Am I too fat to fly? The most important tips

Nadia Podrabinek Nadia Podrabinek

Written by Nadia Podrabinek

Am I too fat to fly?

If you want to know what flying is like when you are plus size, I will share some tips for flying when you are fat, overweight, fluffy, bigger person, or whatever-term-you-use-to-describe-yourself.

But first, let me say that you deserve to travel, the best life, and you are amazing just the way you are. No matter your size that should not limit you in this life.

What people say on Reddit

Some of that can be down to the seats. I’ve never used a belt extender a day in my life, but as a 6’5 football player sized man, I’m usually 4inches or so from the end. I boarded a flight last month that damn near broke my streak, it was a struggle to get it buckled. But I could tell is was not a normal seat. Flight back days later was no problem as usual.


Frankly, I think airplane seats in general are ridiculously narrow. I’m not obese but even I find them uncomfortable. I’ve heard that during the past 50 years, airplane seats have become something like 7 inches narrower. I don’t like debates such as the one about whether obese people should pay for adjacent seats or not because they conveniently overshadow the far more pressing issue that airline companies are basically trying to squeeze us into their airplanes like sardines in a can. The ever-decreasing level of service and luxury for paying customers is a huge problem in my opinion and it can be so easily pushed out of sight by such irrelevant but highly sensationalist proxy debates where people can bicker over for hours and forget the truly important issues.


I flew Southwest several times and had to ask for a seatbelt extender, never once did they give me any attitude or try to make a big deal of it. When they walked past, as they do several times while boarding, I just flagged one down and asked for a seatbelt extender and they gave me one without flashing it around for every one to see. I wouldn’t worry too much.


I know it’s scary but really the flight attendants are so nice! I always get the first boarding available so I ask for an extender as soon as I step on and they discreetly give it to me. And if people hear, who cares! They can see that you’re bigger and you need to be safe so a seatbelt extender is not big deal. I don’t always need one but I still get one just for it to be easier to use. Have a great flight!!


Choosing the airline you want to fly with

There are several different things about each airline.

In my opinion, Southwest Airlines is in the top 3 choices, and they are plus-size-friendly because of their particular “The Customer of Size Policy.” 

So here is how it works. If you need multiple seats and you know that, you can do one of two things

  1. Purchase multiple seats ahead of time, and when your trip is concluded, you can ask for a refund for those seats.
  2. When you get to the airport on the day of your flight, go to the gate agent and ask them if there is an empty seat they can give you. And if there is room available, they will provide you with extra seats free of charge. 
    Tip Do not be afraid of talking to the gate agent! They can usually tell you how full your flight is.
AirlineBuying additional seatPolicy URL
American AirlinesSecond seat is required if you are greater than 1 inch outside of the armrests and need a seatbelt
AlaskaSecond seat is required, with a possibility of a
DeltaNot required, and you can ask to be reseated next to an empty seat. If not, you will need to upgrade to First or Business Class. The Economy seat width is 17.2”click
FrontierRequired to book two seats prior to
HawaiianRequired to book two seats prior to
SouthwestRequired, but you can also wait until the day of the flight to ask if there is an additional complimentary seat. Refunds are also
UnitedRequired if certain criteria are not met:
– You must be able to properly attach, buckle and wear the seat belt, with one extension.
– Stay seated with the seat armrest(s) down.
– You must not significantly encroach upon the adjacent seating space.
British AirwaysRequired if you cannot fully lower both
RyanairRequired. Note that in many cases the seats do not

Choosing the seats tips and tricks

1. Avoid middle seats

The middle seat is usually the most uncomfortable (but if you are flying with someone you know, sitting in the middle is not too bad). 

2. Avoid the exit row if you wear a seatbelt extender

Using a seatbelt extender, you want to avoid the exit row. With most airlines, if you wear a seatbelt extender or need one, you are not allowed to sit in the exit row. 

3. Learn about the seats on

You might wonder, “How will I be able to tell before I am even on a plane what the seat is like? Other questions are “How am I going to be able to tell the seat’s dimensions or if the seat has an armrest that does not go up and down, or if it has an extra legroom or not.”

Well, here is the only answer for you – It is a game changer for all overweight people trying to find information about the seats before the flight.

With this website, all you need to know is your flight number, the airline you are flying with, and that is it.

You can choose seats there, which will tell you if they have an armrest, TV screen, power outlet, and, most importantly, seat dimensions.

4. Choose seats towards the front of the plane

Try to get seats that are up towards the front. That way, you have a shorter distance to walk when you are coming in boarding, and you will also get off the plane easier.

5. Bring a pair of slip-on shoes

Another helpful trick is to bring a pair of shoes you can easily put back on after you go through security checks.

6. Pack a change of clothes and the essentials just in case

If your luggage is to be lost, being prepared gives you peace of mind.

7. Do not try to shrink yourself when you are traveling

If you want to go to the bathroom or give some blood flow in your legs or you need to stretch, do that! You deserve to be comfortable too!

8. Put on some compression socks if the flight is long

9. Turn on a good playlist or read a good book

Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. If you have anxiety before the flight, bring things that will help you relax and stay calm.

Read also: What Happens If You Don’t Put Your Phone in Airplane Mode?

Using seatbelt extenders

If you are reading this article, you have probably heard of seatbelt extenders. 

What even is the seatbelt extender? Well, it is self-explanatory, but if you do not know, it is an extension that will clip into your seatbelt and extend it so you will have more room than with the standard seatbelt.

All airlines must have seatbelt extenders on hand, and you will probably never face the situation when there are no seatbelt extenders. Do not be shy or anxious; ask for it. And if you are worried about it, buy one on Amazon (choose FAA-approved ones); they are super affordable, $13-$30.

Arriving at the airport

It is usually recommended you get to the airport two hours early. But if you are plus-sized, the biggest tip you can get is to give yourself as much extra time as possible!

If you have trouble walking long distances, you can call the day before you go to the airport that you have wheelchair assistance (which means that the airport staff will help you and transport you to and from your gates). Technically, they are not allowed even to ask you why. It is free and available, and there is no need to feel ashamed about it.


No matter if you are non-disabled, disabled, in a bigger body, whatever it is, if you feel that you will need more time getting on the plane – go ahead and pre-board. Pre-boarding is available to anyone who needs that accommodation, allowing you to get on a plane first. 

Plus size friendly airlines

  • Air Canada
  • EasyJet
  • JetBlue Airways
  • British Airways
  • Qantas Airlines
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines (the best customer of size policy!)
  • United Airlines (avoid smaller planes!)
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Delta

Frequent questions on flying overweight

How long are seat belts on airplanes?

The average airline seatbelt extends 45 inches, with a seatbelt extender giving you an additional 25 inches.

Will I fit in an airplane seat with the size 22?

In most cases yes, you will fit the seat. Can be tight on Economy class. If you know what plane you are going, you can see seat dimensions on

My size is 20, will I fit in an airplane seat with?

You will be fine. Check the Seatguru website to be 100% sure.

I am a bigger person, size 24-26-28. Will I fit in an airplane seat?

You will probably need to buy two coach seats and ask for a seatbelt extender (or to have yours). Remember, two coach seats are generally much cheaper and more spacious than a single first class seat.

Just for fun: How much does a plane weigh?

Most commercial aircrafts weigh between 31,000 and 127,000 pounds (14,000 kg – 57,600 kg).


One reply on “Am I too fat to fly? The most important tips”

Sorry, but what is this ‘size 22’ you were referring to? Is it European women’s pant size?
What does that translate to in waistline inches?

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