Just because someone is overweight, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to endure a more unenjoyable flying experience than other passengers.
There are several airlines that are better suited for overweight passengers.
Therefore, if you are overweight, when booking your next flight, you might want to consider the following airlines instead, while also keeping in mind some of our useful tips to make your next flight as comfortable as possible.
One thing to note, however, is that airlines have a variety of airliners in their fleet.
This means that just one or two of the planes in their fleet may have extra-wide seats while the majority do not.
Therefore, our ranking is based on average seat width.
Table of Contents
- 1 5 Best Airlines for Overweight Passengers
- 2 3 Airlines Overweight Passengers Should Avoid
- 3 6 Tips for Overweight Passengers When Flying
- 4 Is It Better for Overweight Passengers to Fly Business?
- 5 Booking Strategies for Overweight Passengers
- 6 2. Choose Less Popular Routes
5 Best Airlines for Overweight Passengers
JetBlue is the best airline for overweight passengers with their 18.4-inch seats and pitch range of up to 41 inches, though on most flights the pitch range will be between 32-35 inches.
If flying with JetBlue in Economy Class, it is highly likely that the narrowest seat you will be seated in will be at least 18 inches wide.
2. Delta Air Lines
Delta is another excellent airline for overweight passengers, with their seats in Economy Class ranging from 17.9-19 inches, though note that 19-inch seats only applies to a couple of the airline’s planes.
Where Delta really shine, though, is with their Premium Economy Class seating.
If available, you will be able to enjoy a seat width from 18.5-19 inches.
3. Air Canada
It’s a mixed bag for overweight passengers flying with Air Canada with seats ranging from 17-18 inches in width.
However, when it comes to Premium Economy, all this changes, with the airline delivering one of the best offerings for overweight passengers.
You can enjoy a seat width of 24 inches, with 20 inches being the most common.
4. American Airlines
With an average seat width of 17 inches, American Airlines is an airline to avoid when flying Economy Class.
However, when flying Premium Economy, all this changes.
Overweight passengers can enjoy seats ranging from 18.5-19 inches in width.
5. Spirit Airlines
All Spirit Airlines aircraft have seats with a width of 20 inches and pitch of 36 inches.
The caveat is that you will definitely want to book early, as these seats, which are called “Big Front”, are limited in capacity.
If you are unable to book a “Big Front” seat, then you will be stuck in a 17.75-inch seat.
3 Airlines Overweight Passengers Should Avoid
1. United Airlines
Overweight passengers should avoid United Airlines.
In Economy Class, the vast majority of the airline’s fleet offers seats no wider than approximately 17 inches.
2. Southwest Airlines
Southwest only have the Boeing 737 MAX 8 (17.8 inches), 737-700, (17 inches), and 737-800 (17 inches).
Overweight passengers will therefore be in for an uncomfortable experience when flying Southwest.
3. Sun Country Airlines
Sun Country Airlines is a low-cost airline that should be avoided at all costs by overweight passengers.
This is because the fleet of Boeing 737-800 aircraft that they operate feature seats with a width no wider than 17 inches.
6 Tips for Overweight Passengers When Flying
- Purchase or request a seatbelt extender: Depending on your weight, it’s possible that you will need to use a seatbelt extender. We know that asking for a seatbelt extender can be a bit uncomfortable, so you might want to buy and bring your own.
We recommend the Mirone Adjustable Airplane Seat Belt Extender, which will fit 99.9% of airline seats.
- Be one of the first or last on the plane when boarding: If you are overweight, you probably already know that it can be a bit stressful trying to shuffle your way pass other passengers to get to your seat. It’s therefore a better idea to be one of the first or one of the last to board, though it’s preferable to board first if you can.
- Buy a second seat: It might not be very economical, but for peace of mind and comfort, it can often be a good idea to purchase the seat right next to you. Check out our related article, How Do I Know If I will Fit in an Airline Seat?
- Buy extra legroom: Extra legroom is one of the few upgrades on flights that passengers think are actually worth it. If you are tall as well as overweight, this becomes even more applicable.
- Book an aisle seat: An aisle seat is usually in most demand for good reason – it offers the most comfortable flying experience. This is even more applicable for overweight passengers, as you won’t have to slide past your fellow passengers every time you want to get up.
- Check the aircraft: Seatguru is an excellent resource to check both the seat width and pitch of aircraft. Make sure to check it out before booking your next flight. It will show you the best place to sit on a plane.
Is It Better for Overweight Passengers to Fly Business?
If you are overweight and can afford it, it is undoubtedly better to fly Business.
While most airline seats range from 17-18.5 inches in Economy class, you can expect this to increase to 20+ inches in Business.
Besides all the other luxuries that flying Business brings, you also get to enjoy a flat bed or even suite if you are truly willing to splurge.
Booking Strategies for Overweight Passengers
To increase your chances of securing more space and a more comfortable seat, there are a few steps that you can take.
1. Choose Off-Peak Travel Times
- Midweek Flights: Try to book flights that leave on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays because these days are often less busy, meaning the flight may have more empty seats.
- Red-Eye Flights: Overnight or early morning flights tend to be less crowded as many travelers prefer daytime flights. So booking a red-eye flight can offer a quieter and more peaceful travel experience.
- Avoid Peak Seasons: If possible, plan your travel during off-peak seasons, as it will be more likely that the airline will have more empty seats.
2. Choose Less Popular Routes
- Alternative Airports: Consider using smaller or less crowded airports near your destinations, as they will have fewer travelers, potentially resulting in an emptier plane.
- Connecting Flights: Sometimes, booking a flight with a layover can lead to less crowded flights and an empty seat next to you.
3. Use Seat Maps and Seat Selection Tools
Before booking, check the airline’s seat map to see which areas of the plane have more spacious seating configurations.
Keep in mind that different aircraft have varying seat configurations, with some models having wider seats and more comfortable spacing.
Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.
Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.
Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).