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finding airline comfort for a big passenger

3 Ways to Increase Airline Comfort for a Big Passenger

The three main things that most affect airline comfort for a big passenger are seat belt extenders, seat space and restroom facilities.

How to Get More Airline Comfort for a Big Passenger

Seat Belt Extenders

If the seat belt on an airplane doesn’t fit you, you need to use a seat belt extender. All airplanes carry them — flight attendants use them to demonstrate how to fasten your seat belt. Airlines win points from their passengers for being discreet and polite with seat belt 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 seat belt extenders provided by the individual airline. You may not be able to use your own seat belt extender. However, if you want to purchase your own extender, Amazon sells various styles of seat belt extenders that work with the various styles of airplane seat belts.

Seat Space

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 how wide the seats will be or the amount of pitch (legroom). 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.
  • Small plane with no physical divider between first class and coach, has seats directly behind the first class seats which tend to have the same pluses and minuses as bulkhead seats.
  • Larger plane, such as a 767 or 777, has seats which tend to be about an inch wider. 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.

Restroom Facilities

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 comfortable seat on a size-friendly airline. Need more travel info? Check out GrandStyle’s recent plus size travel posts.

aisle inside airplane

5 Steps to Getting a Comfortable Airline Seat

Small seats, limited legroom and planes packed to capacity all can keep you from getting a comfortable airline seat, particularly if you are a plus size passenger.

Planning Leads to a Comfortable Airline Seat

Traveling on an airplane does not have to be uncomfortable. With a little planning, you can meet the challenges of airline travel by following a few time-tested tips:

  1. Select a size-friendly airline – Some airlines are more sensitive to the plus size traveler. Others are just plain rude. GrandStyle has a helpful recap of which airlines treat big people well.
  2. Schedule flights during non-busy times – Weekday evening and overnight flights usually have fewer passengers than an early morning or late afternoon flight. Less passengers increases your chance of having an empty seat next to you — which will certainly give you a more comfortable flight.
  3. Research size-friendly seat accommodations before booking the flight – Each style of airplane has a different seat layout — seat 10B could be an aisle seat on some airlines and a middle seat on other airlines. The airline can tell you the type of aircraft used on a specific flight and you can research the airplane’s layout on the airline’s website or on a seat research site such as SeatGuru or check out the legroom info provided by CheapFlights.com. Knowing the plane’s layout will help you to arrange for a comfortable seat.
  4. Eat and use the restroom before boarding – Eating, drinking and using the restroom during a flight can be an uncomfortable situation for a plus size body. The tray table may not lay down completely flat, making it difficult to use with food and drinks. Airplane restrooms are very small and may be too small for some passengers to use.
  5. Board early – Take advantage of the opportunity for early boarding. Having a little extra time can come in handy getting down the jet way, settling into your seat or getting your seat belt extender ready-to-use.

For More Help and Ideas on Plus Size Airline Travel

Need more travel info? Check out GrandStyle’s recent plus size travel posts.

Plus Size Travel: 10 Tips for Better Trips

Traveling under any circumstance can be trying; but, plus size travel can be downright disheartening.

Challenges of Plus Size Travel

Plus size travel can be difficult for several reasons:

  • Seating may be uncomfortable…or worse yet, it may not be structurally safe. (Breaking a chair in a restaurant can be really embarrassing!)
  • Activities might be restricted…either by your preferences (“I don’t think I would look good doing that”) or by weight or size restrictions (“The weight limit for this ride is 250 pounds.”).
  • Spontaneity is not possible…you need to do a lot of pre-planning to make sure that you will “fit” in your vacation.

But, don’t give up. Travel can be fun. And, it can be easy. You just need to plan ahead, do a little research, ask a lot of questions and don’t be afraid to step up and do what is necessary for you to have a good time.

Planning for Better Plus Size Travel

Planning is key to having a good time on your next travel adventure:

  • Research accommodations before you leave home. The key is to know what you are going to see before you see it.
    – Looking for a wide airline seat? Ask the airline reservation clerk for the type of plane (i.e. Boeing 747) to be used for the flight you are considering. Then, use Seat Guru to check the seat dimensions of that type of plane.
    – Want to find a centrally-located hotel so that you can avoid a lot of walking? Check the hotel’s website for info on transportation to nearby attractions. Use Google Maps to determine the distances between your prospective hotel and specific attractions you plan to visit.
    – Going to a theme park with the kids? Check out our theme park tips here on GrandStyle and call or email to the park’s customer service people to check out their special accommodations for larger visitors such as electric scooters, rides without weight restrictions or larger size clothes in gift shops.
  • Plan ahead for fashion shopping. Do a little Internet searching to find the stores that carry your size at your travel destination. Going to be in Europe or Asia and want to shop for clothes or shoes? Know what size your dress and shoe size converts to using the sizing guidelines of your travel destination.

Make Your Own Good Time

  • Try new things. Don’t avoid activities just because of your weight. If you are over the weight limit for para-sailing or zip line adventures, then try something else that you’ve never done before like jet skis or a gourmet cooking class.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. You won’t be happy and having a good time if your feet hurt.
  • Speak up. Ask for what you need. Is your assigned bathroom too small in your hotel or cruise ship room? Ask for a disability accessible stateroom. They are bigger, giving you more room to move around, and they are usually closer to the elevator (cuts down on the amount of walking you have to do!).
  • Don’t squeeze into a seat if you don’t have to. Select an airline flight with a plane that has wider seats. When being seated in a casual restaurant, ask for a table instead of a booth. Renting a car? Try it out for size BEFORE you “sign on the dotted line” of the rental agreement.
  • Use seat belt extenders to be more comfortable in a car or on a plane.

Get Involved in the Fun

  • Take snacks. Changing time zones, long flights, being in hotel rooms without a fridge can all cause you to be hungry between the local meal times. It’s hard to find nutritious snacks on the road; so, to avoid getting stuck at a fast food joint, everyone (not just kids) should have ready access to fruit, protein bars, zero calorie drink powders or other healthy snacks.
  • Don’t hesitate to show bare skin in the summer. Wear a swimsuit. Show your bare arms. The key is to enjoy your vacation and stop worrying about what other people might think.
  • Make sure you are in your travel pictures. Don’t avoid pictures because of your weight. Instead, hand the camera or cell phone to someone else and let someone else capture the fun moments of your trip – with you in the center of the fun!

Enjoy your trip!