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Portly Problems

Airline Guide for Plus-Size Travelers

Are you asking yourself

“When do you have to buy TWO seats on an airline?”

A comparative look at major airlines in the United States and their policies for portly passengers.Plane seat sizes seem to baffle even the smallest of individuals. With speculations about Airlines trying to gain more money by shrinking seat sizes to add more seats to the plane, there is one thing all travelers can agree on… airplane seats are uncomfortable. For the Portly and Plus Size traveler, the confusion about seat policies, seat belt extenders, and many other unanswered questions continue to swirl amongst the ever so shrinking seats.

So to help you we researched and ranked all of the United States major airline policies for overweight travelers based on seat sizing, obesity policies and any additional information provided to customers for passengers of size. All information was gathered for economy size seating for equal comparison.

To learn more about each airline you can click on their names to be taken to a page with an easy to follow infographic and breakdown of the individual policies. 


10. Frontier Airlines

Frontier Airlines starts off the list of airlines for plus-size travelers. They offer two of the largest seat options on this list. However, there is no known information provided to customers about the seatbelt and extender lengths on their website or through customer service putting Frontier at the bottom of our list.

Frontier Airlines policy for obese passengers states that if a passenger cannot put down the armrest and/or they overlap into the seat next to them Frontier request the passenger to purchase a second seat. However, they do state that passengers can be moved for their comfort on flights that are not fully booked.

While there are many opinions about Frontier Airlines they do offer some of the cheapest flights currently on the market which can make them very appealing to travelers. For portly and plus size travelers the information about seat sizing can help determine their budget and comfort when choosing flights.

Frontier Airlines Seat Size: 18.1 inches wide (aisle & window seats)

                                       19.3 inches wide (middle seat)

@flyfrontier offers passengers one of the largest seats on our portly passengers' lists. See where they compare to other airlines on our list. #travel #airlineinfo Click To Tweet

9. Spirit Airlines

Spirit airlines seat size is dependent on the aircraft model, but they offer the largest seats on our list. For the convenience of customers, they have provided a detailed list of each aircraft model with the measurements of their seats. This can be helpful if you know which aircraft you are on or looking to book a flight with, however, the coding of aircrafts can be confusing making the guide not as useful for new travelers vs. seasoned travelers.

Spirit airlines seat belt size is not available. While they do offer seat belt extenders, you can’t use them in every seat on the plane. They state that if you are in a seat with an inflatable seatbelt, flight attendants will move you to another location on the flight.

Spirit airlines policy for obese passengers states customers of size must purchase a second seat “to accommodate a guest of size who encroaches on an adjacent seat area and/or is unable to sit in a single seat with the armrests lowered.”

Compared to Frontier these options move Spirit to ninth place on our list.


8. United Airlines

United Airline’s policy for obese passengers states that they require a request for seat belt extenders before boarding. Since the majority of travelers are one time a year or new to traveling this can deter many individuals from using United as their airline due to the many online options for ordering travel these days.

Despite having the seat belt size available for plus size travelers online many of us, unfortunately, do not realize that we need an extender until we attempt to buckle once seated.

United Airlines Seat Size: 17-18.3 inches wide (from armrest to armrest)

United Airlines Seat Belt Size: 31 inches

United Airlines Seat Belt Extender: 25 inches

The majority of travel is by once a yr or new travelers, a plus size traveler may not know that @United requires passengers to request their seat belt extenders prior to boarding. #plussize #traveltip Click To Tweet

7. Delta Airlines

When we think of airlines there are usually 4 major airlines that have made their mark in the United States over the last few decades. Delta is one of them, they offer many perks with Skymiles and have their own credit card.

However, they are also one of the smaller seat sizes and seat belt extenders on our list. Despite the perks and skymiles, for customers of size these necessities could cause an issue when flying.

Delta Airlines policy for obese passengers states that you can ask to be moved to a seat next to an empty seat or you can purchase an upgrade to first/business class seating. You do not have to purchase a second seat unless you want too for your own comfort.

Delta offers passengers many perks, they do, however, have one of the smaller seat sizes in this list. Combining the shortness of their seat belt extenders, Delta can be an uncomfortable ride for anyone of size.

Delta Airlines Seat Size: 17.2 inches wide (from armrest to armrest)

Delta Airlines Seat Belt Size: between 35 to 38 inches

Delta Airlines Seat Belt Extender: 12 inches

@Delta has one of the smallest seats and shortest seat belt extenders compared to the other major airlines. #travel #plussize Click To Tweet

6. American Airlines

American Airlines provides plus size travelers with a breakdown of their aircraft fleets seat sizes, letting customers have a chance to know the exact sizes of their airplanes seats. You can look up your airplane model here (http://bit.ly/AA_Seats).

However, they do not provide information about their airline’s seat belt extender sizes. While American Airlines seat belt length is marked at 45 inches they do state that they do provide the option for an extender.

