It can be incredibly uncomfortable to fly when you are big. I have a passion for traveling and never let me size slow me down. As you work your way to the size you want to be, it is good to know tips that can take some of the stress out of flying.
Let me start with the obvious, airline seats are tiny. Being cramped into one for multiple hours can be painful, embarrassing, and awkward. Your goal is to get the most possible space, which will make you more comfortable and make others on the plane more comfortable.
Here are my top ten tips to follow:
1. Select the airline carefully. Right now Southwest Airlines will give a Passenger of Size (POS) an extra seat for free. This will also include pre-boarding. Do not be embarrassed to ask for this, it will make you more comfortable and keep someone else from uncomfortably having to sit next to you. (when I was crammed next to a stranger, I always felt guilty for infringing on their space, Southwest takes this out of the equation.) For perspective, when I was 6’1″ and 330 pounds I was right on the borderline for the extra seat. The rule says if you can’t fit between the armrests, but it is a judgement call for the gate agents.
2. If your airline allows for you to pick seats in advance, you want an aisle seat. Never take a window seat even if it looks like the seat next to it is open.
3. Never select the bulkhead row or emergency exit row. On most airlines, these rows have armrests that do not move up and down. Many kind airline employees will try to put you into these rows, because they have more room, the problem is the extra legroom often comes at a much more narrow seat, because the armrests take up more space.
4. Treat the airline seat map as a video game, come on every day and pick an aisle seat with the middle seat open. If the middle seat next to you fills in on the map, move to a different aisle seat where the middle is open. I only suggest this option with the free seat selections, never paying extra to pick advanced seats.
5. Get to your gate at the airport at least an hour before your flight. Often the podium is staffed starting 1 hour before scheduled departure time. Go talk to the gate agent, smile, be friendly and polite. You want that gate agent to be an ally. Ask if the seat next to you is open. If they say it is open, ask them if they can keep an eye on it, since you are a big person, you wouldn’t want anyone to have to be uncomfortable. If they say it is occupied, ask if there is anywhere they can move you where the seat next to you is open. Remember tip #3. If they move you to a window seat, ask if they are sure the middle seat next to you will stay open. They have the power to block the seat, and if they know the plane won’t be full, they will often do that for you. If they say the seat next to you is full and there is no where to move you, politely ask if they will keep an eye out for you if there are any no shows.
6. Sit down and relax, but try to pick a seat where the gate agent can easily see you. When you stay in site the agents know they can reach you easily and are reminded to look out for your interests every time their vision catches a glimpse of you.
7. If you are not certain that you have a blocked seat next to you, as the boarding begins stop back by the desk, and smile and politely ask if “any seats opened up?” or “is the seat next to me still open?” or however you want to word your question.
8. If you are flying with a spouse, pre-select window and aisle seats with the middle seat left open. If the flight ends up full, and a random person comes to sit between you and your spouse, offer for the spouse to trade the window for the middle seat. No one will turn that down, because the window is a better seat, so you can increase the odds of having an open seat without risking the chance to sit next to your spouse.
9. As you step on the plane, there is always a backlog, take that moment to smile and talk to the flight attendant. Ask them for a seat belt extender (basically an extra length to make your seat belt bigger) and mention that because you are big, if someone ends up next to you, and the attendant sees a seat you could move to for more space, please let me know.
10. Most aisle seats have armrests that raise up. This gives you some of the aisle as extra space. Flight attendants will often require you to lower these arm rests for takeoff and landing, but there is no rule for the middle of the flight. Be careful of the drink carts if you are partly in the aisle. Often the button to raise the armrest are hidden from sight, so you may have to search or reach between the seat and armrest to find it.