Am I Too Fat to Fly?

Airlines seat and seat belt sizes vary. Therefore, you may not fit into some, and the airline might require you to pay for a second seat. 

Meanwhile, other airlines will help you out by providing seat belt extenders or offering a larger chair for the same price if one is vacant.

We often hear about incidents where people get into embarrassing situations because of their weight. So, the anxiety about flying and sitting next to someone is entirely understandable if you’re overweight.

Yet, whether you are obese or just plus-sized, confirming the measurements, such as the chair size, is the best option to avoid getting into trouble on the day of your trip.

But, you should know that for some airlines, you can be too fat to fly. Airlines will require you to buy two seats in such a scenario. 

However, chair size and seat belt lengths vary from airline to airline. And so do the airlines’ and flight crews’ policies on obese passengers.

So, let’s take a look at whether you can sit comfortably in an airplane chair.  

Who is too Big to Fly?

Many people can be too big for an airplane chair, and it doesn’t always have to do with weight. Overall, whether you can fit into a plane chair depends on the size of your body.  

Thus, it’s not only people who are obese who can not comfortably fit into a standard chair. Factors such as height or bigger than average proportions can make it hard for someone to fly. 

Read Also >> Can You Bring Your Own Seat Belt Extender on a Plane?

How Do You Know When You are too Fat?

When the seat belt extender of the airline chair does not fit, airlines can not permit flyers to ride on the plane. You also have to have both the armrests lowered to be able to sit in a single seat. 

Obesity Policies for U.S. Airlines

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines does not allow a fat person to bring their own belt extenders. But if the belt does not accommodate them, a flight attendant will provide an extension of 25 cm (9.8 inches).

For their customers who cannot fit in their seats with both armrests down, they require the purchase of an extra chair. However, on Alaska Airlines flights, they will give you a refund if your flight in each direction departed with an open seat. 

American Airlines

American Airlines offers support to those who have unique needs. Thus, even when applying online, you can navigate to the options for special assistance so they can facilitate you accordingly.

But, you will have to apply a bit early to book adjacent seats. And, when they aren’t available, they will offer you a business class chair since they’re larger than a standard economy seat. 

Delta Airlines

Flight attendants at Delta Airlines provide belt extensions but do not allow passengers to bring their own belt extender. You can also ask them to give you a spot next to an empty seat. 

But, if these options don’t work, you can pay for first-class or book an extra seat on the same flight.

Frontier Airlines

For Frontier Airlines, if you can’t put both armrests into the down position, they cannot transport you unless you buy two adjacent seats. 

United Airlines

With United Airlines, large customers must purchase an additional chair beforehand. Because if the matter of accommodation arises on the day of departure, the customer will have to pay the fare difference for the extra seat available on that day.

Another option is, of course, business class, which has wider seats and extra space. But, you’ll have to pay a bit more than for economy class.  

Belt Lengths for Various Airlines

Here are the lengths of the seatbelt for various major airlines and the seatbelt extenders they offer. So, this data is all you need to know whether you need to buy an additional seat or the standard one will suffice.

Alaska Airlines4625
American Airlines4515
Delta Airlines4012
Hawaii Airlines5120
Southwest Airlines3924
United Airlines3125

Obesity Policies for Non-U.S. Airlines

Most airlines outside of the U.S. have different policies for accommodating customers of size. 

For instance, most Canadian airlines observe the one-person-one-fare policy. So that if the customer needs an additional seat for comfort and safety, they get the adjacent chair without paying for the second spot.

Also, some airlines in Europe, such as Air France, offer a 25 percent discount on the second seat. And if the airplane takes off with a vacant seat, you can ask for a full refund, so you get the same rate as anyone else.  

Tips for Flying if You’re Overweight 

  • Buy an aisle seat if possible – Many overweight passengers find the aisle side more comfortable and avoid the middle seat if they can. You can also ask to switch seats with the aisle passenger or with someone else so you can sit near a child or skinny person. 
  • Book an early morning flight – These flights usually don’t have as many other passengers, so there’s more of a chance that you can get two seats together. 
  • Lose weight – Of course, losing weight is not always possible, but many people make it a goal to lose some pounds before a trip so they can fit in the airline seats. 
  • Look at flight deals – If you need the adjacent seat area and thus have to buy two coach seats, deals can save you a lot of money. Flying off-season also gives you lots of bargains. 
  • Earn airline miles – If you are an overweight person, it’s probably better to earn air miles so you can easily pay for an extra seat. This option is best if you are a frequent flier so you can save money. Or, try a shorter flight, so you don’t have to pay as much. 
  • Get to the airport early – If you aren’t in good shape, you should give yourself more time to get around the airport. 
  • Print your boarding pass – Printing your passes will easily prove that you have more than one seat on the plane. 
  • Go to the bathroom before you get on a long-haul flight – Obese people will have a harder time fitting in the tiny airplane bathrooms, so go beforehand, especially if you’re on a longer flight. 
  • Pack light – Plus-sized clothing can be a bit heavier than the clothes of other people. So, you should pack lighter than most. 


Airline policies vary, but for all U.S. airlines, the rules are pretty much the same. 

Of course, you may believe that the rules are unfair since they discriminate against large-sized people. However, as of now, no U.S. government agencies have made rules to make airlines cater to all customers. 

Thus, you must, unfortunately, deal with the current seat width and airline rules.