Tips and Guidance for Plus Size Travellers
Find out what you can do to help make air travel more comfortable if you are plus-sized.
Don't just take our word for it, join countless others and discover why we have become the preferred choice for travellers globally.
Find out what you can do to help make air travel more comfortable if you are plus-sized.
For passengers who are plus-sized, air travel can be a daunting thought with the worry that airlines might not cater to plus-sized travellers who are having to fit into the confined spaces of an airline seat. However, this shouldn't put you off the idea of flying.
It's true that most airlines tend to work to maximise profits by fitting as many people into a plane as possible, however, we’ve analysed the seat sizes and pitches to find the best airlines for plus-sized passengers to help you choose the best airline to fly with, as well as provided some valuable tips.
Be sure to check out the best airlines for plus-sized passengers further down this page. Some airlines also have policies for passengers of size, so make sure to see if your airline has one, and what the details of it are. Some airlines have different names for their policies, so look out for policies such as ‘passengers of size’, ‘obese policy’, ‘overweight policy’ or ‘plus-sized policy’.
If you can’t find enough information on the airline you wish to travel with, especially with regards to their plus size policy, the best option is to contact them directly to see what they can do to help you travel. Don’t be afraid to ask if they can book you an additional seat free of charge, or at least select your seat where you can be most comfortable. When booking flights through Alternative Airlines, we can contact the airline on your behalf.
Although not a solution to being uncomfortable in your seat, passengers can request a seatbelt extender for their flight. This will make the seatbelt less restrictive and tight, whilst still complying with safety standards.
You may want to consider booking a seat on the plane so that you can choose the aisle seat where you will be able to stretch out more and will not need to move past the other passengers to get out. Alternatively, you may wish to ask to board last, so that you do not need to squeeze past people trying to put their bags in the overhead compartment, and instead just walk on board and straight to your seat. Another way around this is to purchase priority boarding so that you have time to get comfortable before the other passengers board.
On alternative airlines, you can check what aircraft you will be flying on. Although it varies from airline to airline, newer planes tend to be more spacious and comfortable so try looking for flights using the Boeing 787 or Airbus A350.
Although most airlines have bigger seats in first or business class, these are higher priced and therefore not an option for all travellers. Instead, you can check out our page on the airlines with the biggest seats in economy, to find out which airline you will be most comfortable in. In addition, make sure you do your research before travelling, especially if your airline isn’t on that page, to find out the airlines with the widest economy seats.
Many airlines require you to have the armest down when the plane is ascending and descending. However, as soon as you can lift the armrest, as this can cause some discomfort during your flight journey.
It may be helpful to know that you are not alone as a plus size traveller. Read our interview with plus-size travel blogger Kirsty Leanne, to find out about her experiences and travel tips for plus size travellers.
The following list is some of the best airlines for plus-size travellers to use. This information is based upon many things, such as their policy, attitude and most importantly their seat size. However, the seat widths and sizes vary depending on the aircraft used, so be sure to check details such as aircraft type when booking. The average seat width in the economy tends to be around 17-18inches, so anything above that is considered more spacious.
Aegean Airlines is one of the only airlines which provide 18 inches of seat width in economy class on long-haul flights.
Although not ranked highly for economy class, this airline’s business and first class are a great option for passengers who are willing to spend a little more for their short-haul flights. With most aircraft in the fleet having seats with 21 inches of width, and 38 inches of seat pitch, the airline is roomy for short-haul flights.
Air Canada is one of the best airlines in the world for short-haul flights, with economy class seats in its Beechcraft 1900D being 20.2 inches wide. Air Canada’s policy (read more below) also means that obesity is classed as a disability, and so passengers are permitted to request an additional seat free of charge.
Bangkok Airlines is one of the best Asian airlines for plus-size passengers, with a seat width of 19.8 inches on three of its Airbus planes.
