Air travel is one of the greatest innovations of our time. By taking a flight, you are usually able to get from Point A to Point B in a fraction of the time that it would take to travel by train, ship, bus, or car. If you travel on one of the best airlines for plus-size passengers, the trip can be comfortable, too!
Air travel has unlocked a world of traveling opportunities for people all over the world, and there is no doubt that it is the best way to travel internationally. While flights offer significant advantages over other travel methods, they are not everyone’s favorite way to get around.
Depending on the aircraft type (usually either a Boeing 737 Max or an Airbus A 320), many airplanes have tighter cabins and a smaller-than-average seat size, which can make things very uncomfortable for overweight passengers. These conditions often cause passengers of all sizes to prefer to travel by train, bus, or another method of transportation that has a bit more space.
The Best Airlines for Plus Size Passengers:
1. Delta Airlines
Delta Airlines is the best airline for plus-sized passengers. On top of being one of the most friendly airlines, Delta also has one of the largest average seat width figures in the industry. While some airlines may offer slightly wider seats, Delta’s generous seat selection policies guarantee that passengers have the chance to avoid middle seats, so long as they purchase a main cabin ticket.
This is especially valuable for international flights, as being able to select an aisle seat or a window seat for no additional cost makes a world of difference on long haul flights.
Delta Airlines also has some of the longest seat belts of any airline in the United States, which means many customers of size can leave their seatbelt extender at home. Delta also does not require overweight passengers to purchase an extra seat.
JetBlue is known predominantly for its affordable flights, but it should be equally known for having some of the widest economy seats in the industry! For plus size travelers, every inch of seat space matters. Airline seats are not known for being incredibly comfortable, and every inch of extra space makes a real difference.
While not quite a budget airline, Jet Blue offers one of the best combinations of affordable airfare and comfortable plane seats that you will find. On top of that, JetBlue does not require passengers to purchase a second seat if they need more space.
3. Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines is one of the most popular airlines in the United States, and that popularity doesn’t wain with obese passengers. The airline is famous for its generous luggage allowance and no assigned seat policy, Southwest’s customer of size policy is very clearly and cleanly laid out.
To some, the inability to select a seat at check-in is daunting. However, if you are able to guarantee early boarding, you will always be able to select whatever open seat you would like, including the ever-spacious exit row seats. While most other airlines charge extra fees to pre-select exit row seats, Southwest Airlines offers them on a first-come, first-served basis.
4. United Airlines
United Airlines is one of the top airlines in the United States, and they are an especially good option for domestic flights.
Like most other airlines, United Airlines does require overweight passengers to purchase an extra seat, and if a passenger is unable to fit fully in their seat with both armrests down, a flight attendant or gate agent will likely require them to purchase a second empty seat in consideration of their fellow passengers.
This can be a real problem on full flights. While this policy clearly means that United isn’t the best option for overweight passengers, their first class cabin offers many inches of extra legroom.
5. American Airlines
American Airlines is not the most comfortable airline for larger passengers, as they actually offer some of the smallest economy seats of any airline in the United States, and they also require overweight passengers to purchase extra seats.
However, there is more to consider when flying than just the seat size and quantity. American Airlines is one of the best-connected airlines in the United States, which means that it can often get you to your destination much faster than other airlines.
While American Airlines’ economy class seats may not accommodate your seating needs very well, being able to spend several fewer hours in the airplane as a whole can be a real advantage. If you contact a customer service agent to book your flight, the airline’s policy states that you will be granted adjacent seats at an identical rate.
6. Air Canada
Air Canada has the most generous seating policy in the North American aviation industry by far, but usually only within Canada. The airline defines obesity as a disability, and thus allows plus size passengers to request an additional seat free of charge. On top of that, Air Canada typically offers its passengers some of the widest seats of any airline.
While the airline’s policy is incredibly generous, it may not apply within the United States, and Air Canada’s network of flights is much smaller in the United States than it is in Canada.
7. Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines is one of the most questionable airlines on this list, as they do not even guarantee that overweight passengers will be able to fly on their ticketed flight. They also do not require bigger passengers to purchase an extra seat.
While the airline policies do state that the airline will do all that it can to accommodate overweight passengers, they specify that in some cases, these passengers may not be permitted to travel.
The kind effort they make to accommodate passengers could make Hawaiian Airlines a great option if you have the time to wait for the next flight, but if you can’t afford to buy a second seat or be asked to wait for a less full flight, Hawaiian Airlines might not be the best option for you.
8. Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines gets very mixed reviews, as passengers tend to have very conflicting opinions about budget airlines. Of the three true budget airlines on this list, Spirit is easily the best one for overweight passengers. This budget airline has always served us well, and they are not the worst option in the country for plus-sized passengers.
The typical Spirit airlines tray table is pretty tiny and useless, but this can be a great advantage for people who needs a couple of extra inches of seat pitch.
