How Do I Know If I Will Fit In An Airline Seat?

Most plus size travelers lose sleep and worry whether they can fit in an airplane seat. But there are many ways to tell if you will fit in an airline seat before booking your flight.

The easiest way to know if you will fit in an airplane seat is to measure your hips and waist then compare the measurement to the seat’s pitch and width.

In this post I will share with you some tips to know if you can fit in those tiny airplane seats, what happens if you are too big for an airplane seat whether you are traveling with Delta, United, or British Airways, and help you decide if reserving a second seat is the right choice for you.

Let’s kick things off

image / unsplash

How To Know If You Will Fit In An Airline Seat?

The first step to find out if you can fit in an airline seat is to measure yourself. 

You’ll need a tape measure and a friend or just a mirror to help you.

Here are the three main measurements you’ll need:

explanation of seat pitch and width in image

Seat width

This is the distance between the two armrests of the seat.

To measure your seat width, wrap the tape measure around your hips at the widest point and note down the number.

This is how much space you’ll need to sit comfortably without spilling over the armrests, or the seat next to you.

Seat pitch

The seat pitch is the distance between your seat and the seat in front of you.

To measure your seat pitch, sit on a chair with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor.

Measure from your back to the edge of the seat and add a extra inches for legroom.

This is how much space you’ll need to stretch your legs and recline your seat without hitting the seat in front of you, and have enough room to use the tray table.

Seat belt length

The length of the seat belt that goes around your waist.

To measure your seat belt length, wrap the tape measure around your waist at the belly button level and note down the number.

This is how much length you’ll need to buckle up safely and comfortably.

Once you have these measurements, you can compare them with the dimensions of different airlines and aircrafts.

Usually the average seat belt length is between 31 and 51 inches, but it will mostly depend on the aircraft model.

Choose The Best Airline And Seat For Your Size

After you’ve measured yourself then you can start looking for the best airline and seat for your size. 

Look for airlines that offer more generous seat sizes, some airlines have more space compared to others when it comes to seat sizes. 

The measurement in pitch and width will vary by aircraft model and airline class but generally they will have an average size.

For instance JetBlue, and United Airlines are known for having some of the widest seats and most legroom in economy class.

Airlines Average seat pitch and width
American Airlines 35 pitch , 17.8 width
United Airlines 31 pitch,  18.2width
Southwest Airlines 32-33 pitch, 17.8 width
JetBlue 35-38 pitch, 18.4 width
Delta Airlines 31-32 pitch, 18.1 width
Spirit Airlines 28-34 pitch, 17.75 width
Sun country 29-34 pitch, 17 width
Alaska Airlines 31-32 Pitch , 18 width
Hawaiian Airlines31 pitch, 16.5 – 18 width
Frontier28-31 pitch, 18 width
Air Canada 31 pitch , 18 width
Briths Airways31 pitch, 17.6 width
Emirates 32-34pitch, 18 width
This table lists different airlines economy class and their average seat pitch and width (Data From SeatGuru)

Southwest airlines may have small seats on most of their airplanes (32-33 in pitch and 17.8 in width), but they have a customer of size policy that allows passengers who need more than one seat to get a refund for their extra seat after their flight. 

To choose the best seat on a plane you can use websites like SeatGuru or SeatMaestro, which provide detailed seat maps and reviews for hundreds of airlines and planes variations . 

You can also check the websites of individual airlines, which usually have a section on their seating policies and options.

This applies to any airline, whether it is a major U.S airline like American, United etc.. or other international airlines like Emirates, Qantas or British Airways.

Remember that if you are not a fan of economy class seats you can always pay for a premium economy or business class ticket, which usually have more space and comfort than regular economy seats.

Do Airlines Have Weight Limits For Passengers?

Airlines do not have a standard passenger weight limit, however; there is a pending FAA Weight & Balance rule that aims to regulate the weight of passengers and baggage. This may be in response to the increasing global obesity rates.

In my opinion, this rule might be readily accepted by airline companies, because it will save them some extra money.

But it is not a convenient solution for them eaither.

They will need to find a balance that ensures everyone can travel, regardless of their weight or size. 

But right now some airlines may simply ask you to pay for an extra seat.

It is better to avoid bulkhead and exit row seats as they are always much narrower in both economy and premium classes because the tray table and TV screen come out from the arm rest.


Do Airlines Charge Extra Fees For Passengers Of Size?

No, but some airlines have strict policies that require passengers who cannot fit in one seat to buy an extra seat.

For instance, United and American Airlines charge passengers who need more than one seat the fare for two seats.

To avoid these charges, consider choosing an airline that don’t charge extra for passengers of size like Southwest.

You can also bring your own seat belt extender, which is available for purchase online or at select airports.

Another strategy is to book your flight early and carefully select your seat. The sooner you book your flight, the better your chances of finding a seat that suits your size and preferences.

Websites like SeatGuru or SeatMaestro will help you find seats with more space, less noise, better views, or other features that matter to you.

Additionally, try to avoid seats located near the lavatories, galleys, or emergency exits, as they may have less legroom, limited recline, or increased traffic and noise.

If possible, select an aisle seat, as it provides more room to move around and easier access to the overhead bins.

Do large people Need To Pay For 2 Seats On a Plane?

Most airlines want passengers to have a comfortable and relaxed flight.

And If you can fit comfortably in one seat, then there is no need to purchase a second seat.

However, you will also need to consider the comfort of the fellow passenger next to you.

If you find out that you may need some extra space to move, consider paying for a wide seat or even an extra seat.

Final Thoughts

Flying can be challenging for anyone, especially for some plus size passengers.

However, with some preparation, research, and smart choices, you can find an airline seat that fits you and make your flight more comfortable and enjoyable. 

Happy travels.

“everyone on this earth deserves the same opportunity to travel.” Jae Bae.

I hope this post has given you some useful tips and tricks for finding and fitting in an airline seat.

And if you liked this post, please share it with your friends and family who might benefit from it.


Will a size 22 fit in an airplane seat?

My grandma was a size 22 and I flew with her twice, she never had trouble fitting into an airplane seat and buckling the seatbelt. You might wonder about the armrests, but don’t worry, you’re not as big as you think you are.

Will a size 24 woman fit in an airplane seat?

Even though it will mostly depend on the type of the airplane you are flying, If you are a size 24, yo u will fit in the seat, but you might need to ask for a seatbelt extender. Don’t worry; you can ask the flight attendants. Also, the tray table in front of you might not come down all the way, but that is okay. 

Can a size 28 woman fit in an airplane seat?

If you are a size 24-26-28, it is better to book two seats in economy class, you can also ask for a seatbelt extender if you need one. remember that two economy or premium economy class seats will be less expensive compared to a first, or business class seat.

What is the maximum weight to fit in an airplane seat?

Most airlines do not have a specific weight limit. But if your body size makes it uncomfortable for you to fit in one seat, many airlines might ask you to book a second seat.