Airlines                  46 inches
  • American Airlines              45 inches
  • Delta Airlines                    38 inches
  • Hawaiian Airlines               50 inches
  • JetBlue                           49.5 inches
  • Southwest Airlines             39 inches
  • United Airlines                  31 inches

Matters About Legality and Limitations

Primarily, seat belt extenders are designed to make sure that obese passengers will be able to use seat belts just like the rest, thus ensuring their safety while the vehicle is in motion.

It also allows you to follow the law, which requires you to wear a seat belt on a plane unless the seat belt sign is turned off. Needless to say, buying your own seat belt extender helps to keep you safe and make you a law-abiding citizen.

However, there was a time back in 2012 when the FFA released stricter guidelines when it comes to the use of personal seat belt extenders.

That’s because some airlines failed to carefully inspect the seat belt extenders their passengers brought with them — some of them were using seat belt extenders that the FFA hasn’t approved or certified, and such could put them in danger.

This is why some airlines today prohibit the use of personal seat belt extenders. What they do is they simply provide their plus-size passengers with airline-owned seat belt extenders, which are guaranteed to be FAA-approved.

A heavy passenger, however, may not be allowed to fly if the use of 2 seat belt extenders is not enough for him or her to be able to use the plane’s seat belt properly.

It’s important to note that some airlines these days still allow their passengers to bring with them their own seat belt extenders, although they should have met FAA’s standards.

A Closer Look at Prohibition of Seat Belt Extenders

Just like what we’ve mentioned above, it’s not all the time that you can bring with you and use a seat belt extender. This is why before you fly, it is a good idea to know the airline’s policy when it comes to the use of personal seat belt extenders.

Today’s seat belt extenders range anywhere from $10 to $50, and it is definitely a waste of your money if you will purchase a high-quality seat belt extender that comes with a steep price tag only to know that the airline does not allow its passengers to use personal seat belt extenders.

One popular airline company that does not allow the passengers to use their own seat belt extenders is Delta Airlines.

Another example is Southwest Airlines. As with others that do not permit the passengers to use their own seat belt extenders, both Delta Airlines and Southwest Airlines say that the reason why they ban personal seat belt extender use is because of FAA regulations.

Other airlines still permit the use of personal seat belt extenders, although some of them may have certain policies. For instance, Alaska Airlines allows its passengers to use their own seat belt extenders, except for those who are seated in an exit row.

To save yourself from trouble and to make your flight go as smoothly as possible, it is a good idea to contact the airline company days in advance to inquire about seat belt extender use.

Asking for a Seat Belt Extender to be Handed to You


Whether the airline does not allow its passengers to use personal seat belt extenders or it permits the passengers to use those, but you forgot to bring yours, the inevitable needs to happen.

And that is none other than asking the flight attendant to hand you a seat belt extender because the length of the plane seat’s seat belt is simply too short for your voluptuous body.

Naturally, this can leave you feeling embarrassed, and some passengers may even judge you or secretly laugh at the tragedy in the form of your body being too big for the seat belt.

The quickest way to get your hands on a seat belt extender while on a plane is to flag down the flight attendant and ask for one. If you find that too embarrassing, you may simply mouth the words.

However, this could cause the flight attendant to repeat the words loudly to make sure that he or she got it correctly. You may also pantomime that you need a seat belt extender.

However, this could easily lead to a misunderstanding, especially if you or the flight attendant is not good at playing charades. To avoid these potential nightmares, you may call the airline ahead of time and check if it’s possible for a seat belt extender to be placed on your seat.

Various Options Exist When It Comes to Seat Belt Use

Did you forget to bring your own seat belt extender to your flight? Worry not because you can always ask the flight attendant to lend you a seat belt extender the moment that you find out that the length of the airline’s seat belt is not enough for your body size.

However, this can be very embarrassing! Asking to be handed with a seat belt extender can draw unnecessary attention to yourself, and this can leave you feeling awkward and self-conscious.

The good news is that there is something that you may do if you have forgotten to bring a personal seat belt extender, and you don’t want the other passengers to know that the plane’s seat belt is simply too short for you.

If the seat beside you is empty, you may occupy both of them and connect their seat belts with one another. This solves your seat belt-related problem without any unnecessary attention!

However, this is not a viable solution if the seat right next to you is occupied. You may be asked to be transferred to a seat where the one beside it is empty, or you may also purchase an extra seat before flying — this is a solution that some obese passengers do, and at times this is a requirement of certain airlines for their passengers who are plus-sized.

