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Tips for Larger Airline Passengers

Updated on March 18, 2017

Tips for larger airline flyers

So like you’re like me and you’re not 5’5” and 130 pounds. Therefore, we can assume with certainty that you are not comfortable in the back of an airplane sitting in good old economy seating. Between the non-existent legroom and the 17” wide seats, the prospect of several hours sitting in economy on a long haul flight can be something between a nightmare and the seventh circle of hell for people who are not tiny. As a non-tiny flyer with experience on long haul flights, I would like to offer some advice, information, and tips. Big people have to be smart to fly somewhat comfortably on long haul flights.

Business or First Class: Sitting in the Front of the Plane

The first (pardon the pun) and most obvious solution for people of size flying is to book seats in business or first class. This, however, is easier said than done for 99% of people given the cost. Now, there are some savvy flyers and there is a massive amount of resources out there on the internet detailing how to get upgrades and first class tickets with points and other tricks. By all means, get in there and play with miles and points. But at the end of the day, sitting in the front of the plane is expensive and prohibitively so for the vast majority of people who are not flying for work using their corporate accounts. A business class seat on an international long haul flight can cost $5,000 or more.

First class domestic offers bigger seats, but generally these seats aren’t even worth it and are the same size as most premium economy seats on international carriers. So if you can swing it, sit up front and you will get more room.

Economy Plus / Premium Economy

This is a more realistic option if you have to pay for your ticket with actual, real money out of your own pocket. All three US legacy carriers offer some form of seating which gives you more legroom and sometimes even better perks onboard the flight. These are normally exit row seats or seats in the front of economy which are located near the bulkhead. One word to the wise here, sometimes these seats are a bit narrower because the tray table is in the arm rest. Plus, sometimes the seatbelts are a bit shorter in reach. All in all, paying an extra hundred bucks for 6 or 7 inches of additional room on a 7 hour flight is worth it to me.

If you have status with a certain airline, sometimes you can upgrade into these seats for free.

Worst Case Scenario: stuck in coach

Definitely go for the aisle seat if at all possible here. This will let you spill your girth out in the aisle and stretch your leg into the aisle as well. Just beware of people walking and the dreaded snack cart which can whack you on the way by. Also, if your neighbors does not object, push the arm rests up so that you can get a bit more comfort.

Avoid the middle seat at all costs. If you get wedged in the middle, then do a lot of walking and hanging out elsewhere during the flight. You can always ask flight staff for a bit of help too. Sometimes they can do something to make your flight more comfortable.

Final word:

Very rarely these days are planes not full. This is because of increased competition, lower fares, and cost-cutting measures to increase the bottom line. It is used to be that you might not have a neighbor and you could use their room. This is rare nowadays.

If you can't afford a private plane or first class, then I hope these tips can ease your pain just a bit.


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