Tips for flying while plus size

I love when you guys ask me questions, and the thing I get asked for most is tips for flying while plus size. I’ve been a regular traveller all my life thanks to family living in different parts of the country, various jobs that have involved travel, and a general desire to see the world. I’ve flown with my body at all sizes, so for those of you who are worried about flying while fat, let me answer a few of your questions and put your mind at ease.

Tips for flying while plus size - Meagan Kerr


Consider seat size – One of the most common questions I get asked about flying is about seat sizes. I fly exclusively with Air New Zealand when flying nationally because they have the best service and the best prices, and I’ve never had an issue with seat width. I’ve also flown internationally with Air New Zealand and Qantas (and a couple of others when I was a child), with no issues. One thing worth being aware of though, is that some seats (especially at the front of the section) have rigid plastic sides – if you have wide hips then you may want to avoid this kind of seat. Another thing to consider is seat pitch (the distance from one row to the next) – it can make a huge difference to how comfortable your trip is! To find out about the width and pitch of the seats on different airlines, check out this handy website. If you can afford it, I highly recommend looking at upgrading to the next class as seats are usually more roomy – I shared my experience flying Premium Economy here.

Some airlines offer the option to purchase an extra seat – some at a reduced price and some that will refund the second seat purchased. Make sure you check in with your airline – (you can see Southwest’s policy here and Air New Zealand’s here – please note that Air NZ don’t have the extra seat at check in option for domestic flights, however you can still pre-purchase one with their contact centre). Air New Zealand also has an Economy Skycouch option on some flights – great if you’re travelling with someone else and would both like a bit of extra room!

Dress comfortably – This is a key one no matter what size you are. While it’s nice to look nice while you travel, remember that you will be sitting for an extended period of time. There is a time and place for short dresses and tulle skirts, and this is not it! For a short flight (an hour or less), I’d wear something similar to this in summer – a tank top, a midi length skirt, flat shoes and a cardigan or kimono. If the flight is any longer than that, then I would be wearing sneakers suitable for walking through the terminal, yoga pants or a skirt (either midi or maxi), a tank top and a cardigan. Trust me, comfort is key! If you’re travelling somewhere that has a totally different climate, then make sure you layer up: cardigans, coats, scarves, leggings, gloves etc. Because of weight restrictions on baggage, I tend to wear all those layers on to the plane then take them off when I get to my seat if I’m going from a warm climate to a cooler one – you can stow them in the overhead locker or under the seat in front of you, and they can make for a handy makeshift pillow if you get tired!

Go to the bathroom – Some smaller planes don’t have bathrooms on board, some planes have very small bathrooms, some are about as roomy as a portaloo, and some are pretty good – it all depends on plane size and what class you’re flying in. My advice is to go to the bathroom before you board, because it’s more comfortable and you don’t have to worry about turbulence.

Window vs aisle seat – It’s not just about the view, sitting in a window or aisle seat can allow you a bit more shoulder room (and sometimes leg space too). Because of my knee injury I always choose to sit in the aisle seat on the left (facing forward) or window seat on the right – this allows me to stretch my leg without annoying the person sitting next to me. The downsides of an aisle seat can include having to get up if your seatmate needs to use the bathroom (no big deal) and accidentally being hit by the drinks trolley (keep an eye out for it and tuck in your arms when required!). Unless absolutely necessary, avoid middle seats at all costs.

A Premium Economy seat on an Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9


Arm rests – Many planes have arm rests that can be raised (unless you’re in a seat with the rigid plastic sides). If it will help you to be more comfortable, and the person sitting nest to you doesn’t mind, then pop it up! If you’re travelling with a partner, this allows you to snuggle up – bonus!

Boarding – Attention all travellers: if your seat is at the back of the plane, board early to avoid hip checking all the people sitting near the front. If your seat is at the front, wait a bit so that people don’t hit you in the face with their bag as they walk past (this has actually happened to me, more than once). If you have a window seat or are unlucky enough to be seated in the middle of a centre row, board as early as possible so that everyone else in your row doesn’t have to get out of their seats for you to find yours. Be courteous to your fellow passengers and don’t be the jerk that arrives late and holds up the plane.

Seatbelt extenders – If you have a big stomach, hips or thighs then you may need a seatbelt extender. Just ask the flight attendant as you board the plane and they will either discreetly pass one to you then and there, or bring one to your seat once everyone has boarded (depending on where they are kept on that flight). You clip each end into the existing belt and tighten it low across your hips. Safety regulations require you to wear a seatbelt while flying, so please make sure you do wear it properly. Please don’t be embarrassed about having to use a seatbelt extender or squish your belt closed uncomfortably! If you are a regular traveller, then you might also like to buy your own seatbelt extender – make sure you get one that is compatible with your airline and is FAA approved.