But compared to buying another seat just for the sake of being able to use a seat belt properly, purchasing a personal seat belt extender is obviously the more cost-effective approach.

How to Properly Use a Seat Belt Extender

Especially if you have never tried using a seat belt extender before, it can be daunting to use one for the first time. It doesn’t matter if the seat belt extender is your own or provided by the airline.

However, you can eliminate unnecessary anxiety and stress if you buy your own seat belt extender as you can check out its various parts and how it works before you board a plane.

Besides, some seat belt extenders out there come with affordable price tags. It’s a good idea to purchase a seat belt extender anywhere but at the airport where everything is more expensive!

The good news is that using a seat belt extender is not really that difficult. As a matter of fact, securing it in place is just like securing your body to the seat with a regular seat belt.

The following are the easy steps that you should take when using a seat belt extender on a plane to make sure that you are just as safe as all the other passengers:

  1. Insert one end of the seat belt extender to the receptacle of the airline seat’s seat belt buckle.
  2. The attached seat belt extender serves as the new buckle.
  3. Reach for the seat belt of the airline seat and slide it across your body.
  4. Insert the end of the airline seat’s seat belt into the new receptacle until it locks in place.
  5. Adjust the length of the seat belt extender if the seat belt is too tight or too loose.

Buying the Product: Where and How

Earlier, we mentioned that you should refrain from buying a seat belt extender at the airport — everyone knows for a fact that airport prices are steeper than prices anywhere else.

This is why it is highly recommended for you to purchase a personal seat belt extender before you step foot inside the airport. You can easily get your hands on a seat belt extender at a store selling all kinds of travel essentials, from suitcases to travel guide books.

The right time to do this is several days before your flight. This will give you plenty of time to shop around until you come across one that meets your budget and needs. We also stated above that the right seat belt extender to go for is the adjustable one.

When shopping for it, look for something that has a durable construction and also approved or certified by the FAA. It’s also possible to buy a seat belt extender on the internet, which is a convenient and often money-saving option.

There is never a shortage of online shops carrying seat belt extenders. However, you can rest assured that not all online sellers are worthy of your trust, and not all seat belt extenders in cyberspace are reliable.

When shopping online, devote plenty of your time to reading customer reviews to increase your chance of ending up with a seat belt extender that you can count on, and the airline of your choice will allow you to use.

Additional Matters to Keep in Mind

Shopping for a seat belt extender is not that difficult. That is if you know what to look for and buy.

When on the hunt for your personal seat belt, be it on the internet or at a brick-and-mortar store, make sure that the item is an airplane seat belt extender — there are seat belt extenders for plane use, and there are also seat belt extenders for car use.

Do you have a seat belt extender that you use when traveling by car? Sadly, you will not be able to use that on a plane. You will have to buy one that is compatible with the seat belt of a plane.

Do not make the mistake of bringing with you your car seat belt extender to your flight as this will only cause a lot of embarrassment on your part the moment that you attempt to use it, and the passengers beside you and the flight attendants are wondering what you are trying to accomplish.

There is one more important matter that you need to know about airplane seat belt extenders: they are not the same. Most airline companies these days use the same type of seat belt extender.

However, there are also some that use a different type of seat belt extender. Especially if there is a huge possibility that you will use different airlines when traveling, it’s a good idea for you to purchase what are referred to as type A universal airplane seat belt extenders.

Conclusion and Recommendations

When buying a personal seat belt extender, remember to go for one that’s designed for use on an airplane. To be sure, opt for a type A universal airplane seat belt extender that’s FAA-approved.

Some airlines may not allow their plus-sized passengers to use their own seat belt extenders due to FAA regulations. If your airline is one of those, just discreetly ask the flight attendant to hand you a seat belt extender.

As much as you possibly can, refrain from minding what the other passengers may think about you upon hearing or seeing that you are asking for a seat belt extender. After all, your safety during the flight is far more important than their opinion.

If you need a recommendation, then below is FAA approved seat belt extender:

FAA Approved – Airplane Seat Belt Extender

For Southwest Airlines you need another seat belt extender:

Airplane Seat Belt Type B, FAA Approved

Designed for Southwest Airlines

Images by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay, Ryan McGuire from Pixabay, David Mark from Pixabay

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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