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Every Major Airline’s ‘Customer of Size Policy,’ Broken Down In Detail

Traveling on a plane when you’re physically larger than the seat itself can be a downright stressful experience. Questions like, “Will I fit in my seat?” “Will my neighbor be annoyed?” “Do I really need to purchase an extra seat?” and “How long are the seatbelts?” can turn someone off from taking a trip altogether. Plus it’s confusing — as just about every major airline has a totally different set of policies for dealing with, what the airline industry calls “customers of size.”

We don’t want concerns about your body (and how that body fits in an airplane seat) to dissuade you from seeing the world, so we’ve looked up all the major airlines’ policies and broken them down. Before we get into that, shout to Twitter user Shea Wesley Martin whose tweet about his experience went viral last weekend.

We never thought we’d see anyone celebrate Southwest Airlines for anything (shots fired!) but we applaud the airline for looking out for the larger folks. Here are the major airline policies, including armrest width, seatbelt length, and seat pitch (the distance from the back of your chair to the chair in front of you).

Let’s dive in!

Alaska Airlines

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Armrest Width: 17 inches for Coach, 21 inches for First Class.

Seatbelt Length: 46 inches + 25 inches with seatbelt extender.

Seat Pitch: Main Cabin seats feature 31-32 inches of leg room, Premium Class seats feature 35 inches of leg room.

The Policy:

As far as policies go, Alaska Airlines is one of the more understanding. The airline requires the purchase of an additional seat for any customer who cannot comfortably fit between the armrests. However, if the flight departs with an open seat available, customers of size will be eligible for a refund for the second seat — note: refunds must be requested within 90 days of travel.

If a second seat isn’t purchased in advance, you may be asked to purchase an additional seat before boarding the aircraft. In the event you need to change your reservation, you’ll only be charged one change fee.

Read the full policy here.

American Airlines

Armrest Width: American Airlines has different air crafts with small variations in seat width, but for the most part Main Cabin seats measure between 17.3-18 inches, and First Class seats are approximately 21 inches.

Seatbelt Length: Information not available.

Seat Pitch: On the A319 Airbus, Main Cabin seats get 30 inches of leg room, 34 inches for Main Cabin Extra, and 38 inches for First Class. The Boeing 737-800 and 737 Max feature 30 inches in the Main Cabin, 33 inches for Main Cabin Extra, and 37 inches in First Class.

The Policy:

For customers who need extra space, American Airlines requires an extra seat to be purchased. AA strongly suggests you plan for this when booking.

If you forget to book an extra seat in advance, an airport agent will try to find out if they can find you two adjacent seats available on your flight, in the event that that means you’ll have to sit in a higher class, you’ll be responsible for the fare difference.

In the event that AA can’t find seats to accommodate you, you can purchase seats on a different flight at the same price as your original seats. It’s not great but far from the worst.

Read the full policy here.

Delta Airlines

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Armrest Width: 17.3 inches for Main Cabin and Delta Comfort + seats, 20.9 inches for First Class on Boeing 737 planes. 17.4 inches for Main Cabin and Delta Comfort +, 18.5 inches for Delta Premium Select, 20.46 inches for Delta One Suites

Seatbelt Length: 40 to 45 inches + 25 inches with seat belt extender.

Seat Pitch: The Main Cabin features 31-32 inches of leg room, Delta Comfort + gets you 34 inches, and First Class has 38-39 inches of leg room.

The Policy:

Delta Airlines’ Customer of Size Policy is a bit confusing because… well, the airline doesn’t really have one. Delta does not require passengers to purchase an extra seat if they need seatbelt extenders or are unable to lower the armrest. However, if a passenger “impedes” on another passenger they may be asked to move to another location that provides additional space or in some cases, will be asked to take a later flight with more available seating.

That’s pretty embarrassing, so Delta recommends passengers purchase an additional seat if they feel they might need one. To make a reservation for an extra seat, Delta suggests you create a New Passenger Name Record using your last name and “EXST” as the first name.

Itinerary change charges will only apply to the passenger’s ticket, not the extra seat.

Read the full policy here.

Frontier Airlines

Armrest Width: For all 319 aircrafts you’ll get 17.4-18 in aisle seats, 17.8-19.1 inches for middle seats, and 17.1-18 inches for window seats. For 320 aircrafts you’re looking at 17.4-19 inches on the aisle, 17.8-19.1 inches for middle seats, and 17.1-18 inches on window seats. For the 321 aircraft you ave 16.7-18 inches on the aisle, 16.5-19.1 inches on the middle seat, and 16.5-18 inches at the window.

Seatbelt Length: Frontier is, for whatever reason, one of the few airlines that doesn’t list seatbelt lengths or extension lengths on their website. Extenders are available on all seats aside from seats located in Row 1.

Seat Pitch: Most seats on Frontier aircrafts feature 28-31 inches of leg room, with limited Stretch Seating options offering 33-35 inches.

The Policy:

The more budget-friendly airlines generally have the weakest policies. Customers who cannot lower both armrests or who compromise a portion of an adjacent seat are advised to book two seats. Frontier won’t charge you for change fees 60+ days before your departure but will charge you $49 for all seats purchased 59-7 days before departure, and $99 6 days or less.

Read Frontier’s full customer of size policy here.

Hawaiian Airlines

Armrest Width: 18 inches for Boeing 717, 19 inches for First Class, and 17.5 inches for Exit Row seats. 18 inches for Airbus A321neo, 21 inches for First Class, 16.8 inches at the rear of the plane. 18 inches for Airbus A330, 20 inches for First Class, 16.5 inches for rear seats.

