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Overweight Passenger Policies

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Special-size Needs Passenger Policies

It is no big secret that airline coach seats are not exactly spacious. Passengers often sit cramped and uncomfortable for the duration of their travels, as airline seats have shrunk significantly in the past few decades. Today, many passengers find that they have just enough space in their seat to buckle up and remain in virtually the same position during their flight.


However, there are some flyers who find they do not have enough space to even sit in their seat and buckle their seatbelt. These passengers are referred to as passengers of size, and many airlines require that these passengers pay an additional fee to have a second seat. In general, obese passengers on airlines who require a seatbelt extender and/or cannot lower the armrests between seats are asked to pay for a second seat on their flight, unless there are two empty seats together somewhere on the plane.

Overweight passengers have little to no choice when it comes to this rule. Every airline has an overweight passenger policy, and passengers are required to accept the rule. Since each airline has its own policy, airline passengers of size need to become familiar with the policies in the main airlines prior to travel.


The current policy regarding overweight/obese passengers states that any traveler who requires an additional seat will be given an additional seat whenever one is available. Airline attendants will search the plane to see if there are additional seats available, and, if there is, they will move passengers around to provide the airline passenger of size with two empty seats. This is cited as not only an airline policy, but as a safety precaution as well. When an airline cannot find an additional seat for a passenger, that passenger may be required to purchase a second seat and wait for a new flight.

The United Airlines policy regarding overweight passengers aboard one of its flights is strict. Passengers who are unable to secure their seatbelt, who are unable to lower the armrests, and who are encroaching too much on the personal space of the person sitting next to them will be required to purchase a secondary seat.

Overweight passengers traveling on Delta Airlines will be required to purchase a second seat if they cannot fasten their seatbelt without an extender. There is, however, no written policy regarding the ability of a passenger to lower armrests.

Overweight airline passengers on JetBlue are required to purchase an additional seat, without question. Overweight passengers who do not purchase a second seat will not be permitted to board their flight until they purchase one.

Obese airline passengers on Southwest are requested to purchase an additional seat. Overweight passengers are encouraged to speak with a Southwest gate agent to see what can be done.


Every airline has its own policies regarding overweight passengers. While many airline attendants will try and arrange for two empty seats for passengers of size for no charge, other airlines will not do so. Before any overweight airline passenger books a ticket to fly, they need to thoroughly research the overweight passenger policy on their airline of choice; not only to prevent delay, but to prevent embarrassment as well.


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