Whether you will need a seatbelt extender or not next time you fly will depend on the airline you are flying with, due to each airline having seats with different seatbelt lengths.

The best way of testing if you need a seatbelt extender is to find out the width of the seat of the airline’s aircraft you will be flying on, take a tape measure to measure over your hips and stomach, and then compare the difference.

Airline Seatbelt Extender Regulations

The following information is how long an airline’s seat belts are on average, so keep in mind that it can vary depending on the type of aircraft you are flying on.

It would therefore be best to contact the airline to get the most up to date and accurate information for your flight.

  • Alaska Airlines: 46″ seatbelt length
  • Allegiant Air: 40″ seatbelt length
  • American Airlines: 45″ seatbelt length
  • Delta: 35″-38″ seatbelt length
  • Hawaiian Airlines: 51″ seatbelt length
  • JetBlue: 42″-49.5″ seatbelt length
  • Southwest: 39″ seatbelt length
  • United: 31″ seatbelt length

When to Ask For a Seatbelt Extender

If you need a seatbelt extender, you can either:

  • Ask the flight attendant as soon as you step on the plane
  • Ask a flight attendant once you are seated and they begin their checks

You Can Bring Your Own Seatbelt Extender

Many airlines offer their passengers seatbelt extenders, but we know that it can be uncomfortable asking for one, so you might want to bring your own.

We recommend the Mirone Adjustable Airplane Seat Belt Extender, which will fit 99.9% of airline seats.

Consider These Airlines If You Are Overweight

The best airlines for overweight passengers to fly on are JetBlue, Delta, American Airlines, and Spirit Airlines.

These airlines have seating that is wider than most others, with JetBlue offering seats that are at least 18 inches wide in Economy, while others like American Airlines offer seats that are 18.5 – 19 inches wide when flying in Premium Economy.

We go into more detail in our Best Airlines for Overweight Passengers article.

Avoid These Airlines If You Are Overweight

Overweight passengers will have a more comfortable flying experience if they avoid United, Southwest, and Sun Country Airlines.

This is because these airlines operate aircraft with narrower seat widths than other airlines.

Airlines Won’t Charge More For Overweight Passengers

Most airlines charge more for overweight passengers by requiring the purchase of a second seat.

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

  • Alaska Airlines: 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.
  • Allegiant: 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.
  • American Airlines: According to American Airlines, 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.
  • Delta: Delta do not require overweight or obese passengers to book a second seat, though they do recommend it.
  • Frontier Airlines: Frontier Airlines require passengers who are unable to lower their armrests all the way down to purchase a second seat.
  • Hawaiian Airlines: Hawaiian Airlines recommend that obese passengers purchase a second seat in advance, but also state that they “will try to find a suitable alternative”.
  • JetBlue: JetBlue require overweight passengers to purchase a second seat.
  • Southwest: 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. They will also provide a refund if extra seating is available on the flight.
  • Spirit Airlines: 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: United Airlines state that 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.

6 Tips for Overweight Passengers When Flying

  1. Purchase or request a seatbelt extender
  2. Be one of the first or last on the plane when boarding
  3. Buy a second seat
  4. Buy extra legroom
  5. Book an aisle seat
  6. Research the aircraft to find out the seat width and pitch

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).