Flying while Fat – Superfat Tips for International Air Travel

Posted on January 06, 2012 by Stacy Bias | 170,611 views | 127 Comments

UPDATES
- 10/28/13 – Please take the Flying While Fat Survey!
- 10/13/12 – Please note: There is now a Facebook Group for Flying While Fat. Join for discussion, support, and resources.
- 8/20/13 – Updated to add review of Monarch model Boeing 757-200 (757).
- 8/2/13 – Updated to add reviews of United models 767-300 (International), 737-900 (Domestic), A-319 (Domestic), 777-200 (International)
- 8/26/12 – Please note, the FAA has banned Personal Seatbelt Extenders. To complain, follow the instructions here.

– 4/29/12 – added experience with United (formerly Continental) Boeing 777-200ER Flat Bed

Useful Statistics:
I can clearly only speak for fatties of my similar shape/size or smaller – so as to aid you in knowing in advance if this blog post has any relevance to your life, here is my general body situation.  I am 5’8″ (172.5cm) and weigh around 342lbs (24.4 stone). I’m sort of shaped like an oval. Round shoulders, bigger at the top than the bottom, with narrower hips and legs. My pant size varies between a UK26-28. My shirt size varies between UK28-30. I am not one for form-fitting clothing so, if you are, size that down a notch. Note that UK sizing is slightly inconsistent with US sizing. I’ve heard that US sizes are one size larger but I find the whole thing confusing. I can’t find my tape measure but my last recorded ’roundest bit’ measurement was 63″ – including the largest circumference of my belly and butt. Again, the narrower hips aid me a bit in fitting in to plane seats, though the larger upper body means contorting a bit to avoid constantly being banged on the arm by toilet-bound passengers and drink carts. Also, I am relatively able-bodied which means I’m not able to speak first-hand for those whose mobility may differ.

[Quick update: Be sure you check the comments below for additional helpful hints provided by fellow fatties! There's some amazing stuff in there! -- Stacy]

 

First, Don’t be Mislead: Flying Sucks:
There’s no way around that fact. It sucks for everyone, not just the fatties. Even First Class flying sucks. It just sucks a little less and you get a little tiny hot towel that no one actually understands. This blog post does not promise to make flying not suck. There are no secrets you don’t know that open magical doorways to private airplane compartments with overstuffed couches and big screen TVs replaying episodes of Roseanne. But I am hoping that sharing my personal experiences and the resultant tips & hints will help give a realistic portrayal of flying that both acknowledges the whole sucking part while still presenting it as possible, tolerable and, I hope, worth it for the ways in which it opens up myriad possibilities for new life experiences.

My Story:
I’m not exactly sure (year-wise) when I stopped flying. I just know that, at some point, the anticipatory anxiety of air travel began to eclipse any/all perceived benefits of pushing through it.  Being a quadruple leo does me a lot of good as an activist but, personally, it means I tend to care far too much about what other people think. Getting over that will probably be a lifetime endeavor for me and it certainly played a large role in keeping me grounded.  The fear of people staring, saying cruel things, sighing or making a fuss when I sat next to them or, worse, being asked to leave a flight or purchase two seats — all of this felt insurmountable to me.  My world became only as large as my free time and car travel allowed.

Then, A few years ago, I decided to try again. I was working hard and had a little extra money — enough to buy a first class, domestic ticket. I flew from Portland, OR to New York for the annual NOLOSE conference.  It sucked, but I made it. Encouraged, I tried again the next year, this time with a coach ticket on Jet Blue, which I’d heard good things about from fellow fatties.  I lived!  Then, two years ago, I fell in love with my best friend who had, of course, up and moved back to London. Imagine my fatty chagrin. International air travel?!? ME?!? But I steeled myself, determined to not let fear dictate the terms of my love-life.  Fueled by lust and giddy with romance, I closed my eyes and jumped. I did the fatty unthinkable – I booked a single, standard coach seat on an International flight. It was all I could afford. I decided to just get to the airport and let the cards fall where they may.

Imagine my surprise when I actually fit in the seat. And no one said a thing.  Granted, the guy next to me was a bit of a jerk. He actually took up more room than I did in an effort to “put me in my place”. Luckily I was so doe-eyed about my first trip to England and seeing that Girl o’mine that I didn’t have it in me to give a crap. I just rolled my eyes, popped a Tylenol-PM and went to sleep. When I woke up, I was in England! And my whole life changed. I’ve clocked more fatty air miles in the last 2 years than in the rest of my entire life combined. And while it’s never what I’d call enjoyable, it’s possible. Doable. and Tolerable. (for me.)

General Stuff:

Boarding: If you’re at the back of the plane, opt for the pre-boarding. They don’t really argue at the gate and the boarding call is general: “For our passengers with children or those who require extra time boarding the plane.” Opting for early boarding will save you unintentionally hip-checking a hundred people as you pass down the aisle and will also give you time to ask the Stewards for a seatbelt extension without holding up the line. Granted, asking at the onset may mean they forget with all the hustle. If that happens, don’t fret. Just catch their eye and raise a finger and they’ll likely remember.

Pre-boarding will also allow you to raise the armrest next to you and get settled before your fellow passengers arrive. You can negotiate with them when they arrive about how they feel about leaving the armrest up and, if they are kind, that might afford you another inch or so of hip room.

If you’re toward the front of the plane and in an aisle seat, consider boarding later. This will mean you’re not tucking in your arms while others are lumbering through with their luggage.

Check at the Gate:
You never know who has cancelled last-minute or if people have shifted around on the plane. Explain your situation and ask if there are any seats available next to an empty seat. If they can accommodate you, they will.  And if you somehow end up in a middle seat, ask them to check with any passenger traveling alone in an aisle or window seat to see if they will change places with you. It’s a long-shot, but it never hurts to ask. While you’re at it, ask if there are any empty seats in business or first class. The worst you’ll hear is no.

If you do end up with a middle seat and no alternatives, wait until you are on the plane and ask the passenger next to you to switch. Explain that everyone will be happier if you can lean into the aisle or against the window. Most folks will be too polite to say no.

Windows Vs. Aisles
There’s good and bad to both and what you choose is really up to your personal preference.  Window seats are great if you’ve got a camel bladder like I do. I can hold it with the best of ‘em.  The only risk to window seats is that, depending on the placement of the window, you may have more or less shoulder room. This is just a 50/50 risk, plain n’ simple. The curve of a well-placed window is great for leaning, but the hard wall between the curves can make for awkward sleeping. Still, it’s nice to not have to jump up every time someone has to use the bathroom. I got stuck on a plane once with an increasingly manic rugby coach who kept jumping up to snort cocaine in the bathroom. I finally just made him switch seats with me and we were both much happier.

Aisle seats are great for folks who want the option to lean into the aisle. It does make for some arm-bumping if you’re bigger in the upper body like me, but it’s a reasonable trade-off if you don’t mind interrupted snoozing.

Airplane Bathrooms:
Totally not fun. I’m bendy, thankfully, so I can manage with some acrobatic maneuvering but I avoid drinking water for a couple of hours before any flight and I only drink soda while traveling. Not the healthiest option for hydration’s sake so be careful of you are prone to dehydration and be sure to drink a LOT of water after any flight. Some International flights have accessible bathrooms which tend to be marginally larger. Ask the stewards as you are boarding if there are any on the plane. Best advice: PEE BEFORE YOU GET ON THE PLANE.

Fly with a Lover or Friend:
If you can wrangle it, traveling with a lover or a friend is SO MUCH NICER. My partner happens to be smaller than I am and that has some benefits when traveling. She also likes it when I squish up next to her and that’s awful nice, too.  Traveling with other rad fatties is nice as well. You don’t have to argue about the armrest going up. It’s just a given! The distraction and comfort of traveling with someone you like is really wonderful and a huge stress-reliever.

Move Around:
Feel free to stand up when the fasten seatbelt signs are off. There’s generally a bit of standing room at the back and/or front of the plane near the restrooms, especially on International flights.  Being wedged into an airplane seat sucks and it’s terrible for your circulation. Standing for even just a few minutes at a time, even just stretching in the aisle next to your seat, offers some welcome relief and helps thwart the potential for flight-induced thrombosis. If standing isn’t an option, be sure you stretch your legs out where possible.

Let’s start small — Puddle Jumpers:
In 2006 a fellow fatty and I hopped a plane from Portland to Vegas.  It was one of those tiny little propeller planes with two seats to either side of the aisle.  Whooboy, that sucked.  We liked each other a whole lot and that, combined with the merciful brevity of the flight, was really the only saving grace. We basically just wedged together, took turns being each other’s armrests, and cracked sardine jokes for the duration. But we got there. And that’s the important thing.

Tips & Hints for Small Planes
I avoid these like hipsters avoid self-actualization. If I can drive, take a train, bus or ferry, I will opt for that instead. If I can fly with a smaller friend, I will. But pretty much it’s an emphatic NO wherever possible. If you find yourself with no other options, buy two seats if you’re my size or larger.

Also, bear in mind that, for even smaller planes such as those which fly folks across to the Aran Islands from the Irish mainland, you may be required to physically step on a scale in order to aid in load balancing. For the most part, they weigh everyone. They also weigh luggage/cargo.  Do not take this personally. You’re just part of the equation. You weigh what you weigh and there’s no right or wrong to it.

Domestic Coach:
Yep. Still sucks.  I’ve flown to NYC and back at least twice a year for the last several and I have to profess my undying adoration of Jet Blue. If they fly the route you’re booking, USE THEM. I have to admit that I’ve not flown domestic coach by myself on any airline other than Jet Blue in the last several years, so this post will be a little biased, as it were. That said, my anxiety about domestic air travel (at least on Jet Blue) has dropped to about a 3 on the 1-10 scale. And it *was* a 10. So that’s saying something.

I have recently flown United from Houston (IAH) to Portland (PDX) and back on United. The plane was United Airlines Boeing 737-900 (739) (Originally Continental). It was not the most comfortable nor the least comfortable flight I’ve been on. I did fit. The armrests did go down. The tray tables did not work for me. One one leg of this trip, the seatbelts actually worked for me without an extender, but I was a bit overstimulated-slash-exhausted on this journey so I’m afraid I can’t remember whether it was the International or the Domestic flight. If I fly this route again, I’ll update with the information. I tried to gauge my comfort level on this flight to see if I would be fine with doing it alone and my leaning would still be to go with Jet Blue if possible, but United would be my second choice. Scroll down for the International leg of this journey.

Added 8/1/2013: I flew United again this year from London to Portland via Chicago. I have to say I was less impressed this time than I was last year. Got a 767-300 from London to Chicao, 737-900 (again) from Chicago to PDX, A-319 from PDX to Chicago and a 777-200 from Chicago to London. I can report a similar experience for all of them. The version of 777-200 I got this time was different from last year’s more luxurious model where the tray tables worked. Must have been an older plane. I can say, due to the variability of the aircraft and the tight fit, I’d be unlikely to choose United as a solo flight (without a travel companion) and would likely either try to spring for Economy Plus or Business Class if they were my only option. The lack of tray table is problematic on longer flights. We did fly back to London on a Tuesday and the flight from Chicago to London was very undersold — there were several empty rows (that stayed empty, meaning people spread out and there were still empty rows) so Tuesday seems a good day to travel! I believe the first leg of the journey (on the 767-300) I did not require a seatbelt extender. The rest did require it. I brought my own and was never questioned. There was an accessible bathroom on the 767-300 (though I balk a bit at what they consider accessible as it was only marginally wider than the standard) which allowed for slightly more room. I didn’t see another accessible restroom on any other flights but I was heavily dosed on dramamine for motion sickness the last two legs so I’ll admit I wasn’t careful about looking.

Added 8/20/2013: I flew from London to Mytilene, Greece last week on a Monarch flight (chartered by Thomas Cook). I traveled with my partner, which is good as the leg room on these flights was pretty terrible. The good news was that, on the first leg, we were able to upgrade to extra leg room for only £25 — a fairly unheard of price! That made a difference. I did need a seatbelt extender (I have my own and it worked just fine) and the tray tables didn’t work for me even in the extra leg room but I felt relatively comfortable and fell asleep for most of the flight. I did put the armrest down to see how it would be. It was OK. Not super comfortable, but tolerable. It did ride up a bit, though as my leg slipped under it which might be annoying to a seatmate that isn’t my partner.

