If like me, taking a flight fills you with dread, this is the post for you.
As a plus size traveller, it can be hard to know whether or not you’re going to have a comfortable flight in advance. Whilst most airlines will have small, hard-to-fit seats, there are a number of things you can do to make your journey as comfortable as you possibly can.
To help, I’ve got together with Abbie, a plus size flight attendant, to find out absolutely everything you need to know about flying while fat.
Hello Abbie! Thank you so much for taking part in this Q&A. It’s so great to have an air hostess’ expert opinion, especially one who is plus-size themselves.
My first question is – do you ever have plus size passengers approach you before a flight expressing their concerns and asking for advice? Is this something airlines would encourage their passengers to do?
Hi Kirsty! You’re very welcome! I’m really excited to be a part of this! Of course, I am delighted to help and give some insight. I will do my best.
Only a few times have customers approached and expressed their concerns to me about being plus size, generally people have only approached me to ask for an extension seatbelt – and usually, they’re pretty confident. This may be due to the fact our airline, as well as many others, promote diversity a lot and our passengers feel comfortable around us (cabin crew members).
The few customers who have however displayed their concerns are generally customers who feel they may need/want to move seats to not disturb others/or for their own comfort. Sometimes it may be that they are too shy or embarrassed to ask for an extension seatbelt. I would always encourage our passengers to be honest with us and to try their best not to feel uncomfortable and feel free to ask us questions. There is nothing wrong with using an extension or even moving to sharing two seats. We only want our customers to feel comfortable and most importantly safe, but to enjoy their travelling experience with us.
When going through training do you receive any training regarding plus-size passengers? If so, what does this entail?
Yes, we were educated on the use of the extension seatbelt for both infants and for plus size people. We were also informed about the process in which larger customers may purchase themselves two seats rather than one for more comfort and room, or they can obviously buy seating in another cabin – such as premium economy, business or first class. Premium economy, business and first class seats are generally more spacious and comfortable, but if you are thinking of buying two economy seats make sure you compare to other cabins as you could be spending more!
What advice would you offer to a passenger who’s seatbelt doesn’t fit?
Just be honest and let one of us know, please don’t feel embarrassed or scared. An extension seatbelt will be given to you and should be shown how to use it if you are unsure. We are there for your safety and support!
Would you advise passengers to bring their own seatbelt extender?
No, not really. I personally wouldn’t as all airlines provide them and are comfortable. Unless your anxious and would rather bring your own, whatever makes you feel comfortable! However we may check its suitable to our safety standards, but this is normal.
What should a passenger do if they don’t comfortably sit in their seat?
Usually, if you’ve travelled before or often you’ll know what seat to purchase or how many and in which cabin, but if you arrive on the aircraft and become uncomfortable with your seat then make yourself known to a flight attendant. We always try our best to accommodate. Sometimes, there isn’t much we can do if the flight is full, but often we will try and move them to a more comfortable seat or provide blankets and pillows. Not often would you be upgraded free of charge.
What I would suggest though, especially if it’s going to be a long flight, make sure you take some ‘comfys’ with you, such as your own blankets, pyjamas, comfy clothes or a travel pillow
Is there any advice you can offer to passengers who struggle to get their tray table down, especially on long haul flights where it’s required for eating meals?
This can be a frustrating and a tricky obstacle annoyingly. The easiest way to get around this is to upgrade into another cabin, business and first class have plenty of room and a variety of tray tables. Usually, people will place their meal tray on top of their laps or hold their tray when sitting in a more confined seat, it isn’t always practical, unfortunately. If this is not possible, eating in the galley (kitchen) areas is another alternative or politely asking a crew member to use their jump seat for the meal service.
Often plus-size passengers struggle to walk up and down a plane aisle, but at times it can’t be avoided due to the placement of the toilets in comparison to the plane’s door. Is there a ‘best seat’ you’d recommend to avoid walking up and down the aisle as much as possible?