Stay hydrated – Another one for all travellers: make sure you drink plenty of water! Your skin will thank you for it, trust me. When travelling within New Zealand I take my own, but if travelling overseas I usually buy bottled water because of the rules around liquids on planes. Make sure you check out the rules for the area you’re travelling in before you fly! Make sure you drink plenty of water when you get off the plane too.

Tray tables – Depending on the distance from the seat in front of you, if you have a fat stomach there is a good chance that your tray table won’t sit flat. I’ve experienced this on domestic flights on smaller planes where there is not a lot of leg room and it sucks. Also, if the person in front of you reclines their seat then you’re probably going to be uncomfortable. This is where getting a seat with extra leg room comes in handy – those extra few inches can make all the difference! I also found that seats in Premium Economy on some flights have tray tables that fold out across from the side of your chair, that’s basically a complete disaster for me as a fat woman – more details on that here.

Tips for flying while plus size - Meagan Kerr

And now it’s time to put up your tray tables, relax and enjoy your flight…

Do you have any tips for fellow fat flyers?
Share your travel stories with me!

xo Meagan


  1. Kate
    December 6, 2017 / 7:40 pm

    When I flew Cathay Pacific (HK to London) I had a window seat and there was an uncomfortable diggy bit on the edge of the seat there. I wouldn’t fly with them again because of that, even though they were all good in every other sense.

  2. Layla
    July 16, 2017 / 4:25 am

    Have you ever flown with Emirates in Economy? We are travelling from South Africa via Dubai to Australia in December and I am already dreading it.

    • July 17, 2017 / 1:04 pm

      Sorry Layla, I’ve never flown with Emirates before. A bit of Google searching showed me that they have different seat sizes depending on the aircraft so fingers crossed yours is one of the roomier ones (not that any of them are particularly spacious). Is there anything in particular that you’re concerned about?

      • Nicola
        December 6, 2017 / 7:24 pm

        I flew back from australia on emirates. It was on the a380 though. But super comfortable!! I am 6ft and a big lass and i found it amazing. Never been so comfortable in a plane. And it was economy

    • Kate
      December 6, 2017 / 7:35 pm

      I had absolutely no issues with the A380 if that’s the plane you’ll be on!

  3. Jasmine
    July 10, 2017 / 12:33 pm

    Hey Meg,

    I have an upcoming flight to London and I’m super nervous because I’ve never flown Virgin Atlantic before. Have you ever flown with them? And if so what was your experience? I’m more so nervous about the seat belt extender I’m a size 24/26 and know I need one.

    • July 13, 2017 / 8:28 pm

      Sorry Jasmine, I’ve never flown with Virgin Atlantic before. Ask for a seatbelt extender as soon as you get on the plane (you know when they check your ticket at the door?) and they should be able to discretely hand you one straight away. Hope you have a great trip to London! xo

  4. Theresa
    June 20, 2017 / 3:21 am

    Southwest airlines in the United States let’s you buy another seat and will reimburse you with a document that you receive from check in.

    • June 20, 2017 / 11:53 am

      Good to know Theresa, thanks for sharing! Do you just book two seats as you normally would and then let them know at check in that they’re both for you?

      • Theresa
        June 20, 2017 / 12:42 pm

        Yes, that is basically the way it works. Here is the link for more details. I have yet to try it, but I have purchased tickets to try it in October. I have flown with this airline before without it, but it was tight, being that both my husband and I are heavy set. This option will just give us the extra room we need. You can also ask for a pre boarding document if you medically need it (No proof is needed). I asked for this last time so we got the seats at the front of the plane with more leg room. I also have found that southwestt aisles on their planes are a tad bit wider than other Airline plane aisles in the United states.

  5. oki25
    December 26, 2016 / 11:24 am

    thanks for this post! I was traveling on vacation last week and could barely do up my seatbelt it was so embarrassing good to know there are options!

    • December 26, 2016 / 5:44 pm

      Don’t be embarrassed hun, just ask the flight attendant for an extender – better to be safe and comfortable!

  6. Tiff
    October 31, 2016 / 11:42 pm

    I’m so terrified about my upcoming flight. I’m a size 26/28 and will be riding coach…do you typically fly economy, Meagan?

    • November 1, 2016 / 10:58 am

      Hey Tiff, as I mentioned, make sure you check the seat dimensions for your flight – that will give you a good idea of how much room you have. I usually fly economy but recently flew premium economy on a trip to Australia and it was much more comfortable!

