With the holiday travel season ahead, large passengers need to carefully check airline policies before embarking in order to avoid unwelcome surprises at the gate or on the plane.

There is no overarching federal regulation guiding airlines regarding obese passengers who have difficulty fitting into a single seat, making for a hodgepodge of approaches, says Airfarewatchdog founder and consumer travel advocate George Hobica. That’s troubling, he said, because there is no question obesity is an increasing problem in this country.

Photo Credit: "Southwest's 'Customer of Size' policy states that passengers who cannot fit between the 17-inch armrests must purchase a second seat." Bill Abbott / Flickr.com