Person of Size Scenarios

What are the pros and cons of addressing the issue when reservations are made vs. at check-in vs. at the gate? The considerations include choice of airline, the cost of your trip, the potential disruption of your trip, and the potential of unpleasant interactions with your fellow travelers or airline staff. We’ll discuss each option and its’ pros and cons in the following table. The bottom line is that making person of size arrangements when reservations are made leads to the least stressful experience.

Scenario Positives Negatives
You are a person of size and you make arrangements for multiple seats at the time of booking. You are all set. No stress. No worries. At the gate you may board early when the gate agent makes the call for people needing extra time boarding. If you are flying Soutwest Airlines you will also be guaranteed a refund. Also, Southwest makes it easy to book extra seats online. If you are flying United, American, or Delta you will not get a refund for the extra seats. If you are flying Alaska - you may or may not get a refund depending on the fullness of the flight.
You are a person of size and wait until you arrive at the airport to look into arrangements for an extra seat. If you didn't make arrangements at booking time, it is better to take care of it at check-in rather than deal with it at the gate. If multiple adjacent seats are available you will pay day of departure prices for the seat, which are likely to be more expensive than when you booked your first seat. If a seat is not available, you will need to make arrangements for multiple seats on a different flight.
You are a person of size and wait until the gate or boarding to address the issue. There is a chance you may avoid the cost for a second seat. This is of no benefit on Southwest, since they guarantee a refund. You may be denied boarding. If you board and a flight attendant is notified and observes that you are a person of size according the the airline policy - you might be reseated if multiple adjacent seats are available, or you might be required to de-board. If you are unable to take the flight you will need to rebook multiple seats on a different flight and pay day of departure pricing. If you do board, and if the flight attendant is not notified, then your adjacent seatmates may be uncomfortable and unsafe. Furthermore you have placed yourself in a position where you risk negative comments or air rage from other passengers. Of course its not your fault if others behave poorly.
About Mark Morris
Mark Morris is a person, with several body dimensions that make airline travel in a single coach seat uncomfortable, including shoulder width, hip width, back to knee distance, and torso length. Mark is also sensitive to the inconvenience and discomfort of adjacent passengers. As he educated himself about the issues, he realized that there is no U.S. law or regulation covering person of size issues, and that airlines do not have a consistent policy. Mark created the Person of Size website to generate awareness, document situations and solutions, and advocate for improved laws, regulations, and policies related to persons of size situations in the real world.