Flying, especially in coach, is uncomfortable for pretty much everyone, and perhaps more so for passengers of size. I mean, seats on airplanes continue to get smaller and smaller, don’t they, as airlines try to squeeze in more and more seats. Columnist Cynthia Wylie explored this very issue, in this article: How Much Money Do Airlines Make by Squeezing in Extra Seats? And Is It Worth the Discomfort of Their Passengers?
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Cramped, uncomfortable seats are pretty much the norm for most passengers, unless you can afford to splurge on business class. You can’t even recline without risking an altercation. Or CAN you recline? It’s the great air travel debate that has the internet divided: Is it okay to recline your seat on a short flight?
For passengers of size, flying comes with its own set of problems, like passengers who don’t want to sit next to you. Do you remember the American Airlines passenger who made international headlines when she posted a photo of herself wedged in the middle seat of an American Airlines plane between, who she called, two “obese people”? Here’s that story.
And then there’s the fact that the seatbelts may not fit. I’m a member of a Facebook travel group and a fellow member recently posted this:
It’s unfortunate that she should have been made to feel so embarrassed and this doesn’t reflect well on the flight attendant who, by the passenger’s account, could have handled the situation more delicately. In response to her post, someone else posted this:
I didn’t know that you could purchase your own seatbelt extender on Amazon. I looked it up and she’s right. You can buy an adjustable seatbelt extender like this one (pictured above) on Amazon for $14.99. This seatbelt extender adds between 9 and 24 inches of additional length to the existing aircraft seatbelt system.
Seems like a great idea and according to the comments on Amazon, many people are using them. And like the person who suggested it said, it’s certainly a way to lengthen your own seatbelt discreetly and avoid feeling embarrassed by the flight crew or other passengers. But are you allowed to use your own seatbelt extender aboard an aircraft?
According to United Airlines’ policy about extra seating, “If you’re unable to sit safely and comfortably in a single seat in United Economy, you’ll have to purchase an additional seat for each leg of your itinerary.” The policy, which you can read in full here, goes on to say, “If you do not require two seats but require a seat belt extension, you may ask for one from a flight attendant on board. You are not allowed to bring or supply your own seat belt extensions.”
According to TripSavvy, “Delta Air Lines does not permit passengers to use their own personal extenders, citing ‘FAA regulations’ as the reason for this ban. Southwest Airlines also bars passengers from bringing their own seat belt extenders.”
Flying Alaska Airlines? This is what their policy says: “The seat width on all Alaska Airlines aircraft (armrest to armrest) is approximately 17 inches and the seatbelt length is approximately 46 inches. Passengers needing extra coverage may ask the flight attendant for a seatbelt extension, which adds 25 inches to the seatbelt length. Only seatbelt extensions provided by the specific aircraft operator may be used onboard.” The policy, which you can read here, also says that seatbelt extenders are prohibited in exit rows.
JetBlue’s policy states that passengers who need one may ask for a seatbelt extender but doesn’t explicitly address the use of your own personal one. American Airlines’ policy states: “If a customer needs extra space outside a single seat to travel safely, another seat is required. We encourage customers to address all seating needs when booking.” They also don’t address the use of personal seatbelt extenders but I think it’s a safe assumption that, like the other airlines, they’re not allowed. The logical reason, I would think, is liability concerns.
If you think you may have difficulty sitting comfortably in an airplane seat, do a little advance research to find out the seat width and pitch along with the seatbelt length on the aircraft you’re flying. If you require to purchase an extra seat, need a seatbelt extender or have questions about traveling with your own personal seatbelt extender, contact your airline in advance to explore your options.
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