How European Airlines Handle for Overweight Passengers

Rules for Travelers Vary

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I previously wrote here about how U.S. airlines handle passengers of size. The policies in the United States were pretty consistent. The same cannot be said about Europe's major carriers. Some offer extra seats at a discount, while others don't even address the needs of passengers of size on their websites.

Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus does not have specific rules for passengers of size. But it does restrict passengers, including those of size, from sitting at emergency exits if their condition might hinder other passengers during an evacuation, or who might impede the crew carrying out their duties. The carrier does offer seat belt extensions, requiring passengers to inform the cabin crew as they board, since they cannot be pre-booked.

Germany’s airberlin doesn’t specifically mention passengers of size. But it does allow those flying in economy class to purchase an XL seat, which has extra leg and seat room.

Air France is pretty generous when dealing with passengers of size. The carrier offers passengers who need an extra seat a 25 percent discount in its Economy cabin. Air France will even reimburse the funds spent on an extra seat if there are unoccupied seats available.

For passengers of size requiring extra space, Finnair allows them to reserve an extra seat by paying the airfare without taxes, but still paying a fuel surcharge. Passengers must contact the airline by phone, as it does not allow extra seats to be booked online.

Spain’s Iberia does not have a policy. But its Iberia Express subsidiary urges passengers of size to use a seat belt extension and asks them to call customer service to make proper seating arrangements.

To ensure everyone on board has a comfortable and safe flight, all passengers should be able to effortlessly move the arm rests of their seat on board up and down, says KLM. Like air France, the Dutch flag carrier offers passengers of size a 25 percent discount on the second seat. Also if extra seats are available on the flight, passengers can apply for a refund of the costs of the second seat.

While the SAS website does not mention overweight passengers specifically, it does make provisions for them. Passengers can contact the carrier’s Customer Contact Center to make seating arrangements. It also notes that most of its seats have moveable armrests.

TAP Portugal says that passengers of size may request an extra seat for greater comfort. The seat must be requested when booking and the airline does not offer any discount, and the passenger is responsible for paying any fuel taxes and service charges on the fare.

Virgin Atlantic specifically addresses “passengers of a larger stature” who may need an extra seat in order to travel safely and in comfort. The carrier says that if a passenger cannot lower both armrests and/or compromise any part of the adjacent seat, they should visit its Seat Plus page to book an extra seat when making their reservation. “if you are unable to sit with the armrests down and/or compromise any part of the adjacent seat, you need to book an extra seat to avoid any disappointment or delay to your journey.”

While the airlines above at least have policies on handling passengers of size, some carriers don’t have any rules on their websites, including: British Airways, Lufthansa, SAS, Turkish Airlines, Ryanair, Austrian, EasyJet, Aeroflot, Swiss and Alitalia. So if there are any questions about policies, it's best to contact the airline directly for more information.