Southwest Airlines Will Give A Whole Row Of Seats – Free – To Overweight Passengers

Most airlines will sell you an extra seat. Buy two seats when there’s a cheap fare and you’re assured the seat next to you is empty. Southwest Airlines though will give you one for free.

  • If you identify as a passenger of size, you must purchase an extra seat. That’s so you don’t encroach on someone else’s space.
  • Historically, if the flight isn’t completely sold out, they’d refund the cost of that extra seat.

That’s been the airline’s policy for ages. What I did not realize is that (1) they’ll let you reserve a whole row and (2) the current policy doesn’t even require the flight not to be full to refund the extra seats.

Southwest used to say that if you need an extra seat and there’s one available, they won’t charge you. Now they’re willing to give up revenue from ticket sales to accommodate. One plus-sized advocate explains,

Southwest is the only airline that allows you a second seat at no extra cost even if the flight is fully booked… I’ve done this a dozen times and never had an issue or been denied.

@kimmystyled How to use @southwestair customer of size policy. Southwest is the only airline that allows you a second seat at no extra cost even if the flight is FULLY booked. You HAVE to use it at the departing gate when you start your journey. If you don’t use it going out you cant use it flying back. Go to the departing gate agent and kindly ask them to use the customer of size policy. I’ve done this a dozen times and never had an issue or been denied. They will print you a new ticket + a second ticket to put down on your free seat. You will also be allowed to pre board! Enter the aircraft, get your seatbelt extender, and grab your seat! I place the ticket in the seat next to me. I always take the window seat. If anyone tries to sit it in I kindly let them know I have two seats booked. To be honest I almost never get approached because no one wants to sit in the middle seat next to a fat person on a plane . I’ve heard from others sometimes southwest will just put customer of size in your account so anytime you approach the main ticket gate you’ll get both your tickets at once but this hasn’t happened to me yet. I think this has to do with how “visibly fat” you are. Public airplanes are public transportation and should be accessible and comfortable for us all. I applaud @southwestair for being the only airline with a fair and humane way of flying fat passengers with dignity. We shouldn’t have to pay for two seats. Seats should be larger for all people including tall and pregnant passengers. Since airlines got deregulated it’s been an ADA nightmare. Airlines should also allow wheelchairs in the cabin esp power wheelchairs. This is an access issue at the end of the day and discriminatory to fat and disabled customers. #southwest #southwestairlines #customerofsize #customerofsizepolicy #plussize #plussizetravel #traveltips #plussizetraveltok #traveltok ♬ original sound – Kimmy

Jaelynn Chaney is applauding Southwest.

Super fat is how we identify. There’s a spectrum of fatness. And as a super fat individual, you start needing different accommodations.

…I hope to see more airlines implement customer-of-size policies. The Southwest customer size policy helps many travelers offset the disproportionate costs that we incur because of needing extra room. And so, it’s not just about physical accessibility. It’s also about financial accessibility.

Chaney has a campaign to get government to require airlines to provide extra seats for free. Fly Southwest, I say! Otherwise I think passengers should avail themselves of the opportunity to purchase the product that they need.

Extra seats wouldn’t be the end of it! Big Curvy Olivia demands wider aircraft aisles for passengers who can’t make it through United business class (not realizing this would mean narrower seats).

Surely now that this Southwest ‘hack’ is getting attention it’s going to be abused. Some folks joke about identifying as invisible (my pronouns: who/where). Surely they won’t have an issue telling the airline that they identify as someone who needs to space than an economy seat provides. If that’s you, let me offer:

  • I feel much better about doing this on a flight that isn’t sold out. If there’s a trick to get a whole row to myself without costing the airline anything, just getting a leg up on other passengers for extra space, I’m intrigued.

  • But using this for an extra seat on a sold out flight – keeping someone else from taking the flight, and taking that revenue away from the airline – feels like stealing in a very real sense.