This Chinese Airline is only slightly behind Bangkok Airlines for Asian airlines, with seat width measuring 19.7 inches, with other planes in its fleet providing 19.5 inches. This airline is also great for its first and business class seats on short-haul flights, with most aircraft in the fleet providing around 24 inches of seat width.
Passengers flying domestically within the U.S. will be pleased to know that Delta does not require passengers to purchase an extra seat. In addition, they have been known to make extra efforts to seat plus-size travellers next to any extra seats for their own comfort.
JetBlue seats are slightly larger than average for economy class, but their premium economy class is where it really wins for plus size passengers. For only a small price increase, passengers can get so much value from the premium ticket, with seats with a 38-inch pitch and also priority boarding. In addition, JetBlue announced in 2018 that they do not require passengers to purchase an additional seat, as it is totally up to the passenger.
Looking for economy class seats for long haul flights with lots of room and good seat width? Look no further than Singapore Airlines, who provide 19 inches of seat width on many of their aircraft. Singapore Airlines is also roomy for long-haul business class seats, with seat width mostly at 30 to 28 inches.
It may surprise people that this ultra-low-cost airline is generous for its seat width. However, this airline provides passengers with 20 inches of seat width on many of their different aircraft, making it a great option for cheap North American and domestic flights.
United Airlines have the facility on some aircraft to provide special seating for passengers who are flying plus-sized. These larger seats have a maximum of 20.5 inches for the seat width, so it may be worth investigating which routes United fly with these seats to find out where you can be most comfortable.
This airline is considered one of the best for its short-haul economy seats. On the airline’s Boeing 767-300ER aircraft, passengers can enjoy 21.25 inches of seat width in the economy. In addition, its short-haul first class flights on the same aircraft have almost 24 inches of seat width!
The following list comprises some popular airlines, along with their policies regarding plus-size passengers
Air Canada is noted for having one of the best plus size traveller airline policies, partly due to the fact that obesity is recognised as a disability in Canada. Passengers can contact Air Canada directly at least 24 hours before departure and request special seats with liftable or removable armrests, additional space and legroom for when flying between the U.S. and Canada. For those flying elsewhere, passengers can request an extra seat when disabled by obesity.
Air France recommends that passengers purchase a second seat on the plane with them if their waist measurements are larger than the seat width. Passengers will then get an empty seat next to them to be able to be comfier and safer. If purchasing an additional seat in economy, passengers will receive a 25% discount when booking with Air France directly. In addition, if there are empty seats on the plane at the time of flying, passengers will reimburse the price of the second seat.
As part of their customers of size policy, Alaska requires passengers to purchase an additional seat who cannot easily and comfortably sit in their seat with the armrests down.
Passengers who do not fit into the 17.8-inch seat comfortably with the armrests down must purchase two seats at the time of booking. The airline will then assign two seats next to each other, free of charge.
American Airlines states on its website that passengers whose body extends more than 1 inch over the armrest, and a seatbelt extender is required, then passengers will need to purchase an additional seat. You should contact the airline directly when booking to make sure that you get 2 adjacent seats.
Passengers who cannot sit in their seat without fully lowering both armrests must purchase an additional seat when flying with British Airways.
Delta does not require passengers of size to book an additional seat on their flights, however, they do recommend it for passengers who need extra space.
Passengers have to purchase an additional seat if they will not be able to lower both armrests.
Finnair passengers can reserve an additional seat by calling Finnair customer services directly. Passengers will have to pay the airfare and fuel surcharge but not the tax.
Like Air France, KLM also offers passengers a 25% reduction on the second ticket price if they are purchasing a second seat and they can apply to get the ticket cost refunded if there are spare seats on the flight.
Passengers who need additional room on the 18inch Hawaiian Airlines planes are highly encouraged to book an additional seat in advance of flying.
Southwest Airlines simply has the best Customer of Size Policy. When flying with Southwest you can purchase an additional seat and then get a refund. You can also request an additional seat when you arrive at the check-in desk. Southwest Airlines seats are 17.5 inches wide.