Charging Passengers By Their Weight?

How much do you think that this person should pay for an airline ticket? Photograph ©istockphoto.com by Johann Helgason.

A reader of The Gate alerted me to this article posted by The Telegraph — where an academic in Norway suggests that overweight passengers should be charged according to their weight — only two days after I posted this article pertaining to the ensuing and contentious debate by FlyerTalk members of obese airline passengers.

Towards the end of that article, I asked if the airlines should charge passengers according to their weight by the pound or kilogram for airfare.

According to The Telegraph, Bharat P. Bhatta of Fjordane University College suggests three possible methods of implementing a policy of charging:

  1. A straightforward price per kilogram or pound
  2. A fixed low fare with heavier passengers paying a surcharge and lighter passengers being offered a discount
  3. Divided passengers into three groups — heavy, normal and