Perhaps the mode of transportation most dreaded by the plus sized community is air travel. It seems like the seats are getting smaller and smaller every year, right? In fact, some airlines are thinking of making a section in the plane in which you just lean, and not even sit. Insanity.
Well, the truth is – airlines aren’t going to make seats bigger anytime soon. The harsh reality is, some of us are going to spill into our neighbors side of the seat. Sure, we could get lucky and have no one next to us… but the sheer stress of the unknown until that plane takes off is too much for me.
What do we do?
- First and foremost, pick a flight and check out seat guru, an incredibly helpful website for picking the best row and seat. Additionally, they have the width and pitch (aka depth) of the different categories of seating. Traditional economy seats are only 17 inches wide and 31 inches deep. Traditional economy plus seats are still only 17 inches wide, but 34 inches deep. Traditional first class seats increase the seat width to 21-24 inches wide and a depth to a whopping 38-48 inches. Before you say, “I’m short, depth doesn’t matter”… It does. If ‘baby got back’, you need both width and depth.
- If you’re traveling solo – and don’t get angry with me – but you may have to consider purchasing two economy or economy plus seats. Often two economy seats are less expensive than a single first class seat. Personally, I do a little bit of both. On my most recent trip I purchased two economy seats for all of my flights in which I was flying with a companion. So, I took the window and the middle and my companion took the aisle seat and we shared the extra room. On my one solo flight, I booked a first class seat.
- If you’re traveling with a companion, the easiest solution would be to book seats together and lean into each other. This is ok for a shorter flight, but perhaps not ideal if you’re crossing an ocean. Consider booking the whole row. As crazy as that sounds – and I understand travel is a luxury and already very expensive – but this is one thing you’re perhaps going to have to work into your budget and accept.
- The best purchase I’ve made for travel has been my own airplane seat belt extender. You can definitely use the airline extender – but to avoid any potential embarrassment, I got my own. They’re available for less than $20 online, and fit most airlines. It’s a good investment for us fluffy folk.
Some planes have handicap (larger) bathrooms, but most do not. I personally fit in the standard bathrooms – but there is very little wiggle room. If you’re menstruating, you may want to consider using pads instead of tampons for flights – for obvious leg spreading reasons. Fluffy parents of small children – oh my god… I have no experience with a second person in these bathrooms and I wish you luck. Fluffy and in love? You won’t be joining the mile high club … unless you want a really uncomfortable shag.
Now – I told you I’d be honest and it would sometimes suck… so I’ll admit that I skip even free meals on my flights as I’m too rotund for most dining trays. Now, if I’ve purchased and extra seat, I’ll put the center seat tray down and eat. However, first class seat trays come from the arm and don’t work for me. Often in that case, I’ll be honest and tell the flight attendant. In most cases they’ve offered just to bring me things I can eat by hand like nuts and snacks. I typically pack a PB & J and some snacks – because I’d rather be self sufficient.
I really think if you can accept that travel can be fun and easy — if you’re willing to budget in the things that make it so. Does it suck that our flights may cost double? Sure. But the world doesn’t owe us anything – it is what it is – and where there is a will there is a way. Traveling has shaped who I am as a human, opened my eyes to beauty beyond belief and enriched my soul. I don’t want anyone to miss out on the trip of their dreams from fear of the unknown… so here it is. The hardest lesson to accept when considering travel is YOU MAY HAVE TO PAY DOUBLE. I’m starting with this sting as it’s the one that hurts the most. It is so worth it – it takes the majority of my travel stress away.
Obviously, this extra seat advice is geared towards those in my size range. If you’re worried at all – check seat guru and get the size of the seat you’re buying. Figure out somehow if you’ll fit – build a fake seat with cardboard or measure your smallest chair and compare.
When you’ve purchased an extra seat and you’re going to have trouble checking into your flights online. You can try, but most likely you’ll be checking in in person at the airport. Don’t be cagey about it – say the words, “I’ve purchased an additional seat for myself and will be checking in for both seats”. If you don’t – they could put a standby person in your additional seat that you paid for. I’ve read about it happening and I’ve had it happen to myself. It’s just a hassle you don’t want.
Never book the front row of any section. These seats have arms that don’t move, and are solid and go from the armrest down to the seat. Like you’re sitting in a 3 sided box – so even if no one gets seated next to you, you can’t utilize the extra butt room. That’s all you get – that hideous claustrophobic box.
I hope some of this has helped. Like I said, I made this post first as it’s usually what most people are worried about. More to come soon with recommendations and detailed real life experience.
7 thoughts on “Plus sized and on a plane”
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Thanks for all the advice and helpful information on your blog. I was looking into a seat belt extender but read that the FAA published a memo in 2012 advising airlines not to let passengers use them, (as they are not maintained as the extenders provided by the airlines are mandated to be), and in some cases this has lead to embarrassment for the traveller when the flight attendant challenges in front of everyone else.
I have been using one from amazon.com for years. I’ve done domestic and international flights with them. However, you never know. It might be best to follow the rules. Something I’m not always good at. 😉
I didn’t know I could purchase my own seat belt extension…thank you for the info. Is there a particular site you would recommend?
I’ve gotten two over the years through Amazon. Under $20 and makes traveling less stressful. I keep it in my purse and before I sit down I plug it in to one side. Easy peasy.
[…] the most stressful part of booking. If you haven’t already, please read my blog on Plus Sized Air Travel for tons and tons of tips and advice on the topic. However, building on that post, I’ve […]
The only time I ever had to request a seatbelt extender was on American. I could aaaaaaalllllllmost hook it, but not quite! I quietly asked the flight attendant for a seatbelt extender – and then she proceeded to yell across the plane “HEY, CAN YOU GET ME ONE OF THOSE SEATBELT EXTENDERS? THIS LADY OVER HERE IN 12C NEEDS ONE!” I was so embarrassed, I seriously thought I might rather die in a plane crash than ever have to ask for an extender again. So, I stole the extender from American. Take that, rude flight attendant lady!!
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