August 6, 2021

What Plus-Size Travelers Should Know Before Flying

Unless you’re planning to take a road trip, most vacations will require flying to reach your destination. Although road trips can be adventurous, flying is the best option for a quicker travel time. However, there are certain things to be prepared for while flying with commercial airlines, especially as a plus-size traveler, like myself. 

I have done my fair share of flying so far on my journey. I have flown on several different airlines, and for the most part, they’re all fairly similar when it comes to accessibility, space, and accommodations. And, as a plus-size traveler, I now know what to expect, and because of that, I want to share my thoughts with you all. A lot of people have asked me about different options available on commercial flights, to make the experience more accessible, and more importantly, comfortable.


There’s no secret that commercial airline seats are small, uncomfortable, and very close to each other. Pretty much anyone would agree, but it’s especially true for plus-size travelers. I understand that planes can only hold so many people, so they try and squeeze as many seats in as they can. However, for people with a similar build to mine, it makes flying extremely uncomfortable. 

Nowadays, the average airline seat ranges between 17 to 28 inches. Also, as a general rule, seats in the last row in front of the bathrooms are more narrow, and you can’t recline. However, there are seats that you can reserve that have a bit more room. The seats in exit rows have extra legroom and space. These seats are available for an extra cost. You may be thinking what’s the best airline to use? Well, to find and compare aircraft seating maps, dimensions, and reviews on over 800 airlines, Seat Guru is a great source to use. This site is super helpful when trying to books flights with more comfortable seats.

Aisle Space

If you thought the seats were small, just wait until I tell you how wide the aisles are. Typically, an aircraft aisle will be somewhere between 38 to 50cm. This is not ideal for a plus-size traveler. Trying to squeeze through, load your luggage in the overhead bin, and reach the restroom is quite difficult when you are in such a limited space. It gets even more tricky when someone else is trying to walk down the aisle simultaneously. Although the aisles are small, reserving an aisle seat is a great way to secure a little extra room and comfort. Make sure you book early though, because these seats, along with window seats, are the first to go.


Most airlines require a plus-size traveler to purchase two seats if they’re unable to fit comfortably in just one. For example, if my arm extends more than one inch beyond the armrest’s outermost edge, then I have to book two seats. Another factor they assess is the seat belts. If an extender is required, they may encourage you to buy another seat. Once again, this isn’t always reasonable for an individual or family on a budget. One seat is expensive enough!

Even though all airlines are different, they all have fairly similar policies. It’s important to research each airline before booking a trip. Because although they’re similar, each one has slightly different policies. For example, if you’re flying United, you have to be able to fit into the seat with both armrests down, and not intrude on the seat next to you. And, the general rule on American is that if a passenger’s body extends more than one inch beyond the outermost edge of the armrest and a seatbelt extender is needed, then another seat must be purchased.

Many of the airlines require you to purchase an extra seat if you’re unable to sit comfortably, you need a seat belt extender, or surpass the armrest. These policies are important to know so that you’re not caught off guard at the gate. If you book a ticket, knowing the policies, you won’t run into any surprises.

Know Before You Go

I don’t say any of this to make you uneasy about flying as a bigger person. I say it to just bring awareness and prepare you for what to expect. Whether you’ve flown fifty times or have never flown before, everyone’s experiences are different. I just want to be transparent with you through Big Guy Big World, so that you can feel encouraged or inspired. 

Thank you for following along with me. I hope this entry was helpful when it comes to what to expect while flying as a plus-sized traveler. I’m not going to say traveling the world doesn’t come with a few uncomfortable and inconvenient moments, but I would do it all again in the end. Flying is not comfortable for me by any means, but I know my destination will make the trip worthwhile. 

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Big Guy Big World is a travel blog, following Mark Jacoby’s journey as a big guy on a bigger journey, exploring the world during a global pandemic. Follow along as we experience some of the world’s most beautiful and exotic places.

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