For some passengers, airplane seat belts are not a one-size-fits-all part of travel. If you find that you fall into this category of flyers, your options are relatively limited -- especially in light of FAA policies that require all passengers to fit securely into a seat belt and be able to lower both armrests when seated. Check with your airline before departure if you are concerned that this may be an issue for you.
Seat Belt Extender
Seat belt extenders are small devices that add up to 25 inches in seat belt length to the length of a standard airplane seat belt and are popular among large passengers. You can ask your flight attendant or cabin crew for an airline seat belt extender for plus size passengers during your air travel. Many airlines will provide one to you free of charge, but don't count on it -- if the flight is full, they may not have enough available. It's possible to bring your own seat belt extender that you pack in your carry-on, but 2012 saw the FAA crack down on personal seat belt extensions because they are not maintained or inspected by airlines; thus, their safe operation cannot be guaranteed. Check with your airline to ascertain its stance on personal extenders, especially if it’s you or your family member’s first time flying with them. American Airlines may have different rules than Delta, and Southwest Airlines may have different rules than United Airlines, so be sure to check before your next flight.
If you're flying coach and find that your seat belt doesn't fit -- and the flight isn't full -- see if you can purchase an additional seat and combine two seat belts. If you're lucky, the seat next to you may be an empty seat and you won't have to pay for it. Again, however, it's best not to rely on this option, especially during holidays or other popular travel times.
Business or First Class
Economy-class seats are considerably narrower in seat width than seats in business class and first class. If a coach seat belt doesn't fit, consider upgrading your ticket so you can have more space in flight. If the flight isn't full and there's no extender available, ask the airline staff to bump you up to business or first class. The benefits of more roomy plane seats and a more comfortable lap belt may well outweigh any additional cost for obese passengers.
If no seat belt extender, extra seat or class upgrade is available, you may wish to deplane and board a later flight. Because this option can be inconvenient and embarrassing, however, it's wise to ascertain before check-in the accommodations you will need once on board. If your travel plans are flexible, you may wish to book a flight that is traditionally less crowded, such as the very first or very last flight of the day.