The three main things that most affect airline comfort for a big passenger are seatbelt extenders, seat space and restroom facilities.
How to Get More Airline Comfort for a Big Passenger
If the seatbelt on an airplane doesn’t fit you, you need to use a seatbelt extender. All airplanes carry them — flight attendants use them to demonstrate how to fasten your seatbelt. Airlines win points from their passengers for being discreet and polite with seatbelt extenders. If you get a pre-assigned seat, you may be able to ask the airline or your travel agent to put an extender on the belt for that seat in advance. Otherwise, you can ask the flight attendant for one.
Some airlines require customers to use the seatbelt extenders provided by the individual airline. You may not be able to use your own seatbelt extender. However, if you want to purchase your own extender, Amazon sells various styles of seatbelt extenders that work with the various styles of airplane seatbelts.
Seat size varies from plane to plane (even within the same airline and model). New planes are likely to have similar-sized seats. But if an airline uses older planes or a variety of models, there’s no predicting what size the seats will be. The airline service reps can tell you the type of plane that you will be flying on. Propeller and turbo-prop planes tend to have narrower seats than jets. Editor’s Note: Check out SeatGuru for seat measurements on airline body types of all major airlines.
- Bulkhead or door seats do not have a row of seats in front of them, so you get more leg room, and no one will lower their chair into your face. However, the tray tables fold out of the arm rests and you can’t raise the arm rests.
- On a small plane with no physical divider between first class and coach, the seats directly behind the first class seats tend to have the same pluses and minuses as bulkhead seats.
- On a larger plane, such as a 767 or 777, the seats tend to be about an inch wider and there may have as much as two extra inches of legroom.
- On all sizes of planes, exit row seats sometimes have more leg room. First class or business class seats tend to be wider with more leg room, but the arm rests usually can’t be raised.
Tips to Get a Wider Seating Area
The size of the seat and the legroom make a big difference in the airline comfort for a big passenger. To get a few extra inches of space, board as soon as possible, and when you sit down, immediately lift the arm rest. If someone sits next to you, they generally won’t bother to put the arm rest back down, and you’ll both have more room.
To increase your chance of having an empty seat next to you, try the following:
- Travel on middle of the week flights and red-eye (late night) flights, which are rarely full.
- Ask to be seated in an aisle or window seat toward the back of the plane (they fill the plane from front to back). However, note that the seats in the last row usually don’t recline.
- If you are traveling with someone, ask for a window and an aisle in the same row. If someone ends up in the middle, they will probably be happy to switch with one of you.
- Tell the airline when you make your reservation that you’re a large person and ask to be seated next to an empty seat.
- Check in early (usually the gate check-in opens an hour before the flight) and ask to be seated next to an empty seat. You don’t need to explain why you want one because people of all sizes want to move their seats…and asking to be seated next to an empty seat is a common request.
If you are very large, some airlines require you to buy two seats which may, or may not, be refundable. Call ahead so they don’t surprise you at the gate. Some airlines will sell you the second seat for half price. Others will only make you buy the second seat if the flight is full. It might be cheaper to ask for an upgrade into a section of the plane where there is greater distance between the seats and rows.
Getting Comfortable on the Airplane
Airplane tray tables restrict airline comfort for a big passenger. They get in the way of the stomachs of some people. Try these solutions:
- If you’re seated next to an empty seat, use that seat’s table.
- Tilt your seat all the way back.
- Balance the tray on a pillow on your lap.
- Bring your own food and avoid using the tray table.
- Ask the person seated beside you if you can put your drink on their table.
Airplane restrooms are very small and often uncomfortable for some larger bodies. Depending on where you carry your weight, some restrooms may be impossible for you to use. Consider these two tips:
- When reserving your seats, request a seat near the disabled-access restroom. These restrooms tend to be a little larger and provide a little more entry and exit room for larger bodies.
- Try to avoid having to use the restroom altogether, using the airport restroom immediately before and after your flight.
Original copyright held by Stef Jones ([email protected]). Article content updated by GrandStyle.
GrandStyle also has great tips on selecting a size-friendly airline.