Overweight Flying Tips
- If you’re flying overweight, it’s important to find an airline that can accommodate you before you book your flight.
- Many airline seats have gotten smaller, so it’s crucial to understand airline size requirements for flights.
- Some airlines, like JetBlue, have slightly larger seats, perfect for an overweight traveler.
- Domestic travel on smaller planes can be difficult for overweight fliers, even when airlines have policies in place to accommodate such passengers.
- If you can manage it, spending more on an “extra legroom” seat or one in the Premium Economy cabin can be a worthwhile investment.
- Pay attention when booking and select a flight on a full-sized, newer aircraft if such a flight fits with your plans and budget.
Film director Kevin Smith was deemed “too overweight” and ejected from a Southwest Airlines flight back in 2010. Since then, overweight travelers have worried if they would face similar problems and the topic has become a much-debated issue.
There is no “best airline” for overweight travelers. This guide will explain individual airlines policies, as well as provide other best practices you should employ when flying overweight.
Know Your Airline’s Policy
A high volume of air travelers—and competition for their business—means that airlines are cramming more and more people on their flights, and passenger real estate is getting more cramped.
It’s important to understand the policy that each airline has in place for larger fliers; this way, you can find the best airline for overweight passengers and for your own personal needs, before you book your flights.
Independent Traveler has a great article on some of the policies of the major airlines as they pertain to larger passengers.
Many airlines require larger passengers to purchase a second seat, but certain carriers will reimburse you after your flight is complete, depending on how full the flight ended up being.
On international flights, policies can significantly change. For example, on Air Canada flights, obesity is classed together with other disabilities, so if you are flying while overweight, you may request extra seating free of charge with a doctor’s approval.
Confirm Before you Book
Seat Width by Airline
Different carriers can have different seat dimensions. In economy class on short-haul flights, there are some airlines that offer an overall seat width of 18.25 inches. These carriers include:
Outside of these, some carriers like United have even larger seating for people who are flying overweight. Their max-sized seat offerings top out at 20.5 inches in width, though this is not the case for all planes. For instance, the regional aircraft you take on flights to McAllen, TX and other small cities might not be equipped with these seats.
Conversely, there are also carriers with smaller seats that top out at 17 inches or so. These include:
It’s also important to remember that these numbers can greatly vary by flight and seat availability, which is why you should always do some research before making a reservation while flying overweight. You don’t want to book flights to Miami, for example, then be unable to board (and, thus, lose money on your ticket) thanks to facts you could’ve ascertained before your trip.
Tips for flying overweight
- Request a seatbelt extender. It’s possible to purchase these online as well.
- Board as late as possible or book a priority boarding ticket to avoid the shuffle of people trying to find their seats (which can be a bit more stressful for an overweight person).
- Fly on newer, larger aircraft whenever possible. It’s often possible to fly on full-sized mainline aircraft if you pay close attention while booking. Aim for newer planes like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350.
- Try to book an aisle seat so you do not need to slide past your fellow passengers every time you get up.
- Purchase extra legroom. The premium you pay for extra legroom seats can be worth it, given the pressure it literally relieves.
- On international flights, consider splurging on a Premium Economy ticket, which is cheaper than business class but gives you a significantly larger seat than standard economy.