How to Find a Size-Friendly Airline

The goal of this article is to help you find a size-friendly airline that will have comfortable seats and a welcoming attitude for plus size, big or tall travelers. This is a compilation of comments made about various airlines. It’s by no means exhaustive. Most airline seats are only 17″ wide. For detailed information which compares airline seat widths on various aircraft, find your airline and aircraft on SeatGuru.

Very Size-Friendly Airline


They will not require passengers to purchase additional seat and they will try to seat a larger passenger next to an empty seat; however, the passenger may be asked to move or take a later flight if the original flight is full. A statement on their website recommends that larger passengers purchase an additional seat.

Hawaiian Airlines

Very friendly to big folks. This airlines goes out of their way to make you comfortable, arranging for extra seats at no cost when available. If no extra seats available, a passenger must purchase an upgrade or second seat.

Somewhat Size-Friendly Airline

Air Canada

Their policy calls for a free extra seat to be available to passengers within Canada with medical approval. For flights outside of Canada, the fare for the extra seat will vary.

American Airlines/American Eagle Airlines

Friendly to big folks. If you ask, they will try to place an empty seat beside you (by “blocking” the empty seat on the computer). You may need to ask ahead for a seatbelt extender. Their policy requires very large people to purchase two seats at the same rate if they cannot fit within the seat with the armrests lowered and the seatbelt buckled with no more than one extender.

Continental (Merged with United Airlines)

Friendly to big folks. Their policy does require passengers to fit within one seat with the seat belt buckled using up to one seatbelt extender, or to purchase a second seat at the same fare as the original seat.

United Airlines

Friendly to big folks; but they require passengers to fit within one seat with the seat belt buckled using up to one seatbelt extender. If this is not possible, the policy is that the passenger must purchase a second seat for the same fare as the first seat.

Virgin America Airlines

Requires passengers to fit within one seat or to purchase second seat. If flight departs with empty seats, cost of second seat will be refunded to passenger upon request. Main cabin seats have a 32-inch seat pitch (distance between rows); however, seat pitch increases to 38 inches in their Main Cabin Select cabin and 55 inches in first class.

Not As Size-Friendly Airline

Jet Blue

They advertise that their seats are frequently wider than other airlines and that there is additional legroom; however, their policy requires passengers to purchase a second seat if they cannot lower the armrest. There is no refund if the flight is not full.

Southwest Airlines

Their policy is to require passengers to fit within one seat with the seat belt buckled using up to one seatbelt extender, either the seatbelt provided by the flight attendant or a seatbelt extender that you bring with you. If this is not possible, they encourage the customer of size to purchase a refundable second seat at the lowest fair available. They can request a refund after the flight. Here’s how it works: Customers of size who cannot sit in a 17″ wide seat without lifting the armrest can purchase a refundable second seat. They must see a Customer Service Agent when they check in to obtain an Extra Seat Boarding document as well as the documents which will be required for their refund (a Reserved Seat Document and a Refund Advice Slip) for the additional seat(s) purchased. Customers with an Extra Seat Boarding document can preboard or board with all other passengers.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines’ policy is to require passengers to purchase an additional seat before boarding if they cannot comfortably fit within one seat (17″ for coach and 21″ for first class) with armrests in the down position. If the need for the second seat is discovered after the customer has boarded, the customer will have to leave the plane and book two seats on the next available flight. Customers will be eligible for a refund after the flight if there was a open seat available on the flight. Seatbelt length is about 46 inches; but, if available from the flight attendant, a seatbelt extender will add 25 inches to the length.

Original copyright held by Stef Jones ([email protected]). Article updated by GrandStyle.

2 thoughts on “How to Find a Size-Friendly Airline

Comments are closed.