Seatbelt Length: 51 inches, no specified length for the seatbelt extension.

Seat Pitch: Boeing 717 has 30-31 inches of leg room in Economy Class and 37 inches in Business Class. The A321neo features 30-35 inches of legroom in Economy Class, and 39 inches in First Class. The Airbus A330 has 31-36 inches in Economy Class and a whopping 76 inches in First Class.

The Policy:

In addition to having the widest seats of any airline, Hawaiian is pretty understanding and accommodating to fliers who need a bit more room. If you’re unable to sit comfortably with the armrests lowered, Hawaiian airlines will try its best to find a suitable alternative to help ensure your comfort, though if no alternative is available, you’ll have to book another flight.

If you know you’re going to need extra room, Hawaiian suggests you call their web support center so they can help you book two adjacent seats, and they’ll even charge you the lowest available fare for the two seats, which is pretty helpful. To uses this feature, you’ll need to call 1-866-586-9419.

Read Hawaiian Airlines’ full customer of size policy here.

JetBlue Airways

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Armrest Width: 18.4 inches

Seatbelt Length: 45 inches + 25 inches with seat belt extender.

Seat Pitch: JetBlue has nine aircraft in its fleet, all of which have different specs but generally you’re looking at a generous 32-34 inches of legroom in Economy Class, with lie-flat options and 45 inches of space for Mint Studio Suites on the A321neo. Check out JetBlue’s full fleet specs here.

The Policy:

Like Delta, JetBlue doesn’t have an official customer of size policy, but the seats are about an inch and a half wider than typical airline seats. JetBlue does not require customers of size to purchase an additional seat but encourages the act if it results in a more comfortable flight for you.

JetBlue requires you to book extra seats at the time you purchase your initial seat. JetBlue’s website, unfortunately, does not list any details on whether you have to pay for change fees for your extra seat if you make an itinerary change, so if you’re making travel plans that might change, it’s probably best to hit up JetBlue’s customer service chat.

Read the full Extra Seat policy here.

Southwest Airlines

Armrest Width: Southwest’s narrowest seat width is 15.5 inches on the B737-700, B737-800 and B737-Max 8 aircraft. The Maximum seat width is 17 inches on the B737-700 and 17.8 inches on the B737-800 and B737-Max 8.

Seatbelt Length: 39 inches + 24 inches with seat belt extender.

Seat Pitch:737-700 features 31 inches of legroom. B737-800 and B737-Max 8 feature 32 inches of legroom.

The Policy:

Ah, the very airline that inspired this article. If you’ve ever flown on Southwest you’re probably aware that it’s a tight squeeze, and the airline’s customer of size policy states that any passenger encroaching on an adjacent seat will be required to purchase an additional seat. Luckily, Southwest allows you to request a refund for the cost of the additional seat after travel.

In the event you haven’t purchased an additional seat in advance, you can speak to a Customer Service Agent at the departure gate and be accommodated with a complimentary additional seat if you need one, assuming the seat is available.

Southwest has come a long way since making headlines 12 years ago when they famously ejected director Kevin Smith from a flight from Oakland to Burbank.

Ready Southwest Airlines full customer of size policy here.

Spirit Airlines

Armrest Width: 17 inches (window and aisle seat) 17.8 inches (middle seat), Big Front Seat 18.5 inches

Seatbelt Length: Information Not Available, though Spirit does contain seat belt extenders. Guests who need an extender may not sit in any seat equipped with an inflatable seat belt.

Seat Pitch: Standard Deluxe (an oxymoron if we’ve ever seen one) Leather Seats feature 30 inches of leg room with the Big Front Seats getting 36 inches.

The Policy:

Spirit’s policy states that any guest who encroaches on an adjacent seat or is unable to sit with the armrests lowered must purchase an additional seat at full cost. Luckily, for just $25 extra, you can purchase a Big Front Seat, which should give you the sort of room you’d expect in a typical first-class flight.

Read Spirit’s Big Front Seat policy here.

United Airlines

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Armrest Width: 16-17 inches on United Economy, 17 inches on United Economy Plus, 20 inches on First Class

Seatbelt Length: 39 inches + 25 inches with seat belt extender

Seat Pitch: United Economy features 30-31 inches of legroom, while United First enjoys 37 inches.

The Policy:

United Airlines has pretty much the worst policy for customers of size. If you’re unable to sit ‘safely and comfortably’ (meaning you’re able to sit with the seatbelt, an extension, and with your armrests down) in a single United Economy seat you’ll have to purchase an additional seat. The additional seat will be the same price as your initial seat so long as you purchase it on the same day. If you don’t and United decides you need more space, you’ll be charged whatever the fare level is on the day of departure.

United absolutely will not budge on being able to put those armrests down, even if you’re sitting with a family member or friend who doesn’t mind you encroaching on your seat.

In the event you need to change your flight, you’ll need to pay change fees for every seat you purchase, no exceptions. If you decline to buy an additional seat and United determines that you need one, you won’t be boarded.

If you need an additional seat, United will not relocate another customer to accommodate you, if an additional seat is not available, you’re required to rebook. In this case, United will waive the fees for flight changes.

If another passenger sits in your extra seat, United expects you to be an “active participant in preserving your extra seat.” Yeesh.

Read United Airlines full customer of size policy here.

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