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 by larger passengers. It’s by no means exhaustive.

Most airline seats are only 17″ wide with a pitch (distance between rows) as short as 28.” For detailed information which compares airline seat widths and pitches on various aircraft, find your airline and aircraft on SeatGuru. On the day of departure you should recheck if the type of aircraft is changed at the last minute and then recheck the seat width and pitch on the newly-assigned aircraft.

Very Size-Friendly Airlines


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

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 are 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 who have 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 airline’s computer. You may need to ask ahead for a seat belt 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, they require the seat belt to be 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, the passenger can 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 seat belt 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). Seat pitch increases to 38 inches in their Main Cabin Select cabin and 55 inches in First Class.

Not As Size-Friendly Airlines

Jet Blue

They advertise that their seats are “frequently” wider than other airlines and that there is additional legroom. Be sure to check the seat width of your scheduled aircraft on SeatGuru. Jet Blue’s policy requires passengers to purchase a second seat if they cannot lower the armrest. There is no refund on the second seat if the flight is not full. Tip: Don’t rely on the boarding agent to “guarantee” an open seat next to you. If the seat next to you is assigned, and if the boarding agent can not/will not reseat you next to an open seat, you might need to purchase your two seats in a more expensive section of the airplane.

Southwest Airlines

Their policy is to require passengers to fit within one seat with the seat belt buckled using up to one seat belt extender, either the seat belt provided by the flight attendant or a seat belt 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. The passenger 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 a Reserved Seat Document and a Refund Advice Slip which will be required for their refund 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. However, if a 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. Seat belt length is about 46 inches; but, if available from the flight attendant, a seat belt extender will add 25 inches to the length.

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

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