On the flight back, we arrived quite late to the airport and were among the last to check in. This meant we weren’t seated together. I was tossed into the bulkhead at the front of the plane and my partner was seated in row 31 — also the emergency exit row. The armrests in these rows don’t go up and I was pretty nervous that I wouldn’t fit. I did, in fact, fit. And it would have been OK, but thankfully my partner worked some magic with other folks who weren’t seated next to their travel companions and we both ended up seated together in a standard row. This row wasn’t extra leg room and I have to say that my knees were pressed into the seat in front of me for the duration. It wasn’t awesome, but it was doable for a short (3.5 hr) trip.

Tips & Hints:
If you can afford it, and if the airline you’re traveling with offers it, bump up to the Extra Leg Room option. Last check, it was between $30 and $60/leg. The benefits of this are both a relief from the claustrophobia of having your face 2 inches from the seat in front of you and the fact that it offers a much higher likelihood of the tray table coming all the way down. It’s little things like that that make all the difference in a flight.

My best friend for air travel in general is SeatGuru.Com. If you can’t take Jet Blue, you can use this to research the dimensions of the plane you’ll be flying on and choose a seat that might be better for you than others. They have a constantly updated listing of all models of airplane flown by most airlines.  If you’re not sure what airplane model you’ll be taking, you can always call the airline to ask.

Sometimes you can bump up to Extra Leg Room as you’re checking in for a flight at a discounted rate. Don’t wait if you can afford to book it up front, but it never hurts to ask.

Domestic First Class
If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford this, do it. I’ve only managed it once, but it was the most relaxed flight of my life. It’s not entirely without its drawbacks but the extra room (especially upper body room) is wonderful.

Tips & Hints:
The first downside of domestic first class is the immovable armrests. They are wider than those in coach because they contain the tray tables and also serve as a drink holder between seats. They don’t lift up and that can cut into the available inches in the seat.  Also, because the tray tables are in the armrests themselves rather than on the backs of the seats in front of you, it’s iffy as to whether or not they will extend enough to be usable. Check SeatGuru thoroughly to be sure you’ll have enough butt room.

The other downside to first class is the level of entitlement held by your fellow passengers. These folks are the most likely to be huffy, largely owing to the ridiculous amount of money they paid for their tickets and the resulting smugness. (Or, more likely, the smugness was what caused them to fork out the dough for the nicer seat in the first place.)  Don’t take it personally. You paid the same amount to be there and, even if you didn’t, they aren’t entitled to any more pleasant a flight than anyone else on that plane. Take up the space you paid for and drink in their huffiness like the sweet nectar of long-overdue justice.

International Coach:
I’ve only flown International coach alone twice. I won’t lie. It sucked. The first time more than the last. I referenced the jerk I sat next to earlier in the article so I won’t waste time with him again. The second flight was better. I sat next to a nice woman. She let me raise the armrest and I popped another Tylenol PM and zonked out for the majority of the trip.  I flew Virgin Atlantic at the suggestion of fellow fat travelers and was pleased for the most part.  In coach, the tray tables on some planes come folded in half. This meant that, while I couldn’t extend it entirely, I did have half of a tray table to work with which allowed me to precariously balance my dinner tray and to have a drink without being forced to hold it.

Tips & Hints – Virgin Atlantic:
As referenced earlier, try to board early and lift up the armrest. Because I was flying to an english-speaking country, I didn’t have a language barrier to contend with. This may prove more complex for those traveling to places with different languages or customs regarding personal space. Perhaps others will share related experiences in the comments?

On Virgin Atlantic flights, the controller for the TV screen is inside the arm rest, resting against your outer thigh.  This is annoying. I generally remove the controller and balance it across my lap for the duration to avoid having to shift in my seat.  The plug-in for headphones is also on the inside of the arm rest, which is equally annoying as it pokes into your leg. Seek out headphones with the flattest possible plug and bring your own. The ones provided by the airlines are pointy and inflexible.

Virgin Atlantic also offers an Extra Leg Room option, but you cannot book it online. You have to book it at the time of check-in. I cannot recommend this enough if you can splurge for it. It’s generally around £50/leg. I actually like the economy with Extra Leg Room better than Premium Economy (which is the equivalent of domestic Business Class.) It’s the most like the Jet Blue experience I’ve found. You don’t have the extra upper body room but the thinner and movable arm rests mean more butt room and the extra space means you can use your tray table. Get to the airport EARLY to book this.

Tips & Hints: United International:
My most recent trip (April of 2012) was from London to Portland and I traveled with my Partner on United Airlines (formerly Continental.) The first leg was from London (LHR) to Houston (IAH). The plane we traveled on Internationally was the Boeing 777-200ER Flat Bed and I have to say that I was pretty surprised by how comfortable it was. There was quite a lot of legroom, on par or just below par with the Extra Leg Room seats on Jet Blue domestic. Not only this, but the tray table had a bit of curvature to it (belly-shaped indent at the front of the tray) which actually allowed the full tray to come down. The armrests did come down fine for me, though thankfully I was traveling with my partner and didn’t require them. I had the window seat on this journey and may choose the aisle instead since it’s a 3-person row rather than two and so I stayed in my seat more than I might have were someone not required to move for me every time I wanted to stand. The bathrooms were standard for International flights, a bit larger than on the domestic but still requiring some acrobatics. Scroll up for my experience of the domestic leg on United.

Domestic Premium Economy
This represents the bulk of my International flying experience. I flew enough to have a lot of extra miles which made upgrading much more feasible for me.  The benefits of Premium Economy are a slightly more attentive staff, a higher likelihood of an empty seat next to you (because of the higher price), and more upper body room.

Tips & Hints:
Like domestic First Class, the armrests are immovable.  This was deeply frustrating when I happened to have an entire row to myself but couldn’t raise the armrests to enjoy it.  There’s slightly more hip room but it’s not quite enough to justify the cost. I will opt for it (if I can afford it) over coach if there is nothing available in Extra Leg Room – but it’s not my favorite.  Because the tray tables are in the armrests, they’re not ideal. They work for me, but just barely.

Again, talk to the folks at the gate, or even the stewards once you’re on the plane, if you find yourself situated uncomfortably. I’ve found the staff of Virgin Atlantic to be helpful. They’ve never actually bumped me up to first class but they did once shift me to a two-seat row with no one next to me–and that was heaven (comparatively).

International First Class
HA! I wish.

Inter-European Coach
Much like domestic Coach. Sardined into a plane. I’ve only flown this with a partner but the same rules apply here as those for domestic coach. There are a lot of ‘economy’ airlines like EasyJet and RyanAir. These airlines will nickel and dime you to death and I’ve heard rumblings of similar treatment of fatties as the infamous Southwest Airlines. I haven’t had any personal experience with them yet but will report in should I chance it.  I flew British Airways with my partner and it was quite comfortable. Again, a short-haul and no usable tray table – but doable!

TRAIN TRAVEL: EuroRail
Love it. Even coach is fantastically roomy (comparatively) and the bathrooms are really reasonable. I’ve heard wonderful things about First Class but haven’t seen it yet.  Definitely a wonderful way to travel if you have the time.

So that’s that.  I feel certain I’ve left out a hundred little details and I am completely willing to answer any questions I can. Just leave them in the comments.  Please also feel free to share your own experiences with airlines not listed here or simply regarding travel in general.

So listen — I know airline travel is hard.  But I want to encourage those of you whose lived experience is similar enough to mine for this to resonate to consider taking the risk. In the last 2 years I have been to San Francisco/Oakland, New York (several times), Italy (Rome, Naples, Florence and Pisa), England (London, Brighton, Avebury, etc,), Ireland and Belgium.  I have clattered down railways in the shadow of Vesuvius on the way to explore Pompeii.  I have eaten Gelato beneath the Leaning Tower of Pisa with live opera streaming through the night air.  I have climbed to the top of the Tower of London and seen the final resting place of Anne Boleyn.  I have watched a beautiful light show projected on the glorious buildings of the Grand Platz in Brussels, Belgium.  I’ve hiked the hill to the Long Barrow and rested my head against the ancient stones of the Avebury Henge.  I have, weary and sunburned, taken in the landscape from the top of the Roman Colosseum. I even flipped the bird at the Vatican! Last, but not least, I up and moved to London, England.

AND – I did all of this at 375lbs. I’m a little smaller now than I was when I started (not intentional, just happened) but I still clock in 300+. I never thought travel like this was an option for me. Turns out I was wrong.

I realize that travel is expensive and that not everyone has the option to do this. I totally don’t want to come off as all bootstrappy.  I chose this a priority for myself and it required a ridiculous and completely unsustainable amount of working to pull it off – often at the expense of maintaining friendships and having a more generally well-rounded life. I realize it may not be as enticing or accessible for everyone.  Still – there may be a happy middle ground. A series of small adventures, or one really big one. And I want to remind you that, wherever you go, however often, however far from home –You are fierce and deserving. You are strong and worthy. And what other people think doesn’t matter.  What matters is your life and what you want to do with it.  Put on your blinders, drug yourself with Tylenol-PM if you have to, save up and buy two seats if it makes you more comfortable, and to hell with anyone who has an opinion about any of it.  If you want to — Go.  Do.  Be in the world.  And then come tell me all about it!


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127 Responses to Flying while Fat – Superfat Tips for International Air Travel



  1. Elizabeth

    Thanks for this. I have pretty much stopped flying in the last couple of years, and have been trying to work up the courage for air travel again,

    I don’t really have the money to travel right now, but I’d like to believe that when I do have the money, I’ll be able to. I’ve felt so trapped by what people might think/say about me both on the plane and in places I’ve never been…I feel stupid and weak for letting that affect me, but it does. This helps, though, so thanks again.



    • Stacy Bias

      Elizabeth – Please don’t feel badly about travel anxiety. It’s a perfectly natural response to a really uncomfortable situation. Even armed with all this information and travel experience, I still spend a lot of time fretting before flights. That probably won’t ever completely go away. The difference is my motivation to push through and do it anyway and that takes time and the right impetus. I hope you’re able to try traveling soon!



  2. O.C.

    A tip for flying the tiny puddle jumper planes: If you’re in a window seat, feel under the armrest against the side of the plane for a small square button near the back of the armrest. That will allow you to lift it and gain at least three or four inches of extra space. Ahhhhh….



  3. Amber Melvin

    Thank you for writing this!

    I will be hopping on an international flight soon & need all the confidence I can gather after a bad experience last time. I booked United’s Economy Plus, which I did on the return flight last time. No, I cannot afford to pay a lot for a plane ticket, but the tiny bit of extra room was a lifesaver last time, therefore a priority for me this time. I highly recommend to any fatties that need extra space. It’s about $80 each flight.

    I like how you emphasize that yes, flying while fat can be uncomfortable & emotionally painful, but it isn’t worth avoiding it & missing out on all the great experiences that travel brings.



    • Stacy Bias

      Hi Amber! I had a really good experience on United Economy Plus that I forgot to include in this blog post. (It was the flight I took from Portland to London when I moved so I was distracted by freaking out about leaving home.) It is expensive, for sure. I hate that being comfortable requires tacking on such high fees but am grateful that it exists. Thanks for sharing your experience!!



  4. Stacy this is SUCH a great post. It’s one of the most thorough posts I’ve seen on fat travel ever.

    I travel all the time for work (sometimes in teeny planes which are the absolute worst) and fun and it has just been on my last few flights that I’ve had issues like will the seat belt fit? I don’t and won’t let it stop me from travel (hell I have to for work) but as I get fatter I am starting to think more and more about plane seats in a way than I never have before. Thank you for it.



    • Stacy Bias

      Hi Bloomie! I’m glad you’re not letting it stop you and I bet you have some great tips to share yourself being such a frequent traveler! I’m sorry to hear that it’s becoming harder for you. I thoroughly commiserate. I’m looking at that 5,000 mile, 24 hour travel day at least twice a year to visit friends and family, in addition to hopefully LOTS of inter-european travel to see all the places that are so accessible from London. Air travel doesn’t look to be something that will lessen in its frequency for me – so, gritting my teeth and bearing it. Good to have folks to talk about it with!



  5. All very good info. As a regular traveler who has frequently flown the Delta “sardine can routes” I can definitely empathize. It does very much depend on body size not just weight and height though. While over 300lbs and wearing a 30/32, I have very narrow hips and haven’t had trouble fitting into even narrow seats with a seat belt extender for my very big tummy. I do definitely prefer train and even bus seats over airline seats however. Amtrak Cascades economy seats feels truly luxurious compared to air travel.



