Regardless if it’s fair or not, most airlines charge more for overweight passengers by requiring the purchase of a second seat.

Generally, most airlines have the rule that if a passenger is unable to comfortably be seated with both armrests fully down, then a second seat must be purchased.

However, some airlines may do their best to accommodate obese passengers by offering a second seat for free or refunding the advance purchase of a second seat if the flight isn’t fully booked on the day.

Let’s take a look at if airlines charge more for obese passengers on an airline-to-airline basis.

Airline “Passenger of Size” Policies

Alaska Airlines Overweight Passenger Policy

Alaska Airlines state that any passenger who is unable to “comfortably fit within one seat with the armrests in the down position” is required to buy a second seat.

The second seat can be purchased in advance or on the day of the flight, but if two seats aren’t available together, a passenger may have no choice but to take a later flight.

Allegiant Overweight Passenger Policy

Allegiant’s policy is that if a passenger is unable to lower their armrest all the way down, then a second seat must be purchased.

Again, if two seats aren’t available together, a passenger may have no choice but to take a later flight.

American Airlines Overweight Passenger Policy

American Airlines state that if a passenger needs a seatbelt extension and their body “extends more than 1 inch beyond the outermost edge of the armrest,” a second seat must be purchased.

The good news is that if a passenger only purchases one seat, but on the day of the flight a second seat isn’t available, then they will only be charged the same price as their original seats when booking a later flight.

Delta Airlines Overweight Passenger Policy

Delta do not require overweight or obese passengers to book a second seat, though they do recommend it.

Delta provide passengers with seatbelt extensions if necessary and may ask passengers to be reseated next to an empty seat.

Frontier Airlines Overweight Passenger Policy

Frontier Airlines require passengers who are unable to lower their armrests all the way down to purchase a second seat. This is advised to be done before travel.

Hawaiian Airlines Overweight Passenger Policy

While Hawaiian Airlines recommend that obese passengers purchase a second seat in advance, the airline states that they “will try to find a suitable alternative”.

If no suitable alternative can be found, a second seat may have to be purchased or a later flight taken if the plane is at full capacity.

JetBlue Overweight Passenger Policy

Overweight passengers flying with JetBlue are required to purchase an additional seat.

But the good thing about flying with JetBlue is that on most flights the pitch range will be between 32-35 inches, which makes it the best airline for overweight passengers.

Southwest Overweight Passenger Policy

Southwest recommend overweight passengers purchase a second seat in advance to guarantee their flight, though will also offer a free seat if available on the day of the flight.

Thankfully, if a second seat is purchased, the airline will refund if extra seating is available on the flight.

Spirit Airlines Overweight Passenger Policy

Spirit Airlines state that if a passenger “encroaches on an adjacent seat area and/or is unable to sit in a single seat with the armrests lowered”, then an additional seat must be purchased.

United Airlines Overweight Passenger Policy

United Airlines policy is slightly more subjective than other airlines.

If a passenger is unable to buckle their seatbelt, even with an extension, and sit with the armrests down without “significantly” encroaching on the adjacent space, either an additional seat or an upgrade to a more spacious seat must be purchased.

No Weight Limit for Passengers

Legally, there is no weight limit for passengers on commercial flights in the U.S.

However, many airlines will require an obese passenger to purchase a second seat if they cannot meet certain guidelines like comfortably fitting in the seat with both armrests down.

Airlines With the Widest Seats

Most of JetBlue’s seats are 18.4-inch seats wide, with the narrowest being 18 inches wide.

Delta Air Lines and American Airlines are the best airlines in the USA if buying in Premium Economy due to their 18.5-19 inch wide seats.

Air Canada is the best airline outside the USA if buying in Premium Economy due to their 20-inch wide seats.

Airlines With the Narrowest Seats

United, Southwest and Sun Country Airlines should all be avoided by overweight passengers.

Overweight passengers are more likely to have to purchase an additional seat with these airlines due to the seats being no wider than 17 inches.

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).