Seatmates of Size

Clip ‘n save guide to airline policies on seatmates of size


No matter your weight or your width, the next time you fly make sure you know your airline’s policy on “seatmates of size.”  Better yet, if you can find your airline’s customer of size policy, print it out and carry it with you.

It may help you avoid a pain in the butt and it may save you some bucks.

Last week, United Airlines laid out its new policy for “Passengers requiring extra space.”  It says that passengers who can’t fit into a single seat in their ticketed cabin; need more than one extender in order to buckle their seatbelt and; are unable to put the seat’s armrest down when they are seated may have to purchase a second seat if there are no extra empty seats on their scheduled flight.

What’s the policy on other airlines?  Find out in my Well-Mannered Traveler column posted today on  What a deal: one person, two fares.

You may surprised.  Some airlines don’t post their policies and just say they’ll “work something out” if a passenger can’t fit in one seat. Other airlines are very specific about their rules and make it easy to find them – but you may not like what you read.

Portly passengers may pay twice on United

This week United Airlines joined Southwest and several other airlines in formalizing and posting a  “seatmates of size” policy on its website.


(From a 2007  Well-Mannered Traveler column on this topic, courtesy

Although the policy was quietly posted on the airline’s Web site some time ago, it went into effect just this past Wednesday, April 15th.

The policy will please passengers who find themselves squeezed in next to someone who doesn’t really fit in their own seat and will disappoint travelers who feel that, rather than charging large passengers for more space, airlines should just be putting larger seats on all airplanes.

You can read the current policy here but, in a nutshell, the policy states that if you don’t fit into your seat with the armrests down, if you need more than one seat belt extender to buckle your seat belt, or if you simply do not fit into a single seat in your ticketed cabin, then you may end up having to purchase a second seat and fly on a later flight.

The key word here is may.  Which is not what the policy first stated.

Last Wednesday, the policy United posted on its Website stated that passengers falling into certain categories MUST by an extra seat.  By the end of the day, however, the wording had been changed to better reflect the policy an airline spokesperson  said was the “real” policy: that before charging anyone for a second seat, United flight crews would try to find two adjacent seats for the large passenger at no extra charge

I think that’s a big  difference.  And I’m glad they changed the wording. Read about how the wording got changed in my Well-Mannered Traveler column, The Skinny on United’s seatmates of size”, on

And tell me what you think….

Ryanair asks: would you pay for toilet paper?

After alarming travelers with the ‘joke’ about on-board pay-toilets (don’t be surprised…), Ryanair officials asked travelers to send in their own ideas for other discretionary fees that could be charged.

They did.

As of today (April 14th) close to 45,000 votes have been cast.  And sadly, so far more than 20,000 people have voted in favor of charging excess fees for overweight passengers.

Other survey choices include charges for bringing your own food onboard, for using airplane toilet paper, and for smoking in a converted lavatory.  Click here to take the Ryanair survey.  The winning idea gets a cash prize. Voting closes Friday, April 17th.


One person – two seats – in two rows?

One of my recent Well Mannered Traveler columns on discussed the “tush test” Canadian airlines are asking travelers to undergo in order to take advantage of that country’s One Person/One Fare  laws.

So Gregg at FlightsfromHell sent along a  link to a story about a woman forced to purchase two airplane seats “for other people’s comfort.”

Unfortunately, the two seats the airline assigned her were not next to each other.


Canadian airlines cram to obey obesity ruling

(Illustration for my column by MSNBC’s Duane Hoffman)

“You’ve dawdled this whole year. Now stop all that bellyaching and get on with it.”

That’s pretty much the message Canada’s Supreme Court gave to the country’s major airlines at the end of November. Now, after spending a year trying to weasel out of it with repeated court appeals, Canadian airlines are scrambling to figure out how to meet the January 10th, 2009 deadline for complying with “One-Person-One-Fare” policy mandated by the Canadian Transportation Agency, or CTA.

Its groundbreaking legislation that some hope – and others fear – may spread to the United States and elsewhere. So pay attention.

Under the new rules, which will apply only to domestic flights, Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet cannot charge more than one fare to persons with disabilities who cannot fly without the help of an attendant.

Few people will take issue with that.

What some folks are taking issue with, however, is the part of the ruling that also promises a complimentary second seat to passengers who are “determined to be functionally disabled by obesity.”

Find out what that means – and what several experts think it should mean – in my Well Mannered Traveler column posted today on