    • Stacy Bias

      Hi Angela! Yep – I prefer train travel where possible as well, but it is a huge trade-off on time and isn’t an option for a lot of people who only have short bits of time off and/or who are going places trains don’t go. Wouldn’t it be nice if air travel was that comfortable? *sigh*



  6. Bri

    I fly semi-regularly and so I purchased my own seat belt extended via Ebay. Very handy purchase!

    One thing I hate is that you must have arm rests down when taking off and landing. And also that the fold down tables never lay flat (or anything near flat) because of my belly.



  7. ahh, serendipity! This post came to me just at the right time. I haven’t flown in about 2 years because I’ve put on about 40+ pounds and knew that I barely fit when I was smaller. I’m majorly a pear shape, with wide hips and butt, so I worry about air travel and have typically avoided it. But I just found out a couple weeks ago that I was accepted to present at a fat studies conference in Boston. It felt so wrong to let my fat body and the fear of air travel prevent me from going to the conference. My father is nice enough that he is letting me use his air miles to upgrade to first class, so I will hopefully have an extra bit of room, but the anxiety is still there. I’ll definitely be coming back to this post for some reassurance before I actually go. Thanks for this guide! I didn’t know about the first class armrest situation, so the heads up will alleviate my panic!



  8. Savage

    I fly a lot domestic for my job and just wanted to add my two cents that Alaska Airlines is really great about seating arrangements and upgrades for me. I flew from Portland, OR to Los Angeles, CA weekly for five months straight and got to know the ticket agents and stewards on the regular flights, and I was always accommodated kindly and was even upgraded to First Class a couple of times for being adorable. My best friend lives in Oakland so I’ve been on quite a few of their puddle jumpers, and the stewards always make sure if there is an empty seat, it’s next to me. I also have been on Greyhound quite a bit lately and their seats are wonderful. All armrests go down and the seats recline nicely, and there is usually a couple strips of elastic on the seat in front of you to put a bottled drink. Greyhound bathrooms are much more roomy than airlines, but not as clean. I would recommend holding it until the next stop. Who knew there was a bathroom dirtier than an eastern Oregon truck stop?



    • Stacy Bias

      Thanks for that info! I’m going to update the blog post with stuff that folks have added on facebook and in comments, so I’ll include this in there. :)



  9. I’ve never had to have the armrests down for take-off or landing, and I’ve flown quite a bit. That’s interesting. Tray-tables, yes, of course, but not the armrests.

    I bought my own seatbelt extender long ago from amplestuff.com and it was a great investment. It’s fascinating how I need it on some planes and totally do not need it on others. Same trip, same body, but totally different seatbelt sizes in the plane.



  10. Bri

    Well rounded mama. Maybe it is an Australian thing (about the arm rests) but I flew at the start of December and they definitely made me put the arm rests down.



  11. Melissa

    I hate travelling soo soo much…I have avoided it also for ‘fear’ of squashing another passenger….I will travel if im with someone….and it really annoys me that I get so distressed that I would rather not travel on a plane, which means that I miss out on seeing all those amazing sights and experiences like the ones you’ve experienced…….but I am someone who pushes through fear barriers and I really really want to go to London this year…..the one thing I am super worried about is the bathroom situation……It is a 24 hour flight from NZ to London and even though I am also a camel…im pretty sure i will need to go to the bathroom….I have never in my life stepped foot into one, so that is something that really frightens me….what if i cant fit…..so I will continue to push through my fear barriers and hopefully will be on a plane in the not too distant future! Thanks for your post, I totally related to it soo much….



    • Stacy Bias

      Melissa – If you want to email me directly we can swap measurements (It might take me a minute to figure mine out ‘cuz I have no idea where my tape measure is and the one I have here is METRIC!) but I can tell you that I’ve never not fit in an airplane bathroom. It’s not awesome and, for the sake of full disclosure, I have to do a little bit of fat acrobatics to wipe. (Put one foot on the toilet – it works.) It’s annoying and inconvenient but possibly doable. I’m happy to help you alleviate some concern in advance if possible. And if coming to London works out for you this year (or any other) let me know and I’ll buy you a post-emotional-hurdle cocktail! xx – Stacy



      • Melissa

        WICKED! I would adore a post hurdle cocktail! lol…..I will PM you on FB my email addy and will post measurements….Metricis all good, thats what we use here in NZ…im about a size 24, which is kind of meaningless because all brands, and countries are different…..but thanks for your help, it would be great to meet you if I get to come over…. :))



        • Stacy Bias

          At a size 24, you should be fine – especially on international flights. They tend to have accessible bathrooms and if it’s truly an issue, you can use the First Class bathrooms which are larger. :) Don’t fret! You’ll be fine!



  12. Seighin

    I’ve had to travel for work, and was one time confronted *on the plane* by airline personnel telling me I had to buy 2 seats for that flight even though I hadn’t for the flight 3 days prior. Once I was on a 2 hour layover, eating lunch at the gate when another airline staffer thought it important enough to interrupt my lunch to tell me I would need to buy 2 seats.

    I’ve developed terrible anxiety about air travel, and combined with gender identity issues (being wrong bathroomed in 2 different airports in Texas, over 2 different trips), air travel is horrific for me.

    Thanks for these tips, and sharing your experiences.



    • Stacy Bias

      Ugh, Seighin. I’m so sorry that you’ve had to deal with that. Stories like yours simultaneously make me see little white dots of rage, fill my heart with grief and also shove my virtual fist into the air with a resounding HELL YEAH for all the strength that is inherent in walking through the world the way so many of us do. I can definitely only speak for my experience as a person whose gender presentation happens to fall fairly (outwardly) in conformity with those (again, subjective and arbitrary) socially-accepted norms. Over the last few days I’ve heard terrible stories from several different folks (most notably a friend who was racially profiled and had someone say to her that they were “concerned that she had a bomb on her person” as well as having to deal with every single item she had with her being swabbed before she was allowed on the plane) and I’m even more convinced that air travel is absolutely a focal point for all kinds of ridiculous discrimination. I would love to see someone put together a more comprehensive resource — something that collects voices from everywhere and offers myriad tips and hints to sidestep and/or simply prepare oneself for all kinds of oppressive forces that present themselves in travel (and/or life in general!) Mayhaps one day!



  13. Robin

    I just read this part of the blog. Stacy…you are the best! I love love LOVE all of this info :-) I am so happy I found your site. I am 318 pounds and I need every bit of this information. You have just made me feel completely confident and happy about my trip now knowing the ins and outs. I cant thank you enough, bless you!
    xoxo Robin



    • Stacy Bias

      I’m so glad to hear it, Robin! Hope you’re headed somewhere exciting!! And I hope that you have wonderful, safe and hassle-free travels!



  14. DadaCass

    I travel a lot within North American weighing in well over 400 lbs! It is is hard and I am so happy to read about the challenges and determinations of others. (And how often does a random link you’ve clicked on the internet make you feel that way?!) I’ve had an upgrade to first class once or twice but mostly I stick it out in coach. Once, a huffy businessman refused to sit next to me for a 50 minute flight. What an entitled piece of garbage. Did you know that in Canada fat people can have a free second seat — but only if they go through a ridiculous and excessive medical and administrative process every two years. Part of it involves sitting on a big piece of paper and having a doctor trace your butt with a pencil. This tracing is then sent to the airline companies for analysis. Anyways, enough of that. Way to go people!

    Oooh, also, a tip: next time you fly, just keep the seat extender. I’ve had the same one for years and have never had to deal with asking/waiting/not receiving again.



    • Stacy Bias

      That’s good to know re: the Canadian free second seat rule! Sounds like an annoying process but also really helpful for those who couldn’t afford to purchase a seat if needed! Thanks, DadaCass!



  15. How very timely. I’m planning a trip from San Francisco to Bangkok – wondering if anyone has fatty tips for trans-Pacific routes? Airlines to favor/avoid?



  16. liz

    Can I add a bit of a tip – don’t ever go for the emergency exit rows… the lure of more leg room often comes at a cost of less hip room b/c the seats are rigid on the sides…. I was ‘upgraded’ to one of these seats coming to Canada from Amsterdam and I had bruises on my hips for days after. NOT FUN. Problem is that I was set-up with a proper seat, but they moved me without asking. That whole scene at the Amsterdamn airport was a nightmare — but my tip is to stick to your guns.

    I’ve travelled all over – North America to Fiji to NZ to Oz, to LA and back to Canada; Canada to NYC lots of times, also over to Germany and the UK. My tip is to arrive as early as possible and check-in IN PERSON – don’t check-in online if you can. Often (with decent airlines) I’m pretty sure they have a wide-load code that they can enter… because any time I’ve done this, I’m invariably the one person with an empty seat beside them if there is one to be had – unless of course the plane is totally sold out.

    Also – kindess goes a long long way — flight from Sydney to LA, 17 hrs – I was given a seat bank where there were only 2 seats instead of 3 — so made for AWESOME leg room. Had a great neighbour, we drank wine out of trashy plastic cups and watched the Vicar of Dilbey.

    And I’d love for folks to keep track of how and when they are asked to purchase extra seats – humiliation is NOT cool and you can sue if they caused distress. It IS worth it, because everyone deserves respect….. my response usually to those who are entitled is just to say “Oh my apologies — (dripping in syrupy sweetness) I didn’t know this was your private jet”. I’ve had to say similar on buses too — reminding folks that – you know what – if you are on public transport, you don’t have a say or a choice. Suck it up – it isn’t pleasant for anyone.



  17. BetterByDesign

    Thank you so much for these tips. I’m 350lbs and haven’t flown since I was about 100lbs lighter. But I recently was offered a job halfway across the US from my home in Pennsylvania. I’ll be flying to look at apartments in a few months and was absolutely sure that I would just never fit. You’ve given me some hope and some much needed piece of mind. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!



  18. Lisa

    This article is awesome. I’m backpacking in Spain for a few weeks in March. I’ve been scouring the internet for tips.

    Anything you can tell me would be appreciated!

    Thank you!



    • Stacy Bias

      Hey Lisa! Sorry I missed this comment. Perhaps you’re on your trip already! I’m afraid I don’t have any experience with backpacking myself. All I can tell you is TAKE GOOD SHOES! ;) Screw fashion. Be comfortable!



  19. abby

    So do u think ill be ok? Going to vegas in a week..gulp im 5′ 9″ and come in at 334 lbs and am 20 weeks pregnant. Freaking out do u think ill be ok?!?!



    • Stacy Bias

      Hey Abby! I’d love to offer you concrete assurances, but the best I can do is tell you what my body shape is and what my experience was like as I did in the article above. Take a deep breath and remember that, the worst-case scenario is that you don’t fit. If that happens, you can talk to them about buying a second seat or you can see if they can position you in a different row with an empty seat between you and another passenger. It can be an intense feeling of dread to think about having those conversations, especially if money is a huge issue and a second seat isn’t feasible. That said, life is so short. Don’t let the possibility of one awkward moment with people you’ll likely never see again stop you from having the adventures you deserve. I tell myself that all the time and it helps me take risks — and when I do, they’re always worth it! Have a great trip!



      • Abby

        Well, I’m flying with my hubby who is a lot smaller than i am. He’s about 5 5 we make a rather odd looking couple but we work! He’s flown before and is sure that I’ll fit ok, plus we talked to the travel agent and told her my worries and she booked us on the side of the airplane that only has the two seats. I told him I’m pregnant with your child, we can rub thighs together for awhile. My plan is to show up a bit early and look nice, not like I just crawled out of the grave, be extra pleasant, and hopefully flight staff will be in a good mood. It’s just super scary because of the whole Kevin Smith thing! But that being said, I’ll be damned if I live my whole life in a bubble cause I’m too scared to go do anything!

        Thanks for everything =)



  20. Mary Snover

    I will be traveling by airplane in July for the first time in over 20 years and I am 330 pounds. Upon hearing of my trip, my cousin screamed at me “If you don’t buy two seats, they are going to bump you!”. I called my travel agent;I’m probably going to wind up buying another seat. Thank you for sharing that your size didn’t stop you from traveling and for sharing your hints-they are awesome! When I return, I’ll let you know how the flight and the Doobie Brothers/Chicago concert was! Thanks again.



