My mother is flying with United Airlines, and she is about 400 pounds, but looks maybe 350 or so. She will be taking flights:

Airbus A320: seat 7C
Canadair Regional jet 700: seat 18B
Bombardier Q400: seat 7b
Boeing 737-900: seat 8D

I haven't flown for awhile and I just want to make sure my mother isn't embarrassed if she was to go to the airport, and they told her she needed to buy a second seat, because in reality I wouldn't want anyone to go through that because well its embarrassing. So I guess my big question is: Do you think she would fit fine, maybe not comfortable but fine, or do you think she might have some issues?

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    Weight isn't in itself always the problem. Normally the killers are width and pitch. When your mother is sat down, how much space does she need from one side to the other? (Width). How much space does she need from her back to her knees? (Depth). How do those two numbers compare to the seats on those two planes? – Gagravarr Dec 4 '14 at 9:15
  • Didn't United have a policy for that? This may be very relevant to have a look at. – DCTLib Dec 4 '14 at 9:53
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    The best bet is to call the airlines involved and ask them. – Aleks G Dec 4 '14 at 20:47

United's policy on "Customers requiring extra seating" can be found at http://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/specialneeds/customersize/default.aspx. (It took me a while to figure out what euphemism to search for.)

A customer flying in the economy cabin who is not able to safely and comfortably fit in a single seat is required to purchase an additional seat for each leg of their itinerary. The second seat may be purchased for the same fare as the original seat, provided it is purchased at the same time. A customer who does not purchase an extra seat in advance may be required to do so on the day of departure for the fare level available on the day of departure. The customer may instead choose to purchase a ticket for United First®, United Business® or United BusinessFirst®, or elect to pay for an upgrade to a premium cabin if there is availability to do so. United Airlines is not required to provide additional seats or upgrades free of charge.

A customer is required to purchase an additional seat or upgrade if they do not meet one of the following criteria:

  • The customer must be able to properly attach, buckle and wear the seat belt, with one extension if necessary, whenever the seatbelt sign is illuminated or as instructed by a crew member.*
  • The customer must be able to remain seated with the seat armrest(s) down for the entirety of the flight.
  • The customer must not significantly encroach upon the adjacent seating space. See our seat maps.

United will not board a customer who declines to purchase a ticket for an additional seat or upgrade for each leg of their itinerary when required.

Without knowing your mother's exact size and shape, it's impossible to know whether this will be an issue, but I think it is a distinct possibility, particularly on the Q400 and CRJ-700 which are small aircraft and feel significantly less spacious (even though, according to SeatGuru, the seats are only 0.2 inches narrower than on, say, a 737).


Allow me to answer this question in general terms, nothing to do with your mother. So this is obviously a very very sensitive issue from 3 different perspectives:

  1. The heavy person, let's call him Bob
  2. The person/s who seats next to Bob
  3. The airline crew

In the event that Bob can't tight his seat belt properly - that will be considered a 'safety issue' and the airline will not allow him to fly unless he has an additional seat. If no one sits next to him - that's ok but the problem is that you will know seats availability only ~30 minutes before departure time.

Now consider the people that sits next to Bob, some will be ok with it and some will ask the flight attended to find them a different sit, that unfortunately may cause an embarrassment to Bob. Lastly is the airline crew who will need to handle the problem; again, if this is a safety issue - they don't have much of a choice but to ask Bob to either 'upgrade' his seat or to purchase an additional seat. If the flight is fully booked - Bob will have to take a different flight (and if he has connections that make the entire story very problematic)

Every airline has different policies to handle this issue you should check with each one you're taking.

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