In case you missed it, Southwest Airlines‘ “customer of size and extra seat” policy came to the forefront at the end of 2023 after a self-described plus-size travel influencer applauded the carrier’s policy allowing passengers to request an extra seat for free.
Southwest is among the major carriers that have long allowed travelers to purchase a second adjacent seat on their planes for “passengers of size” requiring additional room.
However, most airlines, excluding Southwest ironically, provide the option for all passengers requesting more space to book a second seat for the sole purpose of doing so.
Regardless of the reason, whether it be a performer with a large musical instrument or a passenger who just wants more space even though they could safely fit into one assigned seat, here’s how each extra-seat policy varies by carrier.
All Alaska Airlines passengers can purchase an additional seat, called a comfort seat, via phone. Standard ticketing fees are waived for comfort seats, and Alaska recommends purchasing it at the same time you book your first seat, but you can do so anytime before departure.
Note that you can use a companion fare voucher (such as the one available with the Alaska Airlines Visa credit card) or your Alaska Airlines MileagePlan miles to pay for the second seat. Just know that to use a companion fare certificate, you must book the second seat on the same reservation as the first.
If you spend cash to purchase the comfort seat, you are eligible to earn redeemable miles on that seat, though not elite-status credit. To request this credit, contact Alaska’s Customer Care Center once travel is complete.
Lastly, if you are purchasing the comfort seat as a “passenger of size” and all of your flights departed with an unsold seat, you’re eligible for a refund for the second seat if you contact Alaska after your flights.
Standard checked baggage charges and waivers apply for each purchased seat.
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Read more: Alaska Airlines’ ‘comfort seat’ policy
American Airlines permits customers wanting additional space to book a second seat.
To book two seats on American, customers must call reservations directly and purchase a second seat at the same fare and in the same fare class as the first seat. You can redeem AAdvantage miles for the second seat if you redeem miles for both seats in the same fare class. However, you cannot earn miles on the additional seat purchase even if you pay cash. Additionally, if you desire a second seat, you must book it for the full itinerary — not just one segment.
Delta Air Lines
Like American and Alaska, Delta Air Lines requires passengers to call their reservations line to book an extra seat for any reason.
Although you can redeem Delta SkyMiles for the second seat, the program prohibits earning miles on “tickets purchased to carry excess baggage such as musical instruments and pets or to provide extra space for the primary passenger.”
Since Delta Basic Economy tickets don’t come with advance seat assignments, you’ll want to avoid that type of fare if you are booking two adjacent seats to have some extra space.
Read more: Delta Air Lines’ Additional Assistance page
Low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines advises customers who are “unable to lower both armrests and/or who compromise any portion of adjacent seat or aisle” to book two seats prior to travel. Passengers can inquire about doing so online via the airline’s chat system, which has replaced their customer service phone line.
Read more: Frontier Airlines’ ‘extra seat space’ policy
Hawaiian Airlines offers guests the opportunity to book extra seats online at the time of booking but notes that these seats are not guaranteed to be adjacent.
To guarantee seats next to one another, purchase an extra seat in the main cabin (excluding basic economy tickets) through the reservations team.
You can use HawaiianMiles to purchase an additional seat, along with the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard eCertificate — valid for travel between North America and Hawaii only. Note that the eCertificate can only be used on paid bookings, not award bookings. If you purchase the second seat with cash, it is eligible to earn redeemable miles.
JetBlue permits you to purchase an extra seat and complete the transaction online.
The process with JetBlue is pretty easy — simply select two adults (or however many you need) for the flights you want, and when it asks for the second adult’s information, you don’t provide additional names. Instead, you click the option that reads, “This is an extra seat for traveler one.” It’s that simple. In our tests to attempt to use JetBlue points for both tickets, the transaction failed, so it doesn’t seem you can do that — at least not online.
Read more: Booking extra seats on JetBlue
Southwest famously doesn’t offer advanced seating assignments, so it is always possible that you won’t have someone sitting down in the middle seat next to you as long as the flight isn’t full.
Unfortunately, unlike the other carriers on this list, the Southwest policy “does not allow the purchase of more than one seat for use by a single passenger for the sole purpose of ensuring additional personal space,” per an airline spokesperson. (So, no designating yourself as your own companion on that Companion Pass.)
However, if you are purchasing a second seat because you need it as a passenger of size or similar reason, as mentioned earlier, you can do so online or can request it for free at the airport ahead of your flight. Travelers who purchase the seats in advance can request a refund for the extra seat after the flight.
To purchase a second seat online, select one additional adult if you desire one additional seat. Under “who’s flying,” you’ll put your name for the first passenger and then “XS” as the middle name for the second ticket.
If you are purchasing a pricier Business Select or Anytime Fare for the first seat, you can purchase the second seat at the discounted Child’s Fare by phone.
The rules for low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines are pretty simple and straightforward if you want a second seat. The line lets you purchase an extra seat by using your name for both tickets and selecting the desired seat assignments. This is allowed whether you need the extra seat for yourself, want some breathing room or for any other reason.
You can use your Spirit miles for the additional seat, but you won’t earn miles on its purchase.
United allows you to purchase a second seat for extra personal space via phone, and you can redeem United MileagePlus miles for the additional seat while earning miles on the additional seat if you decide to pay cash. Note that the miles are redeemable and not elite qualifying miles.
The miles earned for the extra ticket should appear in the Airline Activity section of your MileagePlus account with the description “Extra Seat Credit.” United permits a doubled checked baggage allowance if you purchase an extra seat, though it will also charge you a double change fee if your plans change.
While this is likely true for all airlines, note that the United website spells out that you must be an active participant in preserving your extra seat and, if necessary, you can ask a crew member for assistance.
Read more: United Airlines’ policy on extra seats
We all hope for an empty middle seat when we board the plane. When the boarding doors close and that middle remains empty, it feels a little like winning the seatmate lottery.
However, if you don’t want to rely on luck, know that most major U.S. airlines make it possible to book a second seat to ensure you’re not sharing that armrest with a stranger.