Skip to main content

Southwest Airlines Community

People of Size

Explorer B

I am a regular on Southwest Airlines, love it. Apparently though the restrictions that Southwest has for people of size is not enforced at the gate boarding area and to the dismay of passengers, we have to contort with these people overflowing into our space.


This is getting more and more common and I am at the point that if a large person that cannot sit in the seat without their body overflowing into my seat is allowed to board, I should be compensated. My recent trip to Chicago on a full flight, I was in the window seat and had to turn almost sideways facing the window to avoid this obese woman whos arms, and legs could not fit in the seat without rubbing against me. Discusting.


Something must be done, similar to carry on luggage, if you are a certain size, you either buy two seats or consider a life change and lose weight. It's not my problem and I bought my seat to be able to sit, unencumbered, by the person next to me pressing like a sandwich.


Re: People of Size

Frequent Flyer A

dear bladerunner2017,  I appreciate that it can be very uncomfortable when the plane is full and the person sitting next to you is larger than the seat.  The culture that Southwest fosters is one in which their employees are trusted to make "on the fly" decisions as to the best interests of their customers and the airline, rather than a culture of strict policies.  The Southwest FAQ says "the width between armrests measures 17 inches,"  but, to strictly enforce that, would there have to be a cutout at every gate that says "you must be this thin to buy one seat," and each passenger must measure their backside in public?  No, thank you.  That is not a policy that I want to be strictly enforced. 


I once flew another low cost carrier (that will herein go unnamed), and watched as each passenger had to fit their carryon back within a size frame, and watched a young lady who did not fly very often and did not know the policy break down in tears when the unnamed airline charged her $100 for her "oversized" bag at the last minute. 


Airlines are like jobs - they all come with their good things and their things we wish would change.  I, as a customer, must agree to be uncomfortable upon occasion or chose an airline on which I can pay for a first-class seat.  I will take the trade-off of being surrounded by employees who are appreciated and are given the freedom to do their job to the best of their abilities.  The attraction to Southwest for me has many facets, but a big one is that rule #1 is safety first and rule #2 is that other situations can be managed by the employees rather than strict policies.  (For example, I am thankful that flight attendants are creative in the departure speech while still hitting all the important points of safety.  People pay more attention than if the same wording gets delivered every time.)


Unless the passenger next to you is the last minute boarder in a middle seat, you have the option of moving, thought it has to be done before everyone is settled.  I realize that may mean further back or not on a window. 


My "oh no" is related to animals - I have terrible allergies, so even if a service animal and even if the animal is in a carrier, I get up and move if someone close to me has an animal.  I am not locked into any one seat when the airplane has open boarding, and we all arrive at the same time (even though, admittedly, it feels like it takes 10 minutes longer to deplane from the back). 


I hope your future travels are more pleasant than your recent experience, and that you will evaluate all the pros and cons of different airlines when you make your travel choices because I believe Southwest is the best carrier in providing afforable travel and a pleasant experience most of the time without the cost of 1st class for every flight.

Re: People of Size

Explorer C

Even one better. On a flight back from Chicago last Sunday, a normal sized passenger was moved from an aisle seat beside my wife (I was in the window seat) to the rear of the aircraft to a seat with the other attendants with the refreshments.  Then immediately a greater than 400 pound man with the smell of body odor that ultimately made my wife and I physically ill was placed in the vacated aisle seat adjacent to us. The air conditioner on the flight was never turned on so it was a heated body odor smell that we endured. The guy was so big he needed a seat belt extender and occupied almost half of my wife's seat.  He also had a nice wet cough that we enjoyed the entire 2 hr and 20 minute flight.  Our flight (so we were told) was a full flight before this guy even boarded the plane. I'm curious if there are any regulations on passengers being seated with the attendants?

The punch line is that he eventually mentioned he had been "bumped from my other flight because it was full". Way to go Southwest, you'll never see me or my wife again. I also congratulated the flight attendant on the way on placing the fat, smelly guy with a cough next to us and the expression on his face told me he had literally NO IDEA that it would make our flight uncomfortable. 

