How European Airlines Handle Passengers of Size

Rules for Travelers Vary

Passengers on an airlpane

 izusek / Getty Images

The policies of U.S. airlines for passengers of size have been pretty consistent, but the same cannot be said about Europe's major carriers. Some offer extra seats at a discount, while others don't address the needs of passengers of size on their websites. Before booking travel in Europe, it's best to confirm how individual airlines handle these situations, and that can mean multiple sets of rules if you're planning to hop from country to country.

Airplane Seating

As airplanes have grown larger and more amenity-rich, the same cannot be said about the average airline seat.

Some airlines specifically outline problems that passengers of size might have traveling, including Virgin Atlantic, which says that if a passenger cannot lower both armrests and/or compromises any part of the adjacent seat, an extra seat should be considered. To ensure everyone on board has a comfortable and safe flight, all passengers should be able to effortlessly move the armrests of their seat up and down, says the Dutch carrier KLM.

Special Accommodations

Some airlines restrict where some passengers can sit, and others require passengers of size to request a seat belt extension.

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 impede the crew carrying out their duties. The carrier offers seat belt extensions; passengers must inform the cabin crew as they board, since the extensions cannot be pre-booked.

Spain’s Iberia does not allow passengers of size to use the exit row seating. Its Iberia Express subsidiary urges the use of a seat belt extension and asks passengers of size to call customer service to make proper seating arrangements.

Discounted Second Seats

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

Finnair allows passengers requiring extra space to reserve an additional seat by paying the airfare without taxes, but still paying a fuel surcharge. Passengers must contact the airline by phone, as extra seats cannot be booked online.

Like Air France, KLM 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.

Requesting Extra Space

You might need to contact specific airlines to ask for extra room on your flight, and some airlines have specific methods to request that. Extra space may or may not include a discount.

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

While the SAS website does not mention passengers of size specifically, it does make provisions for them. Passengers can contact the carrier’s Sales and Service department to make arrangements for an extra seat (not next to an emergency exit). It also notes that most of its seats in the middle aisle have movable armrests.

Virgin Atlantic specifically addresses “passengers of a larger stature” who may need an extra seat in order to travel safely and in comfort. Passengers should visit its Flight extras and upgrades page to book an extra seat when making their reservation.

Airlines Without Specific Rules

Other carriers may have rules for passengers of size even if they are not officially stated on their websites, including British Airways, Lufthansa, SAS, Turkish Airlines, Ryanair, Austrian, easyJet, Aeroflot, Swiss, and Alitalia. If you have any questions about policies, it's best to contact the airline directly for more information.

Was this page helpful?