I’ve now flown to California (and back) 3 times since May 2018. I have flown both Spirit and Southwest.
My first trip I flew Spirit both ways and the other 2 trips I have flown Spirit one of the ways. I paid extra for the bigger front seats. I knew these Lipedema hips were not going to fit into a regular seat. While the front seats are bigger (its 2 per row vs 3 per row) I still had to do the “pear hip angle” over one of the arms. I need to use a seat belt extender as well. They were discreet anytime I asked for it, though I don’t care. It’s pretty clear that I would need one. I did learn that on some planes, rows 1 & 3 of the bigger front seats have seat belt airbags. If they have the seat belt airbag, extenders cannot be used with it. We had to ask someone in row 2 to switch seats with me. That gets a little awkward. So I recommend picking seats in row 2 if you can at the time of purchase. The armrest in between the 2 seats doesn’t move. Its thicker and can be a bit of a struggle to get thick thighs up over if you are in the window seat. I managed but I know it was not graceful if people were watching lol. There is barely any leg room and I’m 5’2.
I loved Spirit until I discovered Southwest’s Customer of Size Policy. For those of you who aren’t aware of Southwest’s COS policy. It is amazing. You can either purchase 2 tickets ahead of your trip to assure you have 2 seats and then will be refunded the cost of one afterwards. When checking in you just tell them that you are wanting to use the COS policy and they will reprint your tickets flagging it as COS. This grants you preboarding access and a reserved sign for your extra seat.
If you don’t have the money to purchase 2 tickets in advance (no judgment here, I never do.) you can just ask for the COS policy at check-in. I’ve done that now with both of my Southwest trips and have not had an issue. I know many others have just gone and asked without being told the flight was sold out/booked. But I’m sure it does happen. The customer service reps that I asked for the COS policy were great. There was no judgement, no tone change in the voice, no looks… just “sure, let me see your ID and I’ll reissue your tickets.” The pre-boarding feature is nice as you can get on and pick your seats before others. I like to go in and pick a window seat so that I can get in and settled and have space in the middle between me and another passenger. I also pick the window because I don’t want someone to have to climb over me if they want to get up during the flight. I’ve never been one to move around once on a flight, so I prefer to be out of the way. Southwest was also discreet when I asked for an extender. I have not come across any of their seats having the seat belt airbags that were an issue for extenders like on Spirit. The 2 seats (with the armrest up in the middle) was more comfortable on Southwest than the Spirit bigger front seat.
I think it is great that there are some options for us however I wish the airports, in general, had more fat/hip friendly seating as we wait around. I was writing this at a nice stool/desk combo at LAX but I have not been so lucky at the other airports. Most of the seats have arms… WHY? Is it so people won’t lay down like savages? Probably but why not have some with arms that go up or are labelled as handicapped/for larger flyers. It’s not that difficult to make things accessible for all.