I haven’t really thought about this before, but yes I guess so. I would probably recommend being seated where you would get the most use for yourself. For example, if you walk around or like to stand up a lot I would recommend being seated near a galley, or if you will be using the restroom often and do struggle with gaining access then I would suggest sitting closer to a bathroom. I personally would prefer to be in between, in the middle of both.
In your opinion, what seat would you recommend a plus size person book on a plane? Aisle, middle or window?
This is a hard question, it depends if you will be getting up often I guess. After thought, though, I think the isle would be most comfortable and accessible, or if possible an over wing exit as these have more leg room and don’t invade your neighbouring passengers as much.
Plane toilets can be incredibly small. Do you have any words of advice or comfort for passengers that may be worried they don’t fit?
The toilets are so small for all passengers, so please do not feel at all anxious about fitting, as even I struggle to turn around in them sometimes especially in a single-aisle aircraft (generally short haul).
If you are worried and are travelling on a longer flight usually there is at least one disabled toilet which is always bigger, or ask a cabin crew member where and if you would be able to use one of the larger toilets that are spread around the aircraft. Most newer long haul aircraft have larger toilets anyhow, but the smaller single-aisle short-haul plane toilets are getting smaller as a space saver.
If it’s a short flight I usually use the bathroom before I get on, and hope I don’t need to use it throughout the flight.
When it comes to upgrading to premium economy, business or first class – how do these seats differ in size on average across airlines? Would you recommend this as an option?
Most airlines upgraded cabins are more spacious as the cabin upgrades, and I do recommend it. You really are paying for what you get. You don’t only get a larger and more comfortable seat and bedding, but more environmental space as well – the isles are generally a little wider. That answer probably helps a little with the previous isle question!
In light of recent news, have you ever experienced a passenger fat-shaming another passenger on one of your flights? What is the policy should this happen?
Recent news? I try to stay away from the news, and I haven’t personally ever come across ‘fat shaming’. If it did occur, however, we have a no discrimination and abuse policy and it would be addressed professionally.
Is there any information you feel plus size passengers should know before flying? Perhaps something that isn’t often mentioned so people don’t know what’s available to them.
Well, I don’t want to upset or make anyone anxious who is maybe travelling soon but, what I will say is, unfortunately, some passengers and even sometimes cabin crew members can be unwelcoming and rude. This shouldn’t happen and doesn’t usually occur often, but if it does make it known! PLEASE! Make sure to tell someone, such as the manager on the flight, write on a complaints card/or online. An attitude such as this needs to be addressed more when it does happen to help us stop this from happening in the future.
A number of airlines allow you to purchase an extra seat in their ‘people of size policy’ – is this something you would suggest passengers do if they’re worried?
Like I mentioned before, I would probably and personally suggest looking into an upgraded cabin first as it may be cheaper rather than to buy two seats in say economy or premium economy. If this is not the case, I probably would research into the airline your thinking of booking with and look at seat sizes possibly before you purchase the extra seat as you don’t want to waste any money. I have a brilliant website I found that informs people on seat dimensions for which airline! – SeatGuru
Finally, what would you number one piece of advice be to a plus size person travelling by plane?
Be confident and be you!
I hope this Q & A was what you were hoping, and that it has given you all a bit more of an insight – although you may have known it all already. Or even wish it may have been a bit more interesting or exciting! Maybe next time, well talk about funny moments I’ve experienced and will try and make you laugh! Thanks again for having me!
I am 22 years old and have visited 22 countries! I’m a plus size flight attendant who travels the world and has so many more places to see! Since 2017 I have been working for British Airways as Cabin Crew.
I am based in London Heathrow and I live in Brighton.
In love with travel, marmite, Diet Coke, Disney and anything to do with animals or America! Oh, and anyone who can make me laugh is a winner!
I’m a previous photography student and hope to start sharing my imagery, stories and travels on my new blog! If you can’t find me I’m probably at 35,000ft pointing out your nearest exits!
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Thank you SO MUCH to Abbie for all of her incredible advice. Is there anything you would add?