Best airlines for LARGE (or overweight) travelers, and other flying tips for the portly

Oct 8, 2000

I fly about ten times per year on business. I am a large person, as my "handle" mr350 lbs would indicate. I am also 6'4" and have real concerns about leg room. The choice of airlines and other factors about flights make a crucial difference in my comfort level. And in the comfort level of those sitting next to me.

As a federal employee, I am not allowed to fly first class and am often required to take a specific airline, due to "city-pair" contracts between the government and specific airlines. This past year I have flown on TWA, Delta, US Air and Southwest. Southwest is the contract carrier between my base and headquarters, so this is my most frequent flight.

Airline ratings:

4. TWA. The worst for the oversized traveler. The seats are very cramped. When the traveler in front of me reclined his seat, I was unable to open my snack tray. Also the seat belt was too tight and actually bruised my stomach.

3. Delta. Not much better. You should have seen the look of horror in the eyes of the little oriental man in the center seat, when I came to sit down beside him.I could only unfold the snack tray half way.

2. US Air. Not too bad. The seats were a little bigger, and I could open the snack tray completely if I sucked in my gut.

1. Southwest -- Actually the best, despite the cattle car seating sessions, with no reserved seats. The seats on Southwest are the roomiest coach seats I have found, and these is a little more leg room than other airlines. Caveat: You MUST allow enough time to get to the gate over one hour ahead of the flight, so you can queue up to get a low boarding number. If you are in the first thirty to board, you can always get the coveted aisle seat. If you are in the second group of thirty to board, queue up at the gate early so you can be number 31 or so on the plane. You will still usually get a great seat.

Folks arriving at the gate as passenger number 60 or higher will probably get the dreaded middle seat. For a large passenger, this will make you and the people on both sides of you very uncomfortable.

The "festival" seating offers a real bonus for the very large traveler. I find that the seat next to me is often the last seat on the plane to be chosen; if the plane is not full I can usually lift up the arm and spread out to a seat and a fourth, plus use the middle seat's fold down tray.

If someone does sit in the middle seat, they CHOSE to sit next to me, so they are less resentful than someone who was assigned to fly next to a large person.

Go Southwest!

Other General suggestions:

1. Always get an aisle seat. As an oversized person, I would take a more inconvenient flight if necessary to avoid the dreaded middle seat, or even some airline's window seats. This allows your shoulder to hang over into the aisle a little bit (and if the stewardess keeps brushing against you its not all bad).Also you can stick your feet out into the aisle to stretch a little bit.

2. If possible, do not store anything under the seat in front, so as to free up a little leg room.

3. Humble yourself and ask for a seatbelt extender.

4. Avoid using the airplane's bathroom. It would be very embarrassing to get wedged in that tiny space and have the fire department pry you out at the next stop.

4. Sit in the emergency exit aisle. There is a LOT more legroom. You do have to agree to lift a 50 pound door, throw it out of the plane, climb out and assist other passengers, but I haven't had to yet. And in an emergency I would be the first one off the plane, which is good.

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Member: Lonnie Boyd
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