American Airlines policy for obese passengers states a second seat is required if a customer’s body extends more than 1 inch beyond the outermost edge of the armrest and a seat belt extension is needed.

@AmericanAir provide a breakdown of their fleets seat sizes ranking them #6 on our list of airline recommendations for plus size passengers. #travel #plussize Click To Tweet

5. Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines lands in the middle of our list. While they do not have flights across the entire country they do offer plus size travelers with one of the largest seat belt lengths and extenders. The policy for seat belt extenders requires passengers to only use Alaska airline extenders and that if you are in an exit row you will be moved to a different location within the plane.

Alaska Airlines policy for obese passengers states that they require an additional seat purchase if you cannot sit comfortably in a seat with both armrest down. This is a growing theme in the airlines landing this policy verbiage as a single qualifier for our list.

Alaska Airlines Seat Size: 17 inches wide

Alaska Airlines Seat Belt Size: 46 inches

Alaska Airlines Seat Belt Extender: 25 inches


4. Allegiant Airlines

You may not have heard of Allegiant Airline unless you travel a lot in the South. For us, we learned about Allegiant on our trip to Savannah, Georgia where we learned that they accept animals in the cabin of their planes. While this information did not persuade us to put them at the top of our list it was nice to learn that hopefully, we can take Maggie with us someday and not put her in cargo.

Allegiant Airlines policy for obese passengers states that passengers who cannot lower the armrest or who compromise any portion of an adjacent seat should purchase a second ticket during their reservation.

Their seat sizes are similar to Southwest, however, there was no information about seat belt extenders available. While you can ask for one from a flight attendant it’s unclear on the size or if you could use your own. This places Allegiant at number 4 on our list.

Allegiant Airlines Seat Size: 17.8 inches

Allegiant Airlines Seat Belt Size: 40 inches

Allegiant Airlines Seat Belt Extender: Unknown


3. Southwest Airlines

If you are traveling in the United States, Southwest provides plus size passengers with one of the larger seating options along with one of the longest seat belt options.

Southwest Airlines policy for obese passengers does not assign seats at check-in, therefore it offers plus size travelers a chance to find two vacant seats next to each other without always having to purchase a second seat if the flight is not full.

Southwest Airlines Seat Size: 17.8 inches wide (from armrest to armrest)

Southwest Airlines Seat Belt Size: 39 inches

Southwest Airlines Seat Belt Extender: 24 inches

@Southwestair is number 3 on our list of friendly portly passenger airlines, see where other airlines rank. #travel #plussize Click To Tweet

2. Hawaiian Airlines

In 2016, federal courts stated that Hawaiian Airlines was not being discriminative towards passengers of size when they started moving passengers based on their size for better balance within the plane. There was no policy information on the companies website as of 2018 about these changes, therefore, we could not take it into account.

Hawaiian Airlines offers one of the largest seat belt sizes in this list allowing for plus size passengers to have more comfort and less embarrassment when needing to ask for an extender. Hawaiian Airlines policy for obese passengers states that they will look for an alternative seat on your flight if you cannot sit comfortably with the armrest lowered.

By providing a customer the possibility of not needing to spend some additional money for a second seat combined with their larger seats and seat belts this placed Hawaiian Airlines second on our list.

Hawaiian Airlines Seat Size: 18 Inches

Hawaiian Airlines Seat Belt Size: 51 inches

Hawaiian Airlines Seat Belt Extender: 20 inches


1. JetBlue Airlines

JetBlue was recently ranked one of the worst airlines in America, the factors that determined that ranking have no implication into why we chose JetBlue to be the number 1 Airline for Portly Passengers.

Jetblue Overweight Passenger Policy Chat

JetBlue offers passengers one of the largest seat sizes in economy seating for overweight passengers. Their website does not offer any information about the purchasing of two tickets for plus size travelers so we chatted with a customer service agent to get the exact answer. Jetblue does not have a policy for overweight passengers and asked that customers choose on their own.

Because of Jetblue Airlines policy for obese passengers allows travelers to determine their own needs this puts a lot of accountability on the travelers themselves. This also lets plus-size travelers feel one less thing of being judged upon while traveling.

The combination of Jetblues policy for plus size travelers, larger seat sizes, longer seat belts, and extenders put them at the top of the list of seating for plus size travelers.

Jetblue Airlines Seat Size: 17.8-18.25 inches wide (from armrest to armrest)

Jetblue Airlines Seat Belt Size: 45 inches

Jetblue Airlines Seat Belt Extender: 25 inches

@jetblue is one of the best airlines for portly passengers, click to learn more about what they offer passengers of size in their seating options. #travel #plussize Click To Tweet

The Portly PassengersThe Portly Passengers provides plus size inclusive travel tips and advice for anyone who is looking to explore the world. From seat sizes on airplanes to exploring museums, restaurants, and nature Melissa & Peter have the experience and stories to help guide you through it.

Melissa & Peter are a couple of goofballs who are in love with traveling & each other.

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