    • Stacy Bias

      Hey Mary! I’m so glad you’re giving yourself this gift of travel! Congratulations! I know it’s intense. And if buying an extra seat gives you the confidence you need to travel, I fully support it. It also gives you a chance to sit in one seat and pretend like someone is next to you so you can figure out for yourself if a single seat might work for you next time. And even if it doesn’t, whatever — You’re traveling! That’s exciting! Do let me know how it goes! xx



  21. Taylor Snow

    Thank you so much for sharing! I am taking a flight from Texas to NZ to visit what could possibly be the love of my life. ;) I am 5’7″ and 285lbs, size 22 and I have been LOSING MY MIND worrying about whether or not I will fit. I am steadily working to lose weight, but I doubt I will be a size 8 in 3 months so.. anxiety. I absolutely cannot afford a 2nd seat. So, fingers crossed! Your blog did definitely ease my mind. I am just going to take the leap and see what happens!

    P.S. I am looking at flying with Virgin America, but I have seen some flights with JetBlue as well for a little more.



    • Taylor Snow

      Nevermind! I got JetBlue confused with Jetstar which I have heard terrible things about. Oh well!



    • Stacy Bias

      Taylor – What an exciting adventure you’re about to embark upon! Given your statistics, I think it’s safe to assume that you’ll *fit*. (don’t confuse fit with comfort, however. And remember that NO ONE is comfortable on airplanes!) You made a good choice with Virgin, I think. Remember to check http://seatguru.com if you have any concerns about where you’re sitting. If you don’t know the model of the plane, you can always call the airline to get that information. Let me know how it goes? Have fun! And good luck in love!



    • Amy

      @Taylor Snow
      How did the flight and fit work out for you?



  22. Kaj

    I feel a little better about travelling this summer. We are flying from London to Orlando in aug. I’m 5ft 9 and more wide then anything. I’m nervous about not fitting into the sits. I really don’t have the money to pay for another seat. We are flying delta, united or virgin Atlantic. Will I be okay?



    • Stacy Bias

      Sorry for the lag on responding to this, Kaj! I was in final examination prep and had a hard time keeping up with the blog. I’m afraid I can’t speak to your experience because you didn’t mention your actual size other than your height. What I can say is, I’ve never been asked to buy a second seat on United or Virgin Atlantic. And, if you’re traveling with a companion, chances for this are even smaller as mostly airlines are concerned with the comfort of other passengers and if you have your own ‘buffer’, they probably won’t worry about it. United and Virgin Atlantic are pretty roomy, comparatively. I was surprised to find that United actually had tray tables that worked for me! Good luck with your flight and I hope you have a great time in Orlando! Keep me posted if you like!



  23. Lin

    Hello there! I’m really happy I googled and found this website, helps me out a lot. To begin with, I have never flown and will be for the first time this summer (Early July) to Finland. I’ve been researching the best companies that are the most fat-friendly, and several times on websites I’ve run into some really really nasty folks proclaiming that none should be, that I should be required to pay for an extra ticket, and so on. So, it’s nice to see a positive website about such with tips and so on. I am petrified not only of the flying itself, but also of any potential treatment I may receive, and most of all..if they’ll require me to buy a 2nd ticket. I wouldn’t be able to go on my trip if that were the case (seeing as how the tickets are roughly $1K or more.) Again, thank you for putting this up, will definitely look into JetBlue and see if I can work out something with them.



  24. Leah

    American Airlines for London New York is awesome!



  25. Lisa

    I am a bit over 400 lbs and flew to Ecuador a few years back no problems, I am going to Alaska in July, from Minneapolis and am worried about the bathrooms. Flat butt, skinny arms and a big tummy. Any advice? Don’t remember the last time I used an airplane bathroom… Want to go to Maui next.



    • Stacy Bias

      Hi Lisa – I wish I could offer you advice on this but it really, really depends on your shape. Because we’re different sizes, I can’t speak to your experience. I fit in airplane bathrooms but it definitely requires some flexibility. Without being graphic, my best advice is to wear something that’s easy to slide off of one foot so you can put your foot up on the toilet if you need some extra room to maneuver for clean-up. Also make sure you go to the restroom just before you get on the plane and drink only enough to stay hydrated if you’re really worried about it.



  26. Lisa

    Thanks so much for the great detail of your article. I am headed overseas this summer and have been obsessed about looking up the fat experience with flying. My own seat belt extender would certainly be a plus, I don’t want to have to ask for one because people are so mean to fat people sometimes.



    • Stacy Bias

      Hey Lisa! I totally understand your obsession. I was the same when I was preparing for my first solo travel abroad. I’m glad that this was helpful! I can definitely recommend having your own seat belt extender. Minimizing your own stress while traveling is a really excellent way to practice self-care. That said, I’ve never once had a flight attendant be weird or rude about giving me a seat belt extender. It’s a fairly common request – you won’t be the first, nor the last to do it, possibly not the only one on your flight. So if you don’t manage to get one before your travels, don’t worry too much! Let me know how your travels go!



  27. Kaj

    Hi yes I’m travelling with family. I’m big all over and wide at the hips. My weight is 330. We are defo travelling via virgin Atlantic. Thanks for the advice :-)



    • Stacy Bias

      Traveling with someone, you should really be fine. :) Hint for Virgin Atlantic – take the control panel out of the armrest before you sit down and just let it dangle. Otherwise you’ll constantly be pressing the buttons with your outer thighs and your TV will go wonky. ;)



  28. Kaj

    That’s great advice….thank you!!! X



  29. Ali

    I used to be afraid of flying for the same reasons that all people of size have. I’m not just overweight but very very overweight. It doesn’t bother me. I feel that it’s my place in this world and so be it. I’m not just accepting of me, but love me. Anyway, I fly a regularly. Between Sydney Australia and new Zealand, around Australia and through New Zealand to Tonga. I haven’t been on scales in quite some time because I have no need but the last time I weighed about 210kg so in excess off 400lb. I still fly. I suppose it might suck money wise but I buy two seats. I also make sure I get the front rows because they have more leg room. I don’t actually need the whole extra seat next to me but would definitely not fit into a single. For me travel is about planning. Booking early so I get those cheaper flights where two seats are cheap enough. I love flying Air NZs works deluxe for trans tasman and pacific flights because it guarantees the middle seat is empty and I get treated like first class (including priority check in and lounge access) and only costs 1.5 times the cost of normal economy.

    I was told by an airline call centre once that I only needed to book one ticket and at check in they would juggle seats so I had a free one next to me or else allow me to go on the next flight. I’m a Capricorn and I couldn’t stand the uncertainty of not knowing if I would get on a flight. It doesn’t bother me to pay or the extra seat. I know in an ideal world I shouldn’t have to, but for the world I live in it just makes things like travel easier. I also like the look on my rowmate’s face when they see what little space there is left in thei middle seat and then I reveal that I’ve purchased both seats so no one will be trying to squeeze between us. I’ve even had a fellow overweight passenger in that other seat ask if he could raise his armrest to share my middle seat. (if course I said yes).

    My issue with purchasing two seats is that airline workers (from check in, to boarding, to flight attendants) are not adequately trained in how to handle my situation. I always make sure I check in early because invariably there will be many phone calls on how to process me. Staff are always apologetic bit I’m okay with the wait. They need to learn and perhaps next time I’ll get them again. I do find myself telling check in staff that no, you don’t give me two boarding passes. The one time that happened I made a point of clearly advising boarding staff as well as the flight attendants but the fact that I had to stop the flight attendant on her third attempt at counting the number of passengers to remind her that I was counted as two, showed that they weren’t really listening. Strangers around me were upset on my behalf because i had done everything I could. (There are times when your faith in humanity is restored).

    Now I know that purchasing two tickets isnt something that everyone can do. But I’m not a rich person. Just an average worker paying my bills living from week to week. I just plan. It’s that damned capricornian streak. I keep an eye out for specials and plan around them. In fact I’m off to Melbourne in a month with a low cost carrier I’ve never tried because they had 10 dollar seats. How could I pass up the opportunity to fly return for $40 (excluding luggage)? That’s not even the price of a single seat one way normally and I’ll have two seats both ways. It is possible to be a fat flyer on a budget. The only time buying two seats bothered me was when I ended up on a near empty flight. So empty that even with all passengers being allowed to sit in an entire row by themselves, there still were rows empty. But that was only once and is definitely the exception.



    • Stacy Bias

      Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, Ali! Great tips for booking two seats and I love your attitude!



  30. Hello,

    I saw this website a couple of weeks ago and it eased my mind reading so many positive things here. But because of my constant anxiety about flying, I keep looking up things about people flying around my size. I’m also 5’8″ and weigh 385 lbs. And I’m also more narrow on the hips and carry my weight mostly in my belly. I’m flying this Tuesday night 7/31 at midnight from LAX to NY. I’ll be attending a BlogHer conference and because I saw Virgin America had 19 inch seats, I decided to go with them. My office chair is 19 inches with side handles and I fit just fine and comfortably. So I’m crossing my fingers I fit in that VA seat as well as I fit in my office chair. I also measured my seat belt length and I’m 42 inches while the seat belt length is 45. So that definitely eased my mind a lot more. However, I wasn’t able to find a return flight with VA so I had to go for JetBlue. I got the seat that has more leg room which was $60 dollars more. I hope it’s worth it. I see that the seats are 17.8 inches long and it is literally driving me crazy. I’m going around everywhere looking for a chair with armrests that measures 17.8 inches but can’t seem to find one. I read that you survived Jet’Blue but how well was the experience? Did you have any trouble? Did you have to ask for a seatbelt extender? I also measure 63 inches on the roundest part of me. Hope I hear back from you before my trip. I should have posted sooner. Thank you for all the info you’ve given so far.

    Jessenia



  31. Jo Ann

    I too am flying from OKC to CLV because I feel I am on my trip of my life. I have been friends with someone for over 25 years and just now realized I loved him. Anyway, I am 5’6″ about 280 and I am stressing the flight. I looked at the webiste and all flights are on the smallest air craft flying, just my luck. I thought about driving, but I don’t want this to defeat my self esteem. THe last time I flew (20 pounds ago) I struggled with the seat belt and my mom was with me, this time I am flying solo.
    Thanks for all your tips. I thought I was the only fat girl worried about flying.



    • Stacy Bias

      Jo Ann – that’s amazing! My first international flight was inspired by the same exact thing – a friendship turning into love. Congratulations on this new adventure! You’re going to be just fine on the flights. There are extender belts if you need them and I’ve got a good 60lbs on you and fly all the time. Take a deep breath, get through the flight, and then have an AMAZING visit with your new love!



      • Leeann Smith

        Hi, thank you all for your re asuring comments. I have never flown before I am 42 years young and am leaving from Calgary to Hosuton Friday. I am short about 5’5 and 317lbs. I am travelling with my daughter who isn”t a size zero either. We are seated together, thankfully. I am a regular working joe and can’t afford to buy a second seat. Flying United Airlines. Just so so nervous. Any advice would be greatly appreciated :)



  32. Marquisha

    I am so happy I found this site. Your blog and tips are things I hadn’t thought about. I am flying for the first time in about 4 years. I have put on some weight since then. I am nervous because of all the changes that have occurred. Last time I flew with air tran. I am flying with us airways on an Airbus 320. I won a trip and contacted the agent about getting a window seat but she said that I have to stick to the seats which are an aisle and middle. The good thing is that my bf will be with me but I’m still nervous. I am 5’10-5’11 and wear a 30/32. I’m kinda wide up top with a stomach and thighs. My bf is about 5’8 & 260. I hope I don’t have any issues, I’m very upset about not having my own extender as I was looking to buy one until I read this new rule. Hoping for the best. Going to try your tip on arriving early. Also, do you think it’s better to check in online or at the airport? When you check in online do you still go to the counter inside? It’s been too long smh.



    • Stacy Bias

      Hi Marquisha – I agree, the new FAA rule is a punishing one. I’m glad you have someone to travel with on your first time out after a break. One thing I do on new planes is to pretend the person I’m flying with is a stranger — I think, “Could I handle this on my own?” and try things like flying for a while with the armrest down, and trying not to touch the other person. It helps me decide which airlines and plane models would be best for me if I was flying by myself. As for checking in – I check in online where possible, and as early as possible, to secure my seats. If there are any snafus, I go to the counter both prior to the gate and at the gate itself. Sometimes the people at the gate are more helpful. Sometimes not. It really depends on the day and their personality. I’ve had mixed experiences. Deep breaths and safe travels. Congrats on your trip!