    • June 20, 2017 / 9:00 pm

      Who you flying with Tiff? Have found air nz at the emergency exit row is the best seats

  7. Lee
    June 27, 2016 / 7:59 pm

    That’s excellent advice Megan.First time recently I had trouble doing up seatbelt, had to get partner to do it, Fiji airways. It was tight, but felt OK. However, diligent flight attendent noticed and asked if I wanted extender! I said no, but I am keen to buy my own,… that’s just me! Tray table would not go down flat, I didn’t mind that so much. My understanding partner said not to worry, as all this was common these days,….but I didn’t feel that great about it. I didn’t drink much, to avoid bathroom and re seatbelt fastening.Not healthy,…but 3 – 4 hour flight not so bad.

    • June 27, 2016 / 9:15 pm

      Definitely worth getting that extender, even if it’s just to get those extra few mm for comfort!

  8. Michelle
    June 27, 2016 / 7:03 pm

    I don’t like flying anyway but being fat adds to the anxiety. I feel so self conscious of getting in people’s space in such a confined situation. I usually scrunch up as much as I can in the window seat!

  9. Reva Nale
    April 21, 2016 / 10:14 am

    I’m very worried. I haven’t flown for over a decade. I have a strange anatomy. My waist is only 38 inches but around my rear and thighs is 60 inches! I’m flying Delta economy then klm economy to northern Asia in June. I can’t afford two seats. Im so scared I won’t be able to squeeze into the seat. I’m short so leg room isn’t an issue and I’m small on top so I’d only crowd someone at the hip. I am on a major wt. reduction plan right now. Fingers crossed I will be able to fit by June!!!!

    • Summer
      May 3, 2016 / 5:48 am

      I don’t know why megan said thighs and hips matter when the belt ONLY sits on your waist! Since your waist is 38 inches, i think you should be fine.

      • May 3, 2016 / 11:23 am

        Hi Summer, the size of your thighs and hips matter greatly when it comes to fitting in your seat – a major concern for many plus size people (and what Reva has referred to here). In terms of how a seatbelt should fit, on a plane your belt should fit snugly across your hips, so if you are larger in this area a seatbelt extender may be required.

  10. Jai V.
    July 29, 2015 / 3:51 am

    Hi Meagan!
    I’m flying to Australia & New Zealand for the first time from Canada. I’m flying on Air New Zealand. I’m about 270 lbs. Should I be ok in one seat? This is the first time I’ve flown internationally this heavy….

    How are the bathroom sizing on Air New Zealand?

    • July 30, 2015 / 2:04 pm

      Hi Jai, I’m sorry but I’ve never flown Canada-NZ – it might pay to pop on the Air New Zealand website and check the measurement details for the seats on your aircraft. Also not sure about the bathrooms, but again Air NZ should be able to tell you.

  11. July 21, 2015 / 12:14 pm

    I have tried repeatedly to book seats with leg room, not just for myself but for my 6ft 7in son who has long, long legs and each time I’m told I cannot do so. IF we could book specific seats we may well fly more often as we too have family and friends all over the world. You would not believe the different excuses we’re given as to why we can’t book specific seats – so we know they are excuses.
    Ironically, when we’ve had no alternative but to fly, crammed into tiny seats for 14-24 hours, the people in the4 seats with legroom are small πŸ™

    • July 21, 2015 / 12:16 pm

      That’s weird, I’ve always been able to choose my seat when I purchase my ticket (sometimes you have to pay to be able to do that) – perhaps it depends on specific airline’s policies? Maybe email your airline with a friendly request that you be able to do that in future!

    • Michelle
      July 21, 2015 / 6:42 pm

      Airlines charge for the privilege of ‘seat selection’ when you book, then they only show a limited number of seats as available – they block the good seats for their frequent flyers. My agent stuffed up my booking on Emirates and I could only see 3 or 4 seats available at the back of the plane but I rang and explained this to the airline and they gave me a good seat that was showing as not available online. If you get the right person on the phone they are quite helpful.

      • July 22, 2015 / 5:07 pm

        Hmm, that’s interesting! I’ve never had any issues getting the seats I want, but good to know that some airlines will help you out if needed!

  12. Michelle
    July 19, 2015 / 3:35 pm

    I flew to Europe with my partner and wore flight socks that were really tight on my calves – my legs were swollen from thighs to toes and I am sure the socks made it worse. I have to fly to Asia each year and this year I am wondering if I should try Apple Cider Vinegar instead – this is supposed to help reduce the acid build up that causes the swelling – anyone tried this? Tempted to pack a bottle in my bag from NZ but with my luck it will pop in my bag – peuw!