While long-haul flights on Spirit can be a bit uncomfortable, short-haul flights on Spirit are usually perfectly fine and offer great value. As a budget airline, you will likely need to bring your own seatbelt extension device if you need one, and you will need to pay extra if you want to avoid sitting in a middle seat.
9. Frontier Airlines
Frontier Airlines recently merged with Spirit, meaning that there may be a lot of impending change regarding the airline’s operations and policies. However, Frontier is generally regarded as a poor airline choice for larger passengers. Every single seat on the plane requires an additional fee to reserve, and they usually only offer 17-18 inches of width in their economy seats.
As Frontier does not offer any kind of first class or business class seats, the only wide seats on the plane are essentially premium economy, and there are not many of them. As with any budget airline, overweight travelers will likely need to bring their own seat belt extender if they need one, and taking a long flight on Frontier is not usually a great idea.
10. Sun Country Airways
Sun Country Airways is the smallest airline included on this list, but they are growing rapidly in market share. This little budget airline is usually considered to be on par with Frontier, meaning that it is not the best option for a plus-size traveler.
While the affordable airfare may be alluring, the mandatory purchase of additional seats often offsets the savings.
Best International Airlines for Overweight Passengers
The above list contained the best airlines that frequently fly within the United States, but there are a few other major airlines that stand out as great options for international travel for overweight passengers:
Headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, Emirates is one of the top airlines in the world. Its world-class service, comfortable cabins, and spacious seats are especially ideal for plus-sized passengers.
Germany’s national airline, Lufthansa is a great choice for overweight passengers. The seats are very comfortable, the flight attendants are especially kind in most cases, and the vast network of flights and partners means shorter overall time spent traveling in many cases.
3. Cathay Pacific
Headquartered in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific is one of the top airlines in the world. Seat sizes, service, and cabin space are all great on Cathay Pacific.
4. Singapore Airlines
Singapore’s national carrier is a great option for obese passengers flying to Southern Asia. Many direct flights to Singapore means less time spent laying over in international airports!
5. Air France
Air France is a great option for overweight passengers flying to Europe. As a member of the SkyTeam Alliance, you can expect stellar service while on Air France. Similar to Delta Air Lines, Air France is a top carrier that consistently exceeds expectations.
6. British Airways
British Airways, the main airline of the United Kingdom, is a great option for overweight American passengers flying from the east coast. Its hub in London is a short flight from major cities like New York and Boston, cutting travel times to Europe immensely.
Flight Tips for Plus Size Passengers
While choosing the right airline can greatly enhance your flight experience, there are several other things that you can do as a plus size passenger to experience the best flight possible.
1. Avoid Bulkhead Seats
Bulkhead seats are the seats located right behind the bulkhead, which is the thick transversal wall that cuts through the airplane from side to side. While these seats often have more legroom than others, the tray tables are stored in the armrests, which often cuts a bit into the seat width. While many travelers consider bulkhead seats to be among the best seats on the plane, this is usually not the case for passengers who need extra seat width.
2. Arrive at the Departure Gate Early
Only good things can happen from arriving early at the departure gate. From potential upgrades to additional time allowed to board your flight, there are many potential advantages that can arise from showing up at the gate an hour or longer before your flight. While upgrades are subject to airline policies and the number of seats available, it never hurts to ask, and it especially never hurts to be the first one to ask.
3. Check the Aircraft that Will Be Used Before Booking a Flight
As we mentioned before, different aircraft have different average seat sizes. The airplane seat can really make or break a flight, and the pitch range between different types of aircraft is drastic. While the biggest seats on each airline are similar, the average seat sizes can vary significantly. Most airlines will publish what type of aircraft will be used before you purchase your flight ticket.
4. Choose Your Seat Wisely
While not every airline on this list allows you to select your seat for free in advance, it is a good idea to do all that you can to reserve the best seat possible. Whether that means paying an extra fee or booking a higher fare class, it is always wise for plus size passengers to book their seats in advance – especially if they are only booking one seat for themselves.
While some passengers prefer window seats, aisle seats are often better for overweight passengers that are only purchasing one seat. Window seats are often the better option if you purchase an additional seat.
5. Use Airline Credit Cards to Earn Miles on Extra Seats
I always advise getting an airline credit card to travel with, and this advice is doubly important (literally) for overweight passengers that book themselves an additional seat. As you will be purchasing double the amount of seats and paying double the amount of money, you might as well take advantage of double the rewards!
These rewards accumulate over time, and they can easily turn into free flights, or at least free additional seats.
That wraps up our post on the best airlines for plus size passengers in the U.S. Hopefully this post helps as you plan your next flight! Again, while some airplanes with smaller seats may be uncomfortable, it is also important to consider the total trip time. An extra inch of seat space is great, but it might be less worth choosing if your total trip time increases by several hours.
If you have any comments or questions, feel free to drop them in the comment section below.