  33. Jo Ann

    I returned from my trip recently. I must say three days before departure I was freaking out. I even brough my tape measure to work to see how big my office chair was to compare it to the size of my airplane seats. I was a basket case. I couldn’t sleep at night and I was miserable. Once I got through security and had to wait 45 minutes to actually board the plane, I spent my time comparing myself to others. When the plane arrived and the passengers disemarked and walked in front of me I was again comparing myself to those passengers, saying, yes that one is bigger and she doesn’t look to unhappy.

    Needless to say, the airline, over sold the flight and was looking for volunteers to change. Hell no, I purchased my ticket for this date and time and I for one want to leave when I planned. Once aboard I did fit into the seat and was able to fasten the seat belt and even tighted it a bit (CanadaAir CJR200 – very small plane). I was mad at myself for freaking out and being so paranoid. Should I blame the media or just lose weight? So before depature the FA announced the aircraft was overweight and they still needed 2-3 people to volunteer to postpone their flight so with a $250 dollar voucher was offered – no takers the offer was upped to $300 dollar voucher and meal tickets, still no takers. The final offer was $400 voucher – to use for anyone – did not have to be for yourself, meal tickets and a hotel stay (if needed). One person accepted the offer and then the FA announced that if no other volunteers, they would have to ask the last two people on board to exit the aircraft. So the one taker and the last person and their luggage was all taken off the plane so they could meet the weight restrictions of the aircraft.

    As an overweight person who was already paranoid this did not sit well with me. How dare they do that to passengers. Do not freaking oversell the flight! DUMBASS comes to mind. THe FA then told us that they aircraft had to take on additional fuel because we were going to be flying through Hurrican Isaac…really? Because of the extra weight of fuel that is why the passengers had to disembark. Still do not have a warm ‘n’ fuzzy with this aircraft. OMG this is just not my day to fly!!

    The trip back was better sorta. The first leg was in the same CanadaAir CRJ200 but the 2nd leg the aircraft was in the CanadaAir CRJ900 – bigger plane, better seats but almost 6 inches difference in the seat belt. This one I could not fasten. I was going to ask the young man beside me of some Indian descent if he would ask for a seat belt extended for me, but he didn’t speak English. I was too embarrassed to ask and because it was dark the two FAs didn’t notice or pretended not to notice that I did not have my seat belt fastened. Thank goodness there were not issues and it wasn’t needed.

    My trip did go so well that I am going to do it again in two weeks and I doubt I will miraculously loose 40 pounds so I will have to ask for the extender on the way back.

    Thanks for your webiste. I enjoy reading you.



    • Stacy Bias

      Jo Ann – I’m sorry you had a rough experience. And I’m sorry that it was too uncomfortable for you to ask for a seatbelt extender. It’s frustrating that, in this world, risking death or injury is preferable to facing the humiliation of asking for 6 extra inches of fabric. Frustrating, in fact, isn’t actually the right word. The right word is infuriating. I invite you to consider your ‘will this kill me’ shower moment next time you’re on a plane and have to ask for a seatbelt extender. Taking good care of yourself is far more important than what any stranger thinks of you. You are priceless! xx



  34. Tory

    Hello Stacy

    Thank you for your article, it was very helpful. I just wanted to mention that West Jet in Canada is not as embarrassing as some airlines are. You contact them and they have an office that just deals with people with disabilities, including big people. I chose to also have a companion with me, so got three seats and paid for a seat and a half. Very cool, and two things that helped with being anxious are I went shopping for everything the day before and didn’t pack until an hour before my ride came. I almost forgot, because my flight was so early I stayed at the hotel in the airport. I was able to stay calm during the flight and got to see my brother get married. Wonderful!



    • Stacy Bias

      Tory – Thanks for your info on West Jet! I’ll be updating the article at some point with the insights from folks in the comments, yours included. I’m so glad you had such a positive experience! I’m sorry for all the anxiety leading up to the flight itself, but so glad that you were able to soothe yourself and have such an important experience with your brother. Congratulations!



  35. Kristi Ketchum

    I googled “flying while fat” and your blog was the first thing that came up! Thank you for posting and updating this. I’ll post feedback of my international flight once I’ve gone and returned. This is such a fat-tastic resource. YOU are such a fat-tastic resource.



  36. Nikki

    I, too, Googled, “flying while fat” and I’m so thankful I did. I haven’t flown in 20 yrs, am larger now than I used to be and was literally scared to death, NOT OF THE FLIGHT, but of the weight issues while flying. I’m working towards losing weight but again, it’s not an overnight process and I want to live my life. Thank you for putting this out there, for sharing the information and for being a soothing source of knowledge for people in a similar situation.



  37. Thanks for all this Staci! I found you via your FB invite to join your new FLYING FAT group! A big (no pun intended) part of my life purpose is devoted to helping women of size feel more confidence and re-gain the self-esteem that is our birthright. I even wrote a best-selling book BEAUTIFUL AT ANY SIZE: The Plus Size Women’s Guide to Nurturing Confidence & Self-Esteem to help! I have been an international traveler for over 20 years now, I’m 5’6″, decidedly pear-shaped, and generally in the neighborhood of 300 lbs+. Flying is NOT necessarily fun from the standpoint of size and mobility, but I have spent years working on my MINDSET about it and trust me — if you have positive mindset and it includes a big suitcase of forgivness and non-judgment, travel can bring you so much fun, pleasure and amazing opportunity that it is certainly worth the bit of emotional and physical discomfort I may encounter imho. And with help of blogs like yours, it is DEFINITELY possible to minimize both the physical and emotional discomfort!

    My biggest tip is arrive EXTRA early for all travel. I have some mobility issues — don’t need a wheelchair but I do walk pretty slow . . . so arriving xtra early means I don’t have to rush through long corridors. I always ask for pre-boarding which is easier to do extra early also. When it’s possible to check in online — I do check to see whether a right-aisle seat with an empty middle next to it is available and/or ask when boarding. (I prefer a right aisle cuz of an arthritic left knee). Pre-boarding also makes it easy to ask the flight attendant for a seat belt extension (w/o everyone on the plan overhearing). I also choose seats as close to the front of the plane as poss to avoid the long walk down way too narrow aisles.

    Thanks again . . . . Happy Travels to all! :)



  38. Michael Spacefalcon

    Thank you for this very informative page. I am a life-long BBW admirer, have been in a relationship with a gorgeous SSBBW for 7 years now, and in the recent years both my S.O. and her best friend who is a little bit smaller but also very much a BBW (I’d say on the high end of the regular-BBW rank, just below SSBBW status) have had bad experience with airlines demanding that we pay them double fare.

    So far the only airline we’ve experienced was Southwest, and it’s very unlikely that any of us will ever fly with them again, after what they’ve done to us the last time all 3 of us flew together in June 2012. Get this: the 3 of us (my SSBBW other half, her regular-BBW best friend, and me, the little guy) were traveling together, and given that all of Southwest’s jets are configured the same way, with a row of 3 seats on each side, we were hoping that we could simply sit together, occupying one full row of 3 seats – then our relative sizes would be our own problem and no one else’s. But @#$%ing SW refused to allow us to do that: they demanded that we buy an extra seat for one of our trio (my SSBBW S.O.), and because I was completely unprepared for that, and we had to get to our destination fast, I paid them. (Fortunately, they refunded the money after we came back, on the basis that neither the forward nor the return flight was full. If they hadn’t refunded that money, I would have been emailing NAAFA, asking for lawyer recommendations…)

    So on that SW flight, after we got past check-in with that forced extra seat purchase, when we actually boarded the plane, as a matter of principle, we refused to actually use that extra seat they forced us to buy – we grabbed a row of 3 seats and all sat together, with me between the two lovely voluptious ladies. We are all one family, we enjoy rubbing up against each other closely, so of course both dividing armrests were up. The FAs asked us “haven’t you bought an extra seat?”, and I responded “we were FORCED to buy one against our will, we refuse to use it, and when this trip is over you better refund that money to my card or we’ll be suing you”, or something very close to that. The FAs on that flight didn’t argue further, so we spend the whole flight in tight squeeze/cuddle mode.

    But then on the return flight we had more problems. At first we seated ourselves in “squeeze/cuddle mode” once again, as that is how all 3 of us wanted to spend the flight. But then the FAs said something to the effect of “if you have bought an extra seat, you can’t have someone sitting there”. I retorted with “no, we haven’t BOUGHT an extra seat, we’ve been FORCED TO BUY it, and we don’t need and don’t want it”, but they kept pushing, so one of our ladies got up and moved to the opposite row. Unfortunately I don’t have my own Personal Armed Forces yet to go to war against USA, defeat them on a tactical battlefield, annihilate the TSA and all other airport security, storm in there with guns, and force the @#$%ing airlines to allow us to sit the way we want to sit, so we had to comply out of fear of being removed from the plane by police/TSA/etc…

    I know it’s a long shot, but would anyone here happen to know anything about the plus-size passenger handling policies and/or practices of Aeroflot Russian Airlines? In a few weeks the two ladies in question will need to go to Moscow for some business (I’m not coming with them this time), and we’ve got Aeroflot tickets as they were the only airline offering a direct flight between Moscow and LAX. (We wanted the direct flight to minimize the number of times we’ll have to pass through the boarding process, as each boarding is an opportunity for whichever airline to pick on us because of our size.) That flight between LAX and Moscow is an Airbus 330, and the seating arrangement (yay for seatguru.com!) is like this: left size window, 2 seats, aisle, block of 4 seats, another aisle, another pair of seats, right side window. So we’ve booked the 2 seats in a two-some (as it’s just 2 BBWs flying, not me), and this way there is no possibility of them interfering with anyone else in terms of space. Unlike Southwest’s open seating, we’ve got specific seats reserved, but after that horrible experience we are still afraid that some airline asshole may confront our ladies and tell them “no, for your f-ing safety and comfort we won’t allow you to squeeze/cuddle, buy an extra seat (or 2 extra seats, one for each of you) or you can’t fly”. The seats on that international flight are about $1000 USD each, so no, we are NOT buying an extra seat to stay empty.

    We are also wondering about seat belt extenders. I’ve heard about FAA banning personal extenders on the domestic flights, but I wonder, will they effectively enforce it in these Aeroflot flights (Russian crews) that fly into and out of USA? Again, I know it’s a very long shot, but if anyone has had any experience with Flying While Fat on Aeroflot (or on any other airline to Russia for that matter), we would be very interested in your experiences.

    While all USAnian airlines nowadays have policies on their websites regarding passengers of size (which all seem to say the same thing: pay for a 2nd seat if you can’t lower the armrest – in our case we *can* lower it, but we don’t WANT to do – we wanted to cuddle, and Southwest wouldn’t let us), in the case of Aeroflot Russian Airlines there isn’t a single word on their website (Russian or English) about passengers of size. Web searches turn up nothing either. And we are afraid to ask them: we feel that we’d rather try our best to remain unnoticed as we squeeze into our reserved seats, than ask them and be told to buy an extra seat or two. That’s also why we are hoping to try using our own seat belt extenders – by not asking the flight crew for those, we are hoping to avoid drawing their attention to our Fat at all.



    • Stacy Bias

      That sounds really frustrating, Michael. Sorry they wouldn’t let you sit how you (all) preferred! The FAA has apparently issued a strong ‘preference’ for people not using their own, but haven’t outright banned them? There’s conflicting stories on this. I say take them and try it. Sorry I haven’t more helpful information for you!



  39. Thanks for the oodles of useful info! I’m soon to be a flying fattie, and I’m still stressing about not fitting. I guess, like you said, I’ll let the cards fall where they may.
    As a side note, I was so tickled at the picture you put at the end of this entry! I’m flying to visit my long distance partner for Christmas, and this post made me so happy!~



  40. Paula

    Thank you so much for writing this; I haven’t travelled by plane in years for fear of “what might happen.” My sister and I are flying to Dubai in a few weeks to spend some time with our parents and I have been in a state of panic. We are flying British Airways Economy Plus from Seattle to London, and then on from London to Dubai. The trip home has layovers in London and New York. I booked the flights, and reserved our seats, so the only person sitting beside me on any leg of the trip is my sister, I am hoping that will help. I get myself worked up to panic mode when I imagine someone telling me I am “too fat” to fly. This post has really helped me; thanks again.