So how do you maximize the chance the flight you’re on won’t be sold out, so you can get the extra seats refunded and a free row to yourself without all that guilt? Fly midday and midweek, fly to less popular destinations, or take advantage of regulatory arbitrage and fly out of Orange County before the end of the year as airlines run up against the number of passengers they’re allowed to carry from that airport.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. That’s right, let’s reward gluttony. Why not give them their own entire snack basket and a 3-liter bottle of Coke to wash it down with. Hell, why stop there, give them a blanket and encourage them to take off their slip-ins (because lord knows they aren’t wearing shoes with laces) and really get comfortable with their sticky, damp skin.

  2. Wild stuff!

    Not sure what this “guilt” thing you’re referencing is, Gary. I’m finna to reserve a row for each of my family members to Hawaii!

  3. The rest of the passengers are paying higher prices to compensate for these lowlifes.
    And of course they are masked up in these Tik Tok videos as they are so health conscious.

  4. Interesting how that works with SW? What if it is no empty row available by the time you enter the aircraft?

  5. This is fantastic! Now I can just avoid flying Southwest and I don’t have to deal with the morbidly obese crammed up next to me. They will all be squishing out in their free rows on Southwest, and not flying the other airlines.

  6. This is great news. All the fat people will fly SouthWest and stay off the other airplanes. Fewer problems with someone’s fat oozing over the armrest in coach. I like it that we live in a time of ‘never mind what’s best, s/he who screams the loudest and longest gets its way’ … it makes life SO interesting.

  7. @Michael
    I know of no other airline that gives a free row of seats to fat people. So it is pretty specific to Southwest.

  8. Seats on flights are a perishable product. Can you demand two meals at a restaurant just because your diet is twice the average calories?

    How is the airline situation different?

  9. Of course the beast is wearing a sunflower lanyard too. Maybe its heart will explode on a Southwest flight.
    Ps: whats the over/under on this thing identifying as xer/xim/xit?

  10. Doesn’t sound like a new policy (yes I agree it’s rewarding poor choices by some)

    That said wouldn’t it be hard for a slim person to game? How would you make sure the seat next to you stays open during the open seating boarding if you’re not big enough to obviously need it?

  11. I don’t think the whole row is free. Not even the half-row is free. You have to pay for one seat. 🙂

  12. preferential treatment to the obese, the aisle should come with a treadmill. And address the actual problem

  13. Think the flight wardens pull the “you bring it, you sling it” bs with this whale? Of course they don’t. Even they know that getting between this monstrosity and the buffet can only lead to real consequences. All of a sudden, they’re allowed to lift bags and be helpful.

  14. Safety issue imo. If there were some morbidly obese fatty blocking my path to an emergency exit, they may get stomped on.

  15. This sounds like something I’d be reading on April 1st. I really can’t understand or believe the logic here. I predict that this decision will be reversed pretty quickly.

  16. Just wondering what the dimensions are for the emergency doors on a SWA 737.

    I’m concerned about our personal safety in in the event of a water “landing,” and the possibility of a whale getting stuck and blocking the exit.

    I’m also wondering how many DEI points SWA was awarded by the US government for this one, single, act of pure, unadulterated, wokeness.

  17. Wow! What vitriol. Guess it’s true about obesity being the last socially acceptable prejudice. Why not a little empathy for these folks, who certainly face many obstacles throughout their daily lives? And some of them have medical conditions that make it easy to put weight on and hard to take it off. PCOS, anyone? Have any of you tried to lose just 20 pounds and keep it off? I agree the policy is problematic, but why spew such hatred toward people you don’t even know. Register complaints with SW. And be honest with yourself. If there were a way for you to score an extra seat for free, I bet you’d take it. I’m claustrophobic, and I would. But there isn’t such a policy, so now I fly airlines where I can choose my seat.

  18. @Wicwas3 Kick rocks with that noise. No one is making these diabetic dirtbags shove a bucket of KFC down their gullet and then wash it down with a tub of Baskin-Robbins.

  19. Gary, based on your picture, you are likely not slim. Why all the anti-fat bias? I happen to be on the smaller side so this issue doesn’t affect me, but all of your articles about extra seats, etc., seem written in a style to incite more hatred of those who are overweight. I think you can do better.

  20. And also, why do my comments need to await moderation to be posted when you allow words like “diabetic dirtbags” and “pigs” on your site?

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