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A customer flying in the economy cabin who is not able to safely and comfortably fit in a single seat is required to purchase an additional seat for each leg of their itinerary. The second seat may be purchased for the same fare as the original seat, provided it is purchased at the same time. A customer who does not purchase an extra seat in advance may be required to do so on the day of departure for the fare level available on the day of departure. The customer may instead choose to purchase a ticket for United First®, United Business® or United BusinessFirst®, or elect to pay for an upgrade to a premium cabin if there is availability to do so. United Airlines is not required to provide additional seats or upgrades free of charge.
A customer is required to purchase an additional seat or upgrade if they do not meet one of the following criteria:
- The customer must be able to properly attach, buckle and wear the seat belt, with one extension if necessary, whenever the seatbelt sign is illuminated or as instructed by a crew member.*
- The customer must be able to remain seated with the seat armrest(s) down for the entirety of the flight.
- The customer must not significantly encroach upon the adjacent seating space. See our seat maps.
United will not board a customer who declines to purchase a ticket for an additional seat or upgrade for each leg of their itinerary when required.
*The average length of the seatbelt extension is approximately 25 inches. As the seat designs on our aircraft vary, it is possible that the seatbelt extension presented on your flight provides less than 25 inches of additional coverage. Regardless of the actual additional length the extension provides, if you do not meet the first criteria listed above when using the extension provided on your flight, it will be necessary for you to purchase an additional seat or an upgrade, where available.
The additional seat must be available without downgrading or unseating another customer. If an additional seat is not available on the flight for which the customer is confirmed, he or she is required to rebook on the next United flight with seats available for accommodation. United will waive penalties or fees that may otherwise apply to this change.
If the customer is away from his or her home and must rebook for a flight for the following day, amenities including applicable meals and hotel accommodations for one night will be provided as appropriate. When the customer is able to rebook for a later flight on the same day as originally scheduled, amenities will not be provided.
Checked baggage allowances are determined by the number of seats purchased. When two seats are purchased for one customer, the allowance for checked baggage is doubled. The number of carry-on items permitted is determined by the individual passenger allowances set by the TSA, rather than United policy. Consequently, the carry-on allowance is not doubled. Learn more about baggage allowances.
Frequently asked questions
Q: If I change my flight plans, do I have to pay change fees for both seats?
A: Yes. Any additional collections or change fees will be charged based on the fare rules for the tickets purchased.
Q: If I am traveling with a family member and they don't care that the armrest is up, do I still need to purchase a second seat?
A: Due to safety considerations, you must still purchase the extra seat if you are unable to properly attach, buckle and wear the seat belt, with one extension if necessary, whenever the seatbelt sign is illuminated or as instructed by a crew member; and remain seated with the seat armrest(s) down for the entirety of the flight. This does not mean that you cannot lift up the armrest; however, it must be demonstrated that the armrest can go down. We have to consider the safety and comfort of the customer requiring an extra seat as well as the family member, particularly in the event of an emergency.
Q: Does this policy violate the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Air Carrier Access Act?
A: The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has confirmed that airlines are not required by law to provide additional seating or an upgrade in the event additional space is required for a passenger.
Q: What happens if I've purchased an extra seat, but another passenger sits there?
A: In that event, you must be an active participant in preserving your extra seat. You will be provided boarding passes for both seats. If necessary, you can ask a crew member for assistance.