    • Stacy Bias

      Good luck in your travels, Paula! Dubai – wow! I haven’t flown British Airways so I’m afraid I can’t offer any specific advice, but I’m glad that your sister is flying with you. Flying with someone else is a huge help to me. I hope it feels the same to you. Let me know how it goes?



  41. relieved

    I am crying with relief. I haven’t flown since I was 100lbs lighter and suddenly I have a great opportunity on the opposite coast. I was mortified at the very thought but so so glad to have found this! Maybe I really can do this! You are sweet to keep posting for so long addressee writing it. Thank you..from a very heavy lady with a huge fear of not fitting.



    • Stacy Bias

      *hugs*! So glad this is helpful for you. I’m sorry it’s so stressful. It’s ridiculous that any of us should have to feel this way. I hope your travels are safe – in *all* ways.



  42. Debbie

    First of all, thank you Stacy for this very helpful website. I am trying to plan early for a flight from Branson, MO to Seattle, WA for my husband and me. We have been planning our dream cruisetour to Alaska for a long time, and have finally booked the cruise and land tour for August 2013. I have not flown in over 20 years. In the past, we have always done our vacations with road trips in the car with our 2 daughters. We mostly did the road trips because if was more economical with a family. But I have to admit part of it was because of my size. Now that I will have to fly, I am starting to freak out. Not only am I obese, I am also tall. (I am 6’1″ tall and weigh 400 lbs. I hold most of my weight in my mid section-belly and hips). My husband is also tall at 6’4″, so we both require extra leg room. I originally thought I would solve this problem by purchasing 2 business class seats But now I am wondering if this is the best thing to do. Do you think I would be better to purchase 3 tickets in economy plus? My husband has asked about us driving, but since the cruisetour is already 2 weeks long, we would have to be gone another week to drive roundtrip to Seattle.
    My next question is about the seat belt extenders. Since I needed one for one of our cars, I found that not all seat belt extenders fit into all seat belts. I thought they would all be universal, but found out that that is not true (at least for automobiles). Is it the same for airplanes? But now after reading all the above entries, I am not quite sure if I purchased one that I will be able to use it. Are they banned?
    So, I thought my only fear would be for this flight to and from Seattle next August, but now my daughters really want me to fly to New York next May for a girls trip to see a Broadway show for my daughter’s 21st birthday. I so want to go, but seems really silly to drive that far for just a long weekend, I need to decide in the next couple of weeks as to what to do. The fear about this possible fight is starting to freak me out too, My daughters are of “normal size” and I feel a little nervous about even talking to them about my fears, even though I’m sure they would understand, But the fear of getting embarrassed in front of them in the airplane by some unsympathetic flight attendant, or other passenger makes me a little nauseous. This seems much bigger than wondering if I will fit in a booth at a restaurant, or if the seatbelt in a friend’s car will fit around me.
    HELP, I need some much needed advice.



    • Stacy Bias

      Hi Debbie – Thanks for your comment. Congratulations on your cruise! I bet the scenery will be breathtaking! As for the flights – I’m sorry that this is such a stressor for you (and for so many others, myself included.) As for your question re: two business class or three economy seats – this depends a bit on the layout and specifics of the plane. Sometimes, in business/first class, the armrests actually don’t go up because the tray tables are stored in the side pockets rather than on the seat in front of you. I would recommend finding out what kind of plane you’ll be flying on and checking http://seatguru.com for detailed information. If SeatGuru doesn’t have information about the armrests, you can absolutely call the airline and they will have (or find) that information for you. The benefit of business class is that there’s generally a bit of extra leg room which you and your husband may need given your height. The benefit of economy will be armrests that go up and plenty of room to spread out sideways, though you may sacrifice comfort in the need to twist to the side to make room for your height. Because of where you carry your weight (you mentioned your hips) the width of the seat and the ability to raise the armrests will be of primary importance. As for seat belt extenders – the FAA, it seems, has issued a ‘strongly worded statement’ – but has not actually *banned* the use of personal seatbelt extenders. Among domestic flights, it seems most use one particular kind of coupling, but southwest airlines (which I never recommend any fat people fly for any reason) has its own. If you go to http://moreofmetolove.com there are options there. As for flying to New York with your daughters — I understand the fear of being embarrassed, but here’s my take on it: 1) Stated plainly, your daughters know you’re fat. None of us are actually able to ‘hide’ the fact that we’re fat, even if we refuse to engage about it as a topic of discussion. Also, if your daughters are any kind of sensitive and aware, which I am sure they are, they’ve seen you struggle with anxiety around ‘fitting’ before, with restaurants and car seats, etc. They love you and they want your company – if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be asking you to go with them to New York. So if your daughters are asking you to fly with them, they are fully aware of and prepared for and most likely well-equipped to deal with and love/support you through any potentially awkward or embarrassing situations. 2) Life is short! What will you regret more at the end of your life — a few hours of discomfort/potentially being embarrassed, or the idea that you missed an exciting bonding adventure with your girls? It’s not fair that any of us are asked to pass through such a ridiculous, anxiety-ridden, physically and emotionally uncomfortable journey just to get to the other side. It’s not fair, but, for now, that’s the way it is. It’s OK if, sometimes, you’re not up for that journey. Sometimes self-care looks like letting yourself rest. And sometimes it looks like pushing through, putting the blame where it belongs (on greedy airlines and institutionalized fatphobia) and having the adventure anyway. Only you will know what the right thing is for you in any given moment. But I bet you can trust those girls of yours to love you through anything that might come. (BTW, if you can fly Jet Blue Extra Leg Room to New York – that’s my recommendation.) xx and good luck!



  43. Amiee Armstrong

    Thank you so much for this post. I am flying tomorrow and while terrified about my 457lb, 5’9 body being stuck in a tiny seat, I’m at least breathing again.



    • Stacy Bias

      Fly safe, Amiee!



    • Jen

      Hi! I realize my question might be repetitive, but i am having very serious anxiety. I just started a new career, and I am being sent on a business trip with a few other coworkers. I am flying United airlines, from NJ to Florida and then back. I am taking Airbus A320 down and Boeing 737-800 back.

      I am about 5’8 and 350 lbs. I carry my weight everywhere – especially breasts, thighs, hips and stomach. My clothing size fluctuates depending on the store. I’m generally a US 26 pant and 22/24 shirt.

      Since I am new, it was a very big honor for them to choose me over many others to go on this trip, and the other 6 people I am going with are mostly my superiors. I am sitting on the aisle in the very last row for both flights. next to me in the middle seat is another coworker who i am friendly with.

      Buying a second seat was not an option because the flight was booked for me. I am starting to worry that I am going to end up humiliated in front of my new coworkers.

      I am trying to google photos of the seats so i can get a feel for what they will be like. Do you have any idea? I’m trying to see what the armrest look like, etc.

      ALSO I am confused on the seat belt extender rule. I though I read on United’s website that they offer a small seat belt extender. Are they not allowed?

      I havent slept in the past two night since I found out about this trip, and im starting to feel sick over this. Any suggestions or advice? Thank you so much!



      • Stacy Bias

        Hi Jen – Apologies for taking a while to get back to you on this. I have to say that United is one of the more comfortable airlines for me. We’re about the same size. I weigh about 343 and carry my weight in the middle and upper body. My hips/thighs are smaller (respective to the rest of my body) and I vary from a 26 to a 28 in pant sizes and I usually wear 28/32 shirts – but I do wear my clothes a big baggy.

        I would say to stay away from exit row or bulkhead seats. Seatbelt extenders are offered by all airlines and you can purchase your own. They’re not banned, apparently, but are ‘frowned upon’. Point is, you can use them. They can’t enforce you NOT using them. Good luck! I think you’ll be fine.



  44. Sean

    I have the perfect solution. Many of us (men) prefer and admire BBWs, we simply start a travel club and volunteer to sit beside any lady of size and allow here to travel in our lap if there is a width consideration

    Seriously Staci, good job and keep it up



    • Stacy Bias

      I appreciate that you had good intentions with this post, Sean – but I personally feel I’d be better served by a non-sexualized option for comfort in air travel.



  45. Squashedmonkey

    I’ve just got back from a holiday and I suffer with double trouble I’m fat (30st ish) and tall at 6’6″
    Even if I could fit between arm rests (which I sometimes can but incredibly painfully, I often can’t get my legs behind the seat.
    I bought an emergency aisle seat for the legroom on my recent trip for an extra £45 only to find out, after giving all of my details when I booked, height, weight, waist size, that the emergency aisle seat was thinner than the normal ones. Once I threw myself into it to squeeze in I needed a seat belt extender, then the steward told me i was not allowed to sit in that seat with an extender!

    So I’ve paid for an extra leg room seat that I’m not allowed to sit in and now I have to find another seat but I’m too tall to sit behind a regular row. Bit of a dilemma I’m sure you’ll agree.
    Luckily both ways there were spare rows and I robbed one but the stewardess basically explained to me that if the plane was full I’d probably would have been kicked off the flight.

    Apparently all planes are now not allowed to sell emergency exit seats to those that need a belt extender by law.

    I’m wondering if I’ll ever be able to fly again in Europe.



    • Stacy Bias

      I’m so sorry you had that experience. Have you seen the extra leg room options on Virgin Atlantic? They’re not exit row seats, the armrests go up. I don’t think you can purchase them online but you might be able to call them and reserve those seats or you can show up early (quite early) for your flight and upgrade. These are very limited but I think it’s only £50 per leg to upgrade. I’ve done it and it was the better flying experience I’ve had on Virgin. Even their premium economy isn’t as comfortable for me. The armrests don’t go up in premium economy.



    • Lou

      Squashedmonkey I have the same problem, big and tall :-( It is ridiculous that they won’t allow us to sit in the emergency exit if requiring an extender… I can only assume they think we are too fat to mobilise ourselves in an emergency. Last time I went away I had to book two seats, not to accommodate my hips, but so that I could sit in a slanted position due to my knees not going in.
      So my advice would be book an extra seat if you cant afford it (if your only flying in Europe it’s not so bad) I felt slightly embarrassed about it at first until I realised the only reason I am having to book it is because of my height (and most of my height is in my legs which doesn’t help) if the legroom were sufficient I could just squeeze my hips between the armrests and make do :-)



  46. Deirdre

    Hi Stacy – like so many others here, I am just looking for reassurance. I am 5’5″ and weigh 295 lbs. I wear an American size 26/28. I am flying next week – a short, 2 hour or so, flight – and I am flying United Airlines. I chose to upgrade to Economy Plus, even though according to SeatGuru the seats aren’t any wider. I’m really scared they will make me buy a second seat. I can’t afford it anyway. Do you think I will be OK? I have flown at this weight before and they never asked me to buy a second seat, but I guess I am just being paranoid. Thank you :)



    • Stacy Bias

      Hi Deirdre — Unless your body has changed significantly since your last flight, I think you can assume your experience will be similar to what you’ve experienced before. And so you know, United has really been comfortable for me the last few times I’ve flown it — especially if it’s a newer plane. My guess is you’ll be OK providing your body hasn’t shifted considerably!



  47. Shelby H Solski

    I want to fly more !!! After a long time of not going anywhere I finally went on a vacation – but flew First Class. I can’t afford to that and I want to go somewhere again. My thoughts if I book a window seat with my travel companion (normal size) in the middle seat – will the airlines bother me?? Or may if I book the middle seat with two travel companions on either side?? Just wondering what the airlines might say — any clues??



  48. Deirdre

    Thank you, Stacy! I think I am still pretty much the same “shape” – I have a lot of belly but a fair amount in the hips and thighs as well. I guess I am fat all over! I am trying to focus on the positive – the last 2 times I flew I had no problems. Thanks again!



  49. Stephanie

    I’m flying on United Airlines, (the plane is an A-320)this weekend and I’m 5’6 and weigh about 265 lbs. I’m a bit rounder in the tummy area, but otherwise my weight is pretty proportionate. I’m so worried I won’t be able to fit in my seat and/or buckle my seatbelt. I’m traveling with family, but they are all very much in shape and I’m just worried about embarrassing myself if I can’t buckle my belt. Do you think I’ll be able to fit? I checked to see how long the seatbelts are and several sites say United has 31 inch seatbelts, is that the length of the whole seatbelt from one end to the other, or the length of the strap that gets buckled? Is it crazy that I’m this stressed about it??



