Flying While Fat: An Airport Review

Have you ever wondered how fat-friendly an airport is? Well, wonder no more because we have a great Airport Review for you! Our goal with Fat Girls Guide is to create an invaluable resource that helps fat people live fuller lives. Although we focus on travel, our objective is to be a lifestyle brand.

When members of our Fat Girls Traveling Facebook group share informative experiences in our private community. We sometimes ask to share it on a public platform because we know countless others may be too shy to ask these questions.

FGT: Hi Jessica! Thank you so much for sitting with Fat Girls Traveling to share your airport experiences with us.

Jessica: It’s my pleasure! I have taken ten Southwest flights so far this year, after not flying for ten years. So I want to share my experience as a supersized person in hopes that it helps someone else. I’m 5’10”, just over 600 lbs, and bottom heavy. 

FGT: Are there any airline policies that can be utilized for fat travelers?

Jessica: I utilize the customer of size (CoS) policy every time I travel, which includes pre-boarding. I’ve also requested wheelchair assistance multiple times, which you can do at the check-in counter. Some airports also have a wheelchair check in right at drop-off.

Flying-While-Fat-Airport-ReviewPhoto by Jason Leung on Unsplash

FGT: How do you ensure that a CoS seat will always be available for you?

Jessica: I always arrive two hours before boarding, and a CoS seat has always been available. However, the airlines do recommend buying an extra seat and having it refunded later, but I can never afford that. I’ve witnessed some airlines announce that they need multiple passengers to take a later flight in exchange for compensation like $600 airline credits etc., and people JUMP at the chance, so I don’t ever feel bad for putting people on standby to get a CoS seat.

FGT: How has having wheelchair assistance made traveling easier for you?

Jessica: Having wheelchair assistance is a Godsend! I’m fairly mobile but airports do me in these days. Please utilize it if you need to! Airlines are not allowed or supposed to ask why and how you’re disabled and need a wheelchair. 

Flying-While-Fat-Airport-ReviewPhoto by Gus Ruballo on Unsplash

FGT: Do you have any advice about the size of airplane seats?

Jessica: The airplanes themselves — my apologizes for not knowing which models — are a tight squeeze belly to butt. However, hip to hip is fine with the extra CoS seat. In my experience, if I am not sitting in a bulkhead seat, passengers usually put their chairs back, which digs into my knees; so leg room is a pain. I highly recommend sitting in the first row if you can. On some plane models, the first row has armrests that raise up. You can usually find out the airplane model on your reservation or simply ask the gate attendant.

FGT: Can you give us some advice on any specific airports?

Jessica: Sure!

Detroit, MI (DTW) – This is my home airport. I usually take Southwest flights, and the gates are relatively close to security. The wheelchairs available have strong support for my weight. Most chairs in the airport have arms, so sitting can be a bit restricted. The benches at TSA are fine and make taking shoes on and off easy. 

Los Angeles, CA (LAX) – There is a wheelchair check-in and baggage check right at drop off. They also have a wide sized wheelchair for larger travelers like myself. The airport workers made sure that I was super comfortable. Most chairs in the airport have arms. 

Flying-While-Fat-Airport-ReviewPhoto by Haiqal Osman on Unsplash

Providence, RI (PVD) – This is a small airport, but it’s a LONG walk to the gate. There are wheelchairs and carts, but I didn’t utilize them. Most chairs in the airport have arms.  

Baltimore, MD (BWI) – I have only traveled through this airport during a layover, and I have no complaints. The airport was easy to maneuver. If you have wheelchair assistance, the airport employees should meet you at your layover gate as well. Most chairs in the airport have arms. 

Flying-While-Fat-Airport-ReviewPhoto by Oskar Kadaksoo on Unsplash

Columbus, OH (CMH) – This is a small airport, which I think is a huge advantage. There are lots of armless chairs available for sit breaks. 

Chicago, IL (MDW) – I would avoid this airport at all costs! I traveled through MDW during a layover. I seriously gave up on walking through that airport. I called wheelchair assistance — they were nice about getting me help — however, the wheelchairs they provided barely supported my weight and they couldn’t push me, even with two people, which felt humiliating. The airport has a decent number of armless sitting options.

Las Vegas (LAS) – This airport is deceivingly big, but there is a tram/train available, which was a huge help in terms of getting around. 

FGT: These were some awesome tips! Thank you for sharing. 

Jessica: There were times when I really could’ve used this information. I really hope it helps!



Team Fat Girls

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