If you are a plus size flyer, seat belt extenders can make your flight much more comfortable. These handy seat belt add-ons are available by request, but since airline seat belts aren't all a standard length, you may or may not need one.
Who Needs a Seat Belt Extender
A seat belt extender is a length of seat belt with buckles on either end that, when added to the existing belt attached to the seat of the plane, extends the length of the belt to accommodate larger body types.
Whether or not you need an extender will depend on your size and the length of the seat belt used by the specific airline you're flying on. To find out the belt length before your flight, you can call your airline to ask them what their standard seat belt length is, and then measure around the front of your body from one hip to the other to see if that length will be appropriate for you.
According to Extend-ITs seat belt extender company, most plane seat belts are under 50 inches long. The belt and extender measurements of some of the more common airlines are:
- American - 45" seat belt, unknown extender length
- Delta - 35-45" seat belt, 12" extender
- Jet Blue - 45" seat belt, 25" extender
- Southwest - 39" seat belt, 24" extender
- United - 31" seat belt, 25" extender
- US Airways - 45" belt, 24" extender
- Virgin - 43.7" belt, 25" extender
Generally, anyone whose low hips measure about 60" or more will likely need an extender. According to Old Navy's size chart, this would be women size 28 and up, but according to Lane Bryant's size chart, it would be women size 32 and up, so it's best to go by hip measurement rather than clothing size.
Using a Seat Belt Extender
If you do need a seat belt extender, rest assured that they are not difficult to use. The metal clip of the plane's seat belt is inserted into the buckle of the extender, and then the extender's metal clip is inserted into the plane seat's buckle.
How to Request One
Many plus size passengers worry about asking for a seat belt extender because it can be embarrassing. The first thing you should do is to know whether you will need one before you board the plane by getting belt measurements ahead of time as mentioned above. That way, you will know whether to ask for one from the flight attendant as you board.
Plus size blogger Emily Ho shares her experiences asking for extenders from flight attendants: "They're usually very discreet about it. Many times they'll give it to you right there. Sometimes they simply ask for your seat number, and then someone will discreetly drop it off to you." Emily also suggests trying to board as soon as possible so that you can get to your seat and get buckled in and comfortable before your seatmate is there. It also means that, if you are shy about asking for a seat belt extender, you can ask for it with fewer people within earshot.
If you're not sure whether you'll need an extender, you can ask for one anyway when you board. Then, if the seat belt fits without the extender, you can discretely hand the extender back to a flight attendant either during your flight or as you exit the plane.
Buying Your Own
Many people have chosen to buy their own seat belt extenders so that they don't have to ask the crew for one. Unfortunately, this is no longer allowed according to the FAA. As of July 2012, the FAA's policy states that personal seat belt extenders - even those labeled "FAA approved" or "FAA-safe" - should not be used because they are not inspected and maintained by the airline.
Fly Without Worry
Just because you are a plus size flyer does not mean you have to worry about whether the plane's seat belts will keep you safe. Extenders are readily available and you can call ahead to find out whether you will need one. You can also rest assured that you'll be able to ask for an extender discretely and that the flight attendants will be ready to help you so that you can be both safe and comfortable on your flight.