This flight was so miserable I've vowed never to fly a commercial airline again.  The TSA hassle, apathetic airline employees who know you have no choice when it comes to commercial travel and ridiculous ticket prices (even though the airline industry is already heavily government-subsidized) have made it a no-brainer.

Re: People of Size

Explorer B

I think most people don't realize SWA does not charge extra to obtain an extra seat due to size, disability, or large service animals.  You just book 2 seats for yourself and use your name plus XS in the middle name space.  After your flight you can call and get a refund on that extra seat.  You can actually ask for an extra seat at the airport for free, but some people don't feel comfortable doing that.  Classy move, SWA! 🙂

Re: People of Size

Explorer C

Thank you for reminding people of Southwest Airline's policy for people of size.  Although I do not travel by airline that much, during my time in the Air Force, I had to travel by commercial air a lot for temporary duty assignments.  I am a large framed person and have shoulders that are a bit wider than the current 17 inch seat width. 

Regardless of whether or not I am overweight, my shoulders exceed the designated shoulder width. 

Southwest's former policy was that the price of a second seat for "people of size" would only be refunded if the flight was not fully booked.  A while back it was changed to their current policy, second seat cost will be refunded, no question's asked.

Generally I pay extra for early boarding so I can choose my seat carefully so as not to inconvenience other passengers . . .

What is amusing though is when I pay for a second seat, SWA gives me a document to place on the second seat to indicate it is taken.  When people walk down the aisle, they ask if the seat is taken.  I reply yes . . . some will argue that it is "first come, first served".  I normally sit in an aisle seat.  I tell them I paid for an extra seat and they eventually move on . . .

I try to be considerate of other people but there are unhappy, angry people on every flight . . . ignore them . . .

Re: People of Size

Explorer C

Wouldn't this cause for someone to get bumped if the flight is full?

Re: People of Size

Explorer C

To Bladerunner2017 - do you also find crying babies annoying?  Shall we toss them out of the aircraft?  Your complaint about people of size is nasty and mean-spirited.  Those people of size include my husband - a hard-working man required to travel for his business.  He isn't "bad" or "discusting" (ps - it's spelled 'disgusting').  He  is a person - well loved, with a fine reputation and incredible heart and integrity.  Think about that the next time you demean of person of size who dares invade your space.  Ya know - maybe some compassion on your part is what's missing.  Thank goodness for SWA who accommodates all their customers - lest someone like you be offended by a large person "discusting" you.  PS - Learn to spell...  

Re: People of Size

Retired Community Manager

Hey Everyone,


Personal space is a touchy subject, and Southwest Airlines has implemented procedures to facilitate a comfortable ride for everyone. As @ktocci mentioned, we will reimburse the cost of an extra seat after travel has been completed. And, as @CareforNOLA mentioned, Customers are welcome to sit in any available seat in the cabin. If you need assistance finding a new seating accommodation, our Flight Attendants will be happy to assist!


Given the nature of this topic, I encourage everyone to familiarize themselves with the Community User Guidelines, which are available here, and require that conversations in the discussion forum be respectful and courteous.  


Re: People of Size

Explorer C

To Bladerunner.....I understand your frustration, but your suggestion that another passenger should "consider a life change and lose weight" is not only insensitive, but fails to consider the possibility that there may be a medical condition preventing considering a "life change & weight loss", pretty much impossible.  Most seating issues/problems can be solved on the spot, upon request, by SW employees if given the chance to do so.  I've found this to be the case on SW, and if you encounter a similar situation in the future, I suggest that you give them the chance to do so, rather than suffering with the situation by sitting sideways in your seat and later complaining about the situation rather than giving SW a chance to work out an acceptable remedy. Smiley Happy

Re: People of Size

Explorer C

Thank you for your clarification on the policy of SWA, regarding people of size. Are you aware of the actual procedure for requesting reimbursement for an extra seat following a flight? Thanks.