I know I haven't updated in for-ev-er, and I promise to write a blog about our amazing trip to San Francisco at some point, but I wanted to get this out there for web searches and such.
A while back, I jokingly referred to Virgin America as "Junk in the Trunk Airlines" because they claimed their coach seats were 19.7" wide. I couldn't believe that. Usually, 20" seats are business class or first class. So, I was super excited, as I fit into 19.7" seats no problem (my office chair is the exact same measurement).
When we got on the plane, however, I realized they must have measured from the middle of the arm rests. I'd carried a small measuring tape just in case, and boy am I glad. When I measured my actual seat cushion, i.e. the distance between the inner edge of the arm rests, it was just a fraction over 18", totally normal for an airplane. 18" is better than 17", but ack!
Luckily, the arm rests went down. I was kind of smashed in, but they went down, and I had the window on my right and my boyfriend on my left. I wasn't comfortable, but it was nothing like that nightmarish trip on American. Also, since I had my boyfriend next to me, I was able to lift the arm rest once we reached cruising altitude. Even then, however, we were both wiggling a bit. Some of that may have been due to the curve of the airplane near the window, but my top is a lot smaller than my bottom, so I blame it on weight plus the fact airplane seats suck in general. Anyway, it probably would have been better if I'd been even 20 pounds lighter, and if I could go back in time, I would have bought a second seat.
The seat belt was okay, thankfully. I had a moment of panic when I thought it was a full 12" shy of clasping, but then Brent noticed it was tangled under the arm rest by the window. Once we got it free, it was fine. I couldn't tighten it, but it clasped and didn't feel too tight. If my waist had been just a couple inches larger, though, I would have needed an extender.
For reference, when we went on this trip, my waist measured 44", and my hips measured 57". I carry most of my weight in my hips and thighs, so that's where most of the "spread" is when I sit down.
One really great thing - the bathrooms didn't feel tiny! I couldn't get over that. You can't do cartwheels in them or anything, but I had plenty of room to move around and open/close the door. I was shocked. I've never been in an airplane bathroom with that much room.
All of that said, it is an AMAZING airline. I plan to use them as often as possible because they are just that good. They're funky, modern, and fresh, and they have a great approach to flying. Despite the seats not feeling awesome, I was still relatively comfortable, and their in-flight entertainment and drink system is phenomenal. If I'd been a size 16 for that trip instead of a size 22, I wouldn't even have noticed I was on a plane. I even had a ton of leg room!
So, don't take this as a slam on Virgin. I really want to emphasize that part. This is for fellow fat people who want to know how comfortable they'll be.