Stats: 63 Percent Would Not Want to Sit Next to Obese Person on Flight

Airplane (Edit Only)  ipopba/ iStock / Getty Images Plus
Photo by ipopba/ iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Two thirds of Americans said they wouldn’t want to be sat next to a person they deem obese on a flight, because they take up too much room or they’re tricky to get past, according to a new study by online flight comparison website In comparison, just two fifths would hate to sit next to a screaming child or baby.

The team at undertook the research as part of an ongoing study into Americans’ experiences with flying. 4,950 Americans aged 18 and over, all of whom stated that they have flown either on domestic or international flights at least once during the past two years, were quizzed about their perceptions of travelling with others on the plane.

Initially all respondents were asked ‘Have you ever been seated next to a total stranger on a plane?’ to which 87 percent of respondents stated that ‘yes’ they have. When asked how they experienced the stranger in the seat next to them, the top responses were ‘we didn’t interact with each other at all’ (36%) or ‘we asserted dominance for the shared arm rest early on’ (28%).


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Wanting to delve a little deeper, all respondents were then asked who they’d least like to end up sat next to during a flight. When provided with a list of possible responses and told to select all that applied to them, the top five most dreaded fellow passengers were revealed as:

  • An obese person – 63 percent
  • Someone loud with strong opinions or political views - 54 percent
  • Someone with a phobia of flying - 49 percent
  • A screaming child/baby - 41 percent
  • Someone intoxicated/drinking heavily on the plane - 30 percent

According to the poll, when asked why they wouldn’t want to sit next to an obese person, the top reasons cited were ‘they encroach onto other seats’ (39%) and ‘if I need to use the restroom during the flight, it’ll be tricky to pass by them’ (37%).

Furthermore, when asked if they’d privately speak to the cabin crew to request a seat move if they found they were sat next to someone they deemed obese, over two fifths of respondents, 43 percent, stated that ‘yes’ they would.

A spokesperson for commented:

“Airline seats have noticeably shrunk over recent years, making those with a little extra weight more uncomfortable than ever – so it’s totally understandable that paying passengers don’t want to be restricted even further by someone entering their space during a flight. Most airlines now have a policy in place that passengers exceeding a certain weight limit or size have to pay for two seats, thus reducing the chance of this taking place now. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to have a little compassion – you might not be entirely comfortable in your seat, but they won’t be either, and that’s surely not as bad as having to listen to a screaming child for hours on end?”


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