Flying can be stressful enough without also having to factor in whether you will fit in the airline seat or not.

Thankfully, you can find out exactly what the seat pitch and seat width are on your next flight, which will give you an excellent idea of whether you will run into any issues or not.

The Best Way of Knowing If You Will Fit in an Airline Seat

Airline seats are measured in both pitch and width.

Seat width is self-explanatory, but seat pitch is defined as the space between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front of it.

Both are important.

seat pitch and width diagram explanation

So, the best thing you can do before booking your next flight is to find out what type of aircraft you will be flying on and then visit SeatGuru.

SeatGuru lists the seat pitch and seat width for each jet of each airline, and will show you the best place to sit on a plane.

You can view any airline, whether that be American, United, Southwest, JetBlue, Spirit, or any one of the other airlines, including international airlines like Emirates or Virgin.

You can also see an overview of all the aircraft variants the airline uses, as well as the seat pitch and seat width in Economy, Premium Economy, and Business class.

What Happens If You Can’t Fit in an Airline Seat?

Each airline has their own policy if you can’t fit in an airline seat.

Some airlines like Delta will not require you to purchase an additional seat, but may ask you to move or wait for the next flight where there might be additional seating.

Generally, though, airlines will require you to purchase another seat, whether that be in advance or at the airport.

A seatbelt extender will also be necessary.

At What Size Do You Need Two Airline Seats?

There isn’t a specific size at which you will suddenly have to purchase two airline seats.

Generally, all airlines will require passengers to comfortably fit within one seat with the armrests down.

If you can do this, you will not have to purchase an additional seat.

airplane seats
You must be able to sit in the seat with the armrests down

There is No Weight Limit for Airline Passengers

Airlines do not necessarily require their passengers to meet any weight restrictions.

If a passenger will clearly require the use of two seats, then they will be asked to purchase an additional seat.

However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), outlined new guidance in a recent advisory that may require passengers to state their weight or even step “on a scale before boarding the aircraft”.

Fortunately, though, this is done at random and a passenger can refuse.

Airlines Won’t Directly Charge More for Overweight Passengers

Each airline has its own “passenger of size” policy, which is used to determine whether they will charge overweight passengers more if they are unable to comfortably be seated with both armrests fully down.

Generally, most airlines will charge more for overweight passengers in the form of purchasing a second seat.

However, other airlines like Southwest and Hawaiian Airlines do their best to accommodate obese passengers by offering a second seat for free or refunding the advance purchase of a second seat.

See Also: When Do Flight Prices Drop?

Which Airline Should You Fly With If You’re Overweight?

While we go more in-depth in our Best Airlines for Overweight Passengers article, we recommend flying with JetBlue, Delta, American Airlines or Spirit.

Is it Discriminatory to Charge Passengers Who Can’t Fit in Their Seat More?

There are arguments for and against charging passengers who can’t fit in an airline seat more, but changes may be coming.

For domestic flights in Canada, any passenger who requires two seats can get the cost of the second seat refunded if they have a doctor’s note.

In Australia, it is actually illegal for airlines to charge passengers different amounts based on their body sizes.

According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, half of Americans will be obese by the year 2030, with one in four having a body mass index (BMI) of over 35.

Therefore, perhaps something has to give.

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).