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If you are plus size and traveling, you may have some questions about flying while plus size. Today we are breaking down one of the best airlines for customers of size – Southwest Airlines. Keep reading to learn all about the Southwest Customer of Size policy, tips for using it, and more.
Some of you may know that I am a huge road trip fan (#roadtripsforlife) but my job entails a lot of travel, and sometimes driving is not always a great option. Plus, I want to start exploring more of the world with my family, which means flying. I can’t exactly drive to Hawaii or Europe.
I have a lot of anxiety about flying. Part of it is just because I actually have anxiety in general, but a lot of it stems from being a plus-size traveler. Being plus size on an airplane can be one of the most anxiety-inducing scenarios for travelers, but one airline has really stood out as being plus-size friendly.
Southwest Airline‘s customer of size policy has rocked my world, so I want to share all of the information so that others may feel more comfortable flying for vacation. Thank goodness Southwest flies to Hawaii! Now I just need them to fly to Europe.
Who Is A Customer of Size On Southwest Airlines?
First off, you are probably wondering what is considered a customer of size on Southwest or any airline.
While there is no exact weight or size limit, a customer of size is someone that needs more than one seat on the airline. Southwest (and most airlines) state that the lowered armrest is the border of the seat, and if you cross over it, or under it, then you may want to utilize the Customer of Size Policy.
But this seems very general. For instance, when I fly with my kids, I do not utilize the customer of size policy. My kids do not care if I have my big hip pushing into their space. They are very small, skinny children and have plenty of room, even if I lift the armrest and use some of their seat.
However, when I fly with another adult, I have found it is best to utilize the Customer of Size policy. I am probably borderline on how much I need it, but it just makes the trip much more comfortable for both of us.
When I am flying alone, I definitely utilize the policy because I never know who I might end up sharing a row with. In fact, it was after one trip where another very large and tall adult, boarded at the end and got seated next to me, that I decided I would always utilize the Customer of Size Policy when flying alone. Especially because Southwest makes it so easy to utilize.
Another time customers may choose to utilize the customer of size policy is if you are extremely tall and need the second seat to be able to sit sideways as to not bang your knees on the seat in front of you. Please be aware that this might require a little more explanation to the agent issuing your boarding pass (more on that in a moment) but it is probably worth it.
Note: Please do not abuse the Customer of Size policy. We don’t want to lose this amazing policy from Southwest.
How To Utilize Southwest’s Customer of Size Policy
Southwest has made it very easy to use their customer of size policy, and even better, it is free! Yep, you read that right. Southwest Customer of Size Policy changed recently. They used to refund the cost of extra seats if the flight was not sold out but recently changed to always refund or offer the extra seat free.
With that said, there are two ways you can utilize the Southwest Customer of Size Policy to obtain your extra seat (or two extra seats if needed).
How to get an extra seat with the Southwest Customer Of Size Policy Option 1
The first way to utilize Southwest’s Customer of Size policy is by booking an extra ticket when you purchase your travel.
To do this, you would simply purchase travel for 2 adults, and when filling in the traveler information, on the second seat, you would put your first and last name but put XS (for extra seat) as the middle name.
This does require you to purchase an extra ticket upfront, but you will request a refund, after travel, for this extra ticket. (All that info is farther down in this post.)
How to get an extra seat with Southwest Customer of Size Policy Option 2
The other option to utilize the Southwest Customer of Size Policy is to simply ask the agent at the gate or when checking luggage to utilize the program. There will be no cost to you when utilizing the customer of size policy at the gate.
Note: When you add this option on your first flight, it is automatically added to all flights for this trip. You will not need to do this process again for your return trip.
Since this option does not require any payment, this is a great option for those who may be on a restricted budget, or for flights where the cost is prohibitive.
However, if a flight is full, and you choose to utilize this option at the gate, this may cause other travelers to be bumped to another flight. As a courtesy to your fellow travelers, if at all possible, please try to utilize option 1 (purchase and refund) whenever possible.
Boarding Passes for Customers of Size
One downside to utilizing the customer of size policy from Southwest is that you are not able to print your boarding pass at home or use the mobile app. You must see an agent to obtain your boarding pass.
You will still want to check in online before heading to the airport, but you must visit a gate agent to get your printed boarding pass.
This is because in addition to your boarding pass, you receive a second “pass” that has the words “seat reserved” on it. Hold on to that pass as we are about to talk about how to use the customer of size policy for boarding and seating.
Southwest Customer of Size Boarding and Seating
Obtaining the customer of size extra seat from Southwest is only part of the process. It is important that you know what all is included with the customer of size policy and how to actually utilize it on the plane.
Southwest’s Customer of Size Boarding
When you utilize Southwest’s customer of size policy, you are also granted preboarding. While this may feel awkward to use, I definitely suggest utilizing it. It gives you the best choice of seats (more seating tips below) and gives you time to get settled. It also gives you a chance to discreetly ask for an airline seatbelt extender as you enter the plane.
Your actual boarding pass will not say “preboarding” on it, but the second “seat reserved” pass lets the agent know you are allowed to preboard.
Preboarding is one of the times I feel a little self conscious about the system. I feel like most people expect preboarding to be for those with visible disabilities, but I am starting to get over that. I need a little extra time to get set up, and that is exactly what preboarding is for.
Southwest Seating Tips for Customers of Size
Here is a little tip I picked up from a plus-size traveler. When choosing your seat as a customer of size, remember that southwest seating is an open seating policy.
There are no assigned seats. If you have broad shoulders, look for a window seat where the window lines up with the back of the seat. This creates a little extra shoulder space.
Some of the windows are a little forward of or behind the seat, so finding that seat where you have that extra shoulder space because the window lines up can be a big help.
Another great tip, be sure to use the middle seat as your extra seat. It makes it a lot more comfortable for both you and whoever you end up sharing a row with.
How To Keep People Off Your Extra Seat
This is the other part of the process I tend to get a little embarrassed. Especially because I am borderline on the second seat (as I explained above). It might look like to someone searching out a seat that they could fit comfortably next to me, but let me tell you… you don’t want to try. I am not putting that armrest down if I don’t have to.
When you board as a customer of size, simply place your “seat reserved” pass on the seat next to you. Sounds simple enough right? Except the “seat reserved” is actually pretty small, so other travelers often mistake it for your boarding pass sitting on the seat. And even flight attendants may not notice it when trying to seat passengers on a pretty full flight.
You will have to advocate for yourself, and I get it, it can be pretty embarrassing. But simply let people know you booked two seats so you could be more comfortable.
The best flight I went on was when I preboarded and the flight attendant handed me a big, bold, “do not occupy” sign to put next to me. Nobody ever attempted to, and I didn’t feel like I had to constantly explain myself. I hope that Southwest starts utilizing this for all of the flights for Customers of Size.
Getting a Refund For Your Extra Seat From Southwest
If you purchased your extra seat, you are entitled to a refund after travel. Customers that purchased an extra seat may request a refund of the additional seat purchase after travel by sending an email request to Southwest.com/feedback or by calling Southwest at 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792).