Preparing for Your Flight: Tips for Plus-Size Travelers3 min read

Between small seats, unclear policies and societal attitudes about fatness, it is not easy for plus-size travelers to board (or stay on) a plane. Over the past decade, seats that were not inclusive to begin with have gotten even smaller. Larger passengers can face complaints from fellow passengers and discrimination from staff, which can increase pre-travel anxiety. If you are fat and worried about an upcoming flight, here are some tips on how to prepare. 

Research Your Airline’s Policies

One common challenge that overweight passengers face is the fear that they may be asked, on the spot, to purchase an extra seat or deplane. Airlines have varying requirements—some demand an extra seat purchase if a passenger is deemed “unable” to sit with the armrests down, while others require it if the extender is not long enough for the seatbelt to fasten.

The best thing you can do is look up your airline’s policy to know what to expect. While some airlines don’t have a clear policy, others will at least refund passengers if they have to purchase an extra seat on-flight. You can also visit websites like SeatGuru to learn how wide your seat will be in advance. 

Buy a Seatbelt Extender

If a seatbelt doesn’t fit over you, you can avoid the potentially uncomfortable interaction of having to ask a flight attendant for a seat belt extender by bringing your own. Seat belt extenders are available on Amazon for under $20. Be sure to read the customer reviews to see what others have to say about which flights the extender works for, as well as on fit and comfort. Keep in mind, though, that not all airlines allow you to use your own belt extender and may require you to use one of theirs. 

If you would rather not take that risk, remember that you can ask a flight attendant for an extender when you board the plane. That can at least be more of a private interaction than asking when everyone is seated. 

Board Early

If you are anxious about squeezing past already-seated passengers to reach your seat, you can ask a flight attendant ahead of time if you can board early. While you still might have to stand to let other passengers into your aisle, the ability to simply walk to your seat may eliminate just a bit of stress from your trip. 

While you are waiting for everyone else to board, try these meditation exercises or a calming exercise that you prefer to quell your anxiety while others board the plane. 

Advocate for Yourself

None of these tips are revolutionary. It is not fair that you have to do extra work to feel more comfortable flying with the body you have. Real change will only come from policy change, and that takes advocacy. If you are fat, or if you are not plus size and have been surprised to read what fat travelers have to go through, take a moment to sign a petition or donate to a cause that protects travelers of all sizes. Everyone should have the right to travel without discrimination or distress.


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