  13. Holly
    June 29, 2015 / 3:18 pm

    I will be travelling to Morocco next month and I’m having a bit of a panic attack that I won’t fit into the seat! I’m a size 20, wider hips and a thinner waist. They say the seats are 17″. Am I worrying for nothing??

    • June 29, 2015 / 4:25 pm

      Hey Holly, I think that’s about standard seat with for economy. The only concern I’d have would be if the seats had rigid sides, I find that they are sometimes narrower. Don’t stress about it – just ask for a belt extender if you need one and have a great time in Morocco πŸ™‚

  14. Kirsty
    June 15, 2015 / 7:13 pm

    Hi Meagan, have you ever travelled domestically on one of those lil planes.? How did you go? I’m potentially going on one with a 76cm pitch …normally ok on the 737’s just a little tight on the belt side….feelING a bit apprehensive. Thanks

    • June 16, 2015 / 4:18 pm

      Hi Kirsty, I’ve travelled domestically on a number of small planes (including Air New Zealand’s Beechcraft 1900D) and never had any issues although some seats with a smaller pitch are a bit of a squeeze in terms of leg room. Make sure you ask for a belt extender when you get on so that you don’t have to sit uncomfortably with a tight belt and I’m sure you’ll have a great flight! xo

  15. Maddi Pham
    February 15, 2015 / 12:10 am

    Amazing post Meagan. Many tips actually work for any passengers.

  16. Leasa Hart
    January 4, 2015 / 1:43 am

    I found delta to be pretty good. I traveled from San Francisco to the Virgin Islands. It helped to have priority boarding due to an elderly lady in our party who needed a wheel chair. We we’re as allowed to board even before 1st class. I was traveling with my husband and daughter so I was sharing with them from San Francisco to New York I was in the middle I found it pretty comfortable the most uncomfortable for me was actually on the left side of the plane going to New York to the Virgin Islands on the window seat. this summer I’ll be going to the Dominican Republic I hope to fly Delta again it will be the same situation with my daughter and my husband also with the lady who needs the wheelchair so hopefully everything will be smooth sailing it was actually my first flight I was about 9 years old I’m 48 now so overall it was a good experience

    • January 4, 2015 / 10:34 pm

      That’s really good to hear Leasa – I’ve heard a lot of negative stuff about Delta, so nice to hear something positive! Hope y’all have a great time in the Dominican Republic this summer! xo

  17. January 3, 2015 / 11:40 pm

    Very good tips Meagan! And I am seriously crushing on your kimono πŸ™‚

  18. January 3, 2015 / 9:36 pm

    Great tips for traveling! Comfort is key and if you want more leg room you can always ask when checking in if the emergency rows are free – the window seat doesn’t have an arm rest so you have loads of room. Also, they can’t recline so if you’re in the second row you won’t have to worry about people leaning back! Woo

    • January 3, 2015 / 9:40 pm

      Thanks lady! Good advice about the emergency rows, I always forget about them!

      • Nikki Ross
        June 27, 2016 / 10:59 pm

        But you can’t sit in the emergency row if you need an extension belt…..

  19. January 3, 2015 / 8:15 pm

    I’m around a size 20, and I fly to Australia 3-4 times a year. I just flew back today on an Emirates A380 and actually fit totally comfortably in the seat – I didn’t even feel like putting the arm rest up at all. Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand both have seats I can only just fit in but I genuinely think if my hips/butt were any larger I wouldn’t be able to fit in them without raising the arm rest and infringing on the person next to me’s space.

    • January 3, 2015 / 8:21 pm

      Good to know – I’ve never flown Emirates before! Do you think they have more leg room as well Lena? Also, hurray that yo are back, hope you had a great time!

  20. Pol
    January 3, 2015 / 8:10 pm

    The arms lift up on long haul.
    Remember to walk about on a long flight as we are at higher risk of clots.
    I wear my favourite cotton travel dress and black stretch jeans at the airport then change into leggings on the flight. I don’t wear flight socks as they are too tight for my calves and that is counter productive.

    I always get an aisle seat as I don’t want to climb over sleeping people

    • January 3, 2015 / 8:14 pm

      A very very good point Pol! Because I never fly long haul I hadn’t even thought about clots. Moving about on long flights is essential!

    • Ellen
      January 6, 2015 / 12:03 pm

      Medical grade support knee high stockings.