  50. I am so glad that I came across your blog. I am flying to India in less than a month. I have been really nervous about my size. You have helped me not be so nervous. I am flying united most the trip but one part of it Is Luftansa and they didn’t let you pick your seat ahead of time. They are pretty bad about that from what I understand. Thank you so much for all your insite. I will be confident and not let this hinder me from an awesome trip.



  51. Jen

    Thanks stacy. I appreciate you giving me some peace of mind!



  52. joey

    Hey All,

    I have not flown in a while and have gained a lot of weight since graduating, as I work in software. I am 6’3 and about 320-330 now. When I measured around my stomach it is about 55″. I am traveling for work and they of course purchased coach seats and I can not ask them for first class :), and since I will be flying on my own I am just worried I will fit into the seat and of course the people next to me. I will be flying on Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800. Thanks everyone and I really like the blog.



  53. Bridget Kubes

    I’m traveling on Delta next week…17″ seats on a 757. Anyone have experience with Delta? I’m pear shaped and fitting my big butt in the seat is making me nervous.

    bk



    • Cynthia

      Hi…i was just wondering how your flight on Delta was…i too will be flying Delta and am also worried about the 17″ seat widths. I am about 5’3 and 280lbs.



  54. Mandy

    Stacy –
    Thank you so much for your encouraging article! My husband and I were planning to celebrate his 10th year of remission in October 2012 with a trip to Germany/Poland/Sweden, but due to a change at my job had to postpone. I hate to admit how excited I was to postpone such a joyous trip because of the complications I feared my weight would produce. We’re scheduling for April and I can’t wait to use the tips you’ve provided, as I’m similar in size to you. Your words and experiences have given me strength and helped ease my fears. Here are my questions: Neither of us have ever been to Europe, so would you have any tips for purchasing/using the EuroRail (other than what you mentioned above about seat size)? Would you recommend first class or purchasing an extra ticket (I’ve heard that even with an extra ticket booked, airlines may allow someone else to use the seat on a high volume flight.)?



    • Stacy Bias

      Hi Mandy – So glad to hear that you’re taking such an amazing trip! I understand the relief at postponing, *and* I’m glad you rescheduled. Thanks for letting me know that the blog helped! I’m afraid I don’t have much experience with EuroRail, but I *can* say that I’ve never been on a train in the UK that was a tight fit. Even the bathrooms are better. I honestly wouldn’t spend any time fretting about the trains. As for flying – first class is SO expensive. If you’ve got the money to do it, by all means. But if it’s a pinch on your budget, I wouldn’t recommend it. Virgin Atlantic offers a Seat Plus option that’s very affordable – though unfortunately not the free extra seat that’s offered by SouthWest and some others.

      As per full flights, truth is airlines do have the power to forcibly remove people from flights if no one volunteers to be bumped, and in the case of an extra seat, you might be considered for involuntary bumping. BUT, most of the time when airlines ask for volunteers, several people will JUMP at the chance because it means a discount on their next flight. I’ve never been on a flight that had to involuntarily bump anyone. It always seems to work out. So I wouldn’t fret!



  55. Aimee

    I was so happy to find a site that candidly deals with this issue without all the uselessly PC “info” that you find elsewhere. I’ll be spending Spring Break in London and Paris (flying Delta), and have been very concerned about my size. I’m 5’6″ and 260 lbs, a classic PCOS apple shape with hips thrown in (58″ at the widest point). I think, from reading this, that I should be able to squeeze into the seat, width wise, but I’m worried about my legs. I think I must have disproportionately long legs or something, as I always have to put seats as far back as they can go. For example, I drive my car with the seat at its furthest position. I have been in theatre seats where I literally could not force my knees into the space given without practically doing the splits against the railing in front of me and putting my knees in my neighbors’ space. (Don’t worry, it was my bf and s-i-l, and they were very sympathetic.) That was only for the length of a show and I thought I wouldn’t make it. Sitting in a chair and measuring from where my hips meet the chair, my knees require 24″ of seat/legroom (with no slouching). Also, I am traveling as part of a group of students who are complete strangers to me, all 10-12 years younger (I am a nontraditional student). This also means I have no control over the trip details.

    Reading about everyone’s experience has made me a little less wary about the flying, but I’m curious to know how I will be treated in Europe, where obesity is much more unusual. In the U.S., I’ve never been treated poorly by anyone (except the folks who design school desks and theatre seats), but I’m concerned that Europeans may not be as sensitive about the issue. As I brush up on my French, I keep coming across phrases I dread to hear, like “Vous etes lourdes.” Since you’ve been living in the U.K. For a while now, do you have any insights?

    Thanks again for this wonderful blog.



    • Stacy Bias

      Hi Aimee! I totally get the outsider experience. I’m actually a mature student myself (38) where most of my fellow students are 19/20. I’m glad you’re braving up and going on the trip! I’ve got about 2″ and 80lbs on you and while we’re differently proportioned, I’d agree that you can rest easy about fitting on the delta flight. If you can request an extra leg room seat from whomever is doing the booking, that might be an option. Or if you can upgrade when you get to the airport. The problem with waiting is that you may only get a middle seat which isn’t fun for anyone! If upgrading isn’t an option, I have found that International flights tend to have slightly more legroom than shorter domestic flights just because the flights are longer and they can’t get away with packing everyone in the same way. If you can figure out what flight you’re on you can locate the plane details and check it out on SeatGuru.Com. You can also call the airline and find out what the leg room is like in economy. That should help alleviate some big questions you have and give you the info you need to take care of yourself.

      As for treatment in Europe, I’m not going to lie to you. I have to say that I was pretty shocked at the amount of microaggression I received here in London after I landed. Italy was worse. I haven’t been to France. It’s a cultural hodgepodge so you don’t just have the ideologies of one dominant culture to contend with, but the different cultural meanings of fat across the world converging in one place and then smearing themselves all over your body. I think that the more confident you are, the less you’ll notice it. I came in to the UK as a woman leaving a liberal bubble of body love who was also feeling a little downtrodden and I think this exacerbated my experience — I was both shocked by the body fascism and also ill-prepared to shield myself from internalizing it. As a result, I started looking for it/anticipating it as a way to protect myself — which only made it worse. So my advice to you, Aimee, is to do some serious self-lovin’ before you get on that plane. Work some shit out. Read the 4 Agreements. Remember nothing is really about you. It’s not personal. It’s other people working through their own shit. Fat Heffalump wrote a good blog post about this today which might help. Don’t let anyone suck the joy out of this amazing vacation. Remember who you are, remember your power. And maybe you won’t even notice! The better I feel, the less I clock it. So here’s to your big EU adventure and all the memories you’re about to make! Have a blast!



  56. Lucy

    Well, I might be going to Italy dring the summer and…being petrified of going is putting it lightly. You’re site is helping but, i read your response to Aimee regarding treatment in Europe and you mentioned Italy as worse, which is freaking me out. it’s a bummer that something that should incite excitement is actually giving me anxiety lol.



    • Stacy Bias

      Hi Lucy – Sorry to put some extra fear in your heart. I believe in honesty but I should temper it with reassurances like the following: I wouldn’t trade the experience I had in Italy for *anything*. It is a beautiful country and despite some intermittent staring/comments what really stands out for me is the life affirming moments I had on that trip — like riding the train to Pompeii in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius while a live band hopped on at one station and played music until the next, or eating the best gelato EVER on the steps of the Leaning Tower while strains of live opera floated through the air, or weeping in front of “The Birth of Venus” in the Uffizi in Florence, or clambering about in the Coliseum and imagining the crowds and the lions. I would do that trip over again in a heartbeat. Please also know that I went to Italy directly from the liberal bubble of Portland, Oregon *and* I was already feeling pretty insecure. So my perception of my treatment there was likely skewed by both being extra-vulnerable and also somewhat sheltered which equated to being extra shocked by it. I know others who are fat who’ve not had the same experiences there. It was also in the heat of summer when everyone was a little crabby. ;) You belong in the world, exactly as you are. Don’t let anyone take that from you, or stop you from enjoying what will no doubt be an amazing experience.



      • Lucy

        Thanx Stacy for replying to my comment! I really appreciate your words and reflecting on what you said:
        ” You belong in the world, exactly as you are. Don’t let anyone take that from you, or stop you from enjoying what will no doubt be an amazing experience.”

        made me realize it’s true. Why worry on what people who most likely i will never see again think?I’m not a golden coin that will appeal to everyone. Though at times i think that saying “yes” to my trip to Italy was a huge mistake. I fear being bumped off and, rather than worry about me embarassing myself i worry i’ll ruin the vacation for the people that i’m going with. You mentioned about your trip to Italy, are there any tips, advice or places that you recommend? Thanks!



  57. Krystal

    I just really want to say “Thank you, Stacy!!!”, and send super-big-internet hugs and feelings of love your way..and to ALL the Ladies and Gents who have posted here! I am getting married in September of this year, and my uncle has given the two of us a Honeymoon as a wedding gift. We have been thinking about going to Ireland…and I have been dreading the whole getting-on-a-plane-and-being-too-fat-for-the-seat moment (as I had a moment where I was unable to fit into a ride at an amusement park that I had waited in line for over an hour for just a couple years ago). I am about 5’6″, 285 lbs…I wear a 22/24 bottom, and between a 20 & 24 on top (US sizes). I decided to spend a few hours scouring the internet to see if there were any new ‘fat flyer’ restrictions that I needed to be aware of before I got my heart set on something that could wind up being unattainable. Then, I found you, Stacy, and all of these beautiful and brave men and women who were not afraid to talk about this situation with one another…honestly and without fear of recrimination. THANK YOU ALL SO VERY MUCH! I feel much better about the whole situation, as people often do when they realize they aren’t the only one that has been through/is about to go through an experience. Thank you for putting me at ease with your honesty and willingness to talk about these things! <3



  58. Sara

    So so happy to have found your blog. Have added you on Facebook as I think your just amazing!
    I’m flying from London to Egypt in a mths time, I think with Thomson and I’m a absolutely crapping myself about whether I’ll fit in the seat and also if I’ll be able to move my legs! I’m 5ft 7 and about 23st, big bum, hips, belly and legs….big all over really. I’m travelling with my friend who said he’s happy to pay for an extra space seat for us (he’s not overweight) but I’m wondering if this is the right thing to do?
    I will definitely arrive early and ask to board early, put the arm rest up and hope I don’t need the loo, I’m NOT flexible lol. See I’ve taken all the tips in!
    Thanks sooooo much Stacy x x x



  59. Danni

    Just want to say thanks so much for your blog. I’m doing my first OS trip in 6 months & your post has helped reduce my anxiety greatly. I’m 5’10 currently a 53 inch hip & 45 inch waist (Down from 58 & 49 in the last 4 months) so am now ranging from 20-24 in UK & AUS sizes. I know it wont be comfy but I just want to fit & get there! I’m doing a 4 week Euro tour so I’m working on my fitness levels & hoping with that my size will continue to reduce & make things that little bit more comfy. I’m so happy to see I’m not the only person with these issues & probably not alone in measuring my butt’s width! Can comfortably fit in a 20 inch seat, just 3 inches to go to fit the economy seat! Ha!



  60. kay

    I have flown internationally several times with varying results. Probably the carrier I like the least for a variety of reason is Lufthansa and probably the best experience was United. The last time I flew i was about 370 and everything was fine except on a tiny flight from Denver back to Canada…i felt really badly for the person beside me…Anyway planning for a flight soon over international waters and wondering if you know anything about AFrance Premium Economy…looks cosy and comfy…



    • Stacy Bias

      Hi Kay – Check out the facebook group (linked at the top of the page here) as it might be a good place to ask your question. There are quite a few folks on there with varied flying experience so you’d be likely to get a first-person response.



  61. Aimee

    Hi Stacy,

    I wanted to thank you for your response to my earlier concerns and let you know that my trip went very well. Yes, the planes were incredibly claustrophobic, but I had no problem actually fitting in to them. I would recommend to anyone flying that they keep a very small bag of absolute essentials in their lap or by their feet – don’t count on getting into the overhead compartment if you need an aspirin or contact solution, etc. you won’t be able to get up very often, so try to take a few extra minutes to stretch and move a little when you do get up.

    On each leg of my trip, I was seated next to a stranger, but I was fortunate. Each of them was incredibly nice and understanding. There was a camaraderie of a sort – “we’re all miserable together, so let’s do whatever we can to help each other through it.”

    If people had a problem with my size in the UK or France, it didn’t show. What nobody really liked (especially me) is that I simply couldn’t keep the pace, at least in London. They move so fast there! I’m pretty sure their normal walking pace is after than my running. Even my traveling companions left me in the dust, no matter how hard I tried. I eventually left them to do my own thing and follow my own interests at my own pace, and let the grumpy Brits go around me.

    The Eurorail was very nice, easily the most comfortable mode of transportation during the trip, although I couldn’t wrangle my big bag up onto the train – someone had to help me.

    I thought Paris was much nicer than London. Much. MUCH. LOL. The grumpiest looking French person tended to be, once you spoke to them, nicer than anyone I dealt with in London. Even the family that was stuck behind me as I slowly climbed out of the Catacombs. NOTE: Anyone going to Paris will probably be encouraged to go through the Catacombs. Here’s what I didn’t know: you climb down a vertical spiral staircase for 130 stairs. For anyone even slightly claustrophobic, it’s like being encased in stone. You can’t see ahead or behind. But you’re going down, so it’s not as bad as it could be. To get out, you climb up a similar vertical spiral – 83 steps. What they don’t tell you in advance is how tall each step is – almost knee high for me. I had to stop several times, apologizing to the people behind me, who were incredibly nice about it all. At one point the claustrophobia nearly won, and I had to struggle not to freak out. Keep in mind that there is no indication of how close or far you are from the exit (unless you know the # of stairs and count, I guess). Across the street from the exit is a gift shop that sells Catacomb knickknacks, including some that say “I survived the Catacombs!” That summed up my feeling about it. Oh, and the only rude people I encountered in Paris were down in the Catacombs. Sadly, they were Americans.

    One last thing about the flying – my return trip, although still a Delta flight, was just a bit roomier and more comfortable than the first flight. Despite that, by the time I got home, I was terribly swollen from the waist down. My feet looked gross, and I had to stick with thick fuzzy socks for my welcome home party. They took about three days to get back to normal. I’m not sure why it happened on that trip, tough.

    Although my trip had some rough patches, I can’t wait to go back, this time with my boyfriend.

    I really appreciated the information and advice I got from tis page, and I hope my contribution might help someone else.



    • Stacy Bias

      Hi Aimee! Thanks so much for reporting back. I’m glad you had a good trip!! And thanks for the heads up about the catacombs — yeesh. I will avoid that at all costs. Totally claustrophobic. Also thanks for the news about France because I’ve actually been pretty nervous to go there after my experience in Italy. I hear you about the pace in London. I had to stop worrying about it, especially as I’ve hurt my calf muscle a number of times being competitive or trying to keep up – so now I sort of *have* to practice self care around that because it’s even worse to not be able to walk at all. ;) Glad you learned that lesson NOT the hard way. ;)



  62. Crystal

    I have always had positive experiences with Southwest. I always purchase two seats for comfort purposes. I always pre board and always get a front aisle seat. I usually raise the arm on the middle seat for comfort. When I did this I was around 280-300 and am bottom heavy. If I travel again, I am not sure if I need to do since I weigh around 220 and wear a size 22/24.



  63. lucee

    Just got back from Italy. I dreaded this trip mostly for the airplane ride, i was petrified that i would be bumped off etc. All i can say is i truly enjoyed my trip, definitely ALOT of walking but it was definitely worth it, aside from spraining my knee towards the end of my trip i can say it was so much fun. As for traveling by airplane …….my major concern was being “bumped off” or being called out and being embarrassed in front of everyone when i tried to board, however everything went well..yes some seats were uncomfortable etc but on my way back through France, the flight attendants were incredibly nice and helpful.



  64. Debbie

    Hi Stacy, this is a follow-up from when I posted on October 27,2012. I just wanted to let you know that I took my flight to New York City with my daughters, and all went very well. Of course I was very anxious, but I felt very good about how all things went for our flights. I did purchase an extra seat for myself because the flights were so inexpensive. I felt the need to explain that I purchased 2 tickets due to my size, at every point where they were checking boarding passes. One airport employee asked me if American Airlines made me do that, and I said no, and he said I probably didn’t need to do it. I wish I could have hugged that gentleman, because that meant so much to me. He probably doesn’t know how much that eased my mind.
    Now I’m soon going on my long anticipated trip with my husband to Alaska. I just wanted to tell your readers that I had the best experience with my seat bookings with Alaska Air. I called to book my flights since I was going to purchase an extra seat for myself. (Their website instructs you to call if you are a “customer of size” so that they can put your seats together, and they wave the fee to book over the phone.) I was informed that their policy is to ask you to go ahead and purchase an extra seat, and if the flight is not full, you may call sometime after the flight is over, and they will refund you the money for the extra seat. I thought this was a great policy. This gives you the extra room needed, ensures you will not be unable to fly because the airline wants you to get an extra seat, but the flight is full. I don’t mind following these rules.
    I just also wanted to say thank you, because all your readers questions and all your comments have helped tremendously. Thanks for all you do. You are very much appreciated.



  65. Brooke

    I used to be just over 300 lbs and flying was a big issue–I dreaded it since I’m a people person and don’t like tense situations. I’m about 220 now and I fit into my seat with room in the seatbelt to spare. When I read your piece, I began to wonder about something: armrest etiquette. I tend to sweat a lot on airplanes and have had a history of back issues so need full shoulder mobility. I was seated next to a woman who was large enough that, while she fit into the seat with the armrest down, it was clearly more comfortable for her to have it up. It was a 9 hour flight from South America up to Dallas. Anyway, she pre-boarded and had the armrest up when I arrived (maybe she read your fantastic article :-) ) but when I sat down (I was middle, she was aisle), I put it back down. When I’m stuck in middle seats, especially ,the extra inch or two of arm room really help make up for the middle seat’s woes. She asked if we could put it up and I was very nice about explaining why I was more comfortable with it down. I even mentioned that since I’m a bigger girl as well that I totally empathize. However, she acted like she was entitled to have it up and was bitter toward me for the rest of the flight…until drink service. I put my tray down and, since she couldn’t put hers down, I let her use my tray table. Then, I think she understood that I meant no harm. What do you think? Is it wrong of the middle seat passenger to refuse the armrest going up?



  66. Kim

    Our extended family is flying to Alaska (3 different airlines). I was wondering if the airlines would allow my 7 year old grandson to sit in the seat next to me so I do not have to purchase an extra seat?



  67. Chef Fat Lady

    I have a couple of friends that live in Amman, Jordan. I would like to visit them but at 5’6″ 328lbs feel as if I would be an embarrassment for the US. I have been all over America but never been outside of our country. How have you been treated by locals when traveling abroad?



  68. My Bad Experience

    It was very refreshing to find your site. The people here are very inspiring. I’m round and 5’4″ 260lbs, walk with a cane from spinal surgeries gone wrong, chronic pain and not to sure on my feet. My confidence is up and down, my armor not always strong when confronted by strangers. I was flying a few years back and harassed by a stewardess, she was down right mean, shaming me loudly and very publicly regarding my weight and saying I could be bumped for being fat and I should have bought two seats, how it was very inconsiderate of me. I fit on the flight there, tight but I did fit. To add to it people snickered, avoided eye contact with me. I sat there boiling with anger in total humiliation, trying desperately to hold back tears streaming down my face for the whole flight, staring straight ahead afraid to move. It was years before I flew again, but that experience always lingers in my mind.



  69. Mia

    Stacy–Thank you so much for this blog. I have had so much anxiety about an upcoming international trip, but reading about everyone’s experiences and taking your good advice to heart has made me feel so much better.

    To the reader looking for advice about travel in Amman, Jordan…go! I have been there and have spent a lot of time in the middle east. When I was traveling around there I was about 250 lbs (I’m 5’6) and I didn’t run into anyone treating me badly because of my weight. Given the wealth in many of the middle east countries and their love of American restaurants/fast food, seeing people of size is not unusual in that region. One other note about Jordan… Petra is a beautiful historical site just outside of Amman and everyone will recommend that you go. Definitely consider doing it because it is simply amazing, but know that it does require a lot of hiking. Hiking down isn’t bad,d but coming back up is definitely rough! I survived it by taking my time, lots of breaks, and plenty of water :).



  70. Rachel

    Hi, I love this! I am flying with Virgin Atlantic in exactly four weeks from Gatwick to Orlando. At 5′ 8″ and approx 350 I’m nervous about the experience. I have flown a bit in the last three years – to and from New Zealand (out was good, coming back not so much) with Air NZ, to Rome with BA Business Class and to Dublin with Ryan Air. During this time my weight has been anywhere between 329 (Dublin) and 420 (New Zealand to London). I always ask for priority boarding and try and get two seats on their own if I can (I almost always fly with my husband). It can be done, and people shouldn’t be afraid to do it, but I understand that the fear or nervousness that surrounds flying whilst fat can be hard to overcome.



  71. Katherine Durio

    Super helpful thank you! I’m flying next year for the first time in 6 years and I’m really nervous cos I’m travelling with a group of fit and thin types! You have given me hope! I will look then on the eye and ask for a seat belt extendr with no shame. Keep up the good work xx



  72. Glenda

    Hi, I am applying for jobs as a summer camp counselor and I will have to fly there. And pretty much I will either be flying by united or delta and both said I will need to buy another seat. ANy suggestions because as a broke college student. I do not have that kind of money.



  73. Lin

    Hello!

    I just wanted to give an update on my first flying experience. I posted here sometime in 2012, nervous as hell about flying (I was around 394lbs. at the time.) I ended up choosing American Airlines to go with and was very pleased from doing so. :)

    My flight took me from Louisville, KY to Helsinki, Finland, and on both flights, the stewardesses as well as any other workers within the airlines were more than friendly and accomodating to my needs. I was treated with respect and dignity, and although the first plane (a small puddlejumper) nearly killed me from the pain in my hips and thighs, I managed to make it there in one piece.

    On the trip from Chicago to Helsinki, I spoke with an AA representative before boarding, and asked if I could board before others because of my size. She very happily put me down for pre-boarding at no charge.. I even went before a first class fellow, who was clearly not at all pleased by this due to the rude stare I received from him upon boarding.

    Even the fellow I sat next to was very sweet and didn’t mind if I encroached on his seat. All in all, it was a pleasing experience, other than the first leg of flight. The seats were entirely too small.. Not sure how I even made it. I did some stares and sniggers from rude folks, but they are everywhere.

    Anyways, best of luck to any who fly! I give full recommendation to American Airlines for their wonderful treatment when I flew in July of 2012. :)



  74. I fly quite a bit for work, and still dread it when I have to. Just yesterday ended up in a row with three big guys across. Luckily I had the aisle seat (and a bit of the aisle). I still hurt. As an aside, seatguru is great, since seating width varies considerably with the same airline. Jetblue doesn’t have the widest economy seats, but they still fly a small enough fleet that it is consistent.

    Anyway, main reason for posting was the mention of Southwest. I think they’ve pretty much taken the bad publicity over charging for seats and swung the other way. Now, you buy two seats (if you think you need it) and they refund one. You also get preboarding, and a little “reserved” card. In some ways, I’d rather not go through all the issues . You have to talk to the gate agent–I show up with my most surprised face and say “I seem to be a ‘passenger of size’” (their euphemism of choice, though I’ve never met a passenger without size). They give you the card and let you board ahead of everyone else. Since they charge for getting an early boarding position, you are actually getting more than two seats for the price of one.

    This has *totally* changed my flying experience. I can’t imagine that they can keep this up–it seems downright bizarre from an economic perspective. I watched my account daily to see if they would *really* refund (it was for a short regional flight, so if they didn’t it wouldn’t be the end of the world), and it took about 30 days but it came back. You don’t have to buy the second seat ahead of time, you can just check in at the gate. But if you don’t and the plane if fully booked, they may bump you.



  75. Oh, and (I’m on a roll!) while the FAA has banned the personal extenders, I’ve flown a number of times since the ban using mine, and no one has said “boo.” And I *know* they have seen them–mine is black and I use it on planes with blue seatbelts. So, I’ve continued to use them on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” basis. If they see it and want to bring me one of theirs, fine. Otherwise, we’re all good with a very minor violation of the FARs.



  76. billieann

    Thank u for this, i am going on holiday for the first time and i have been worrying about the seats been getting mixed comments but this really did help put my mind at rest :)



  77. Naima

    Does anyone have any experience flying Air Canada? I am so scared to fly to London, from Kansas City….AGHHH! The thought of it, sickens me.

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