      I’ve never posted here before so I don’t know if it’s OK to include URLs to other sites. Please accept my apologies if it’s not. Pol, I agree with your comment about tight flight socks. Have you tried medical grade support knee high stockings? I have used Mediven ones (available here: but I’m sure you can get them other places too.). They come in multiple calf widths including really really wide. They are super expensive, but they seriously last forever. I have had my pair for about 3 years and they come out for every long flight or long car trip where my ankles might otherwise swell or I might sit still for so long clots are a risk. They are super comfortable – I wore them for an Australia to Europe trip, about 36 hours in transit door to door, and I honestly didn’t know I had them on. No strangled calves! Also, they have open toes so your feet don’t feel like they’re smothering. They are not pretty (in fact they’re hideous – you need trousers or a maxi skirt over them, in my view) and they are quite hard to get on but they are fantastic for circulation. I figure ugly stockings are a small price to pay to avoid a clot.

  21. Aimee Shaw
    January 3, 2015 / 7:23 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I also find that for a added cost, Air NZ have a “no Neighbour” option. This means that nobody will be seated next to you on the flight. This comes in handy for being able to lift up the Centre arm rest for a bit of extra room.

    Also, ask when you are checking in at a service desk to see if the flight is full. If it’s not full you can ask them to possibly change your seat to one that has no Neighbour. People sometimes get embarrassed, but the cabin crew would come across this often and are really lovely with trying to make your trip asks comfortable as possible.

    • January 3, 2015 / 7:27 pm

      Ooh, I didn’t know about the no neighbour option, that’s awesome! So worth it for the extra room I think. And I agree about asking to have your seat changed – if you get on the plane and sit down and notice a bunch of empty seats before take off then quite often the flight attendants are happy for you to move seats!

  22. January 3, 2015 / 6:50 pm

    I have used the loo’s on Air new Zealand to Aussie, they are awesome, I have also used the loo’s on Virgin Airlines, and toilets are slightly smaller but can still fit….. I go soon after take off, and usually about 30 minutes before landing to make sure I am not busting at the other end, I have the wollies bladder. I can never get the trays down, so forget about that… and OMG if the person in front puts their seat back, I am stuck, well not quite but god it is awful. As I have to keep my legs moving I always ask for a seat at the front, the downside is the seats are apparently smaller, not that I have really noticed. I always ask for an extender before I even sit down, it always makes the flight much more comfortable when you use one. One thing I want to say is don’t let your size put you off flying ever, I used too and regret it. Most air hostess’s are awesome, and will try and accommodate if they can. There is always the choice of buying an extra seat but that can be mighty expensive. Also another tip avoid flying on a Friday or weekend when it is busy, we fly usually on a Wednesday and the plane is not that busy so we normally get a spare seat between me and my partner – perfect :).

    • January 3, 2015 / 6:54 pm

      Some great tips Jackie, thanks! Especially around when you fly, nothing worse than being sardined into the plane! And I agree, don’t let your size put you off flying – life is too short to miss out on all the great experiences the world has to offer!

  23. Claire T
    January 3, 2015 / 6:45 pm

    We just flew for ten hours on Singapore Airlines today. The toilets are not too bad ( well my 4 year old and my size 20 self could be in there together-)even the small ones. The seat width was fine and even w a round belly the tray table came flat fine even w the people in front reclining. The bulkhead seats do have rigid sides on SIA so they can be a bit snug. Just do it is my best advice.

    • January 3, 2015 / 6:48 pm

      Wow, long flight! Thanks for the feedback Claire, I’ve never flown with Singapore Airlines before πŸ˜€

  24. January 3, 2015 / 6:18 pm

    All excellent advice for travelers of every size πŸ˜€ Bulkhead seats (the ones at the front) are excellent for that extra wee bit of legroom. The downside for these (on long haul flights) is that your entertainment system is on a creaky arm that tucks under your seat. If you value in-flight entertainment over leg room then I don’t recommend it, but if leg room is #1 then go for it!

    • January 3, 2015 / 6:21 pm

      Do they have the rigid sides on long haul flights? Or the arms that lift up? It’s been so long I can’t remember (clearly I need to travel abroad post haste!).

      • Vikkie
        November 13, 2015 / 3:41 pm

        Are we talking about bulkhead seats? When i fly with virgin atlantic the bulkhead armrests do not move. However they are the most wonderful most accommodating airline i have ever had the pleasure to fly with.

        • November 14, 2015 / 8:54 am

          I think Air NZ seats are the same, I know they are on domestic flights. Glad to hear you’ve had a great experience with Virgin Atlantic, Vikkie!

    • June 20, 2017 / 9:06 pm

      I booked seats like that one of my flights to Dubai and I actually couldn’t sit in the seat as I didn’t fit due to the screen being in the rest arms that you pull up.
      Ended up with my own row which I was able to lie down and sleep in. Extra money for that seat wasn’t worth it but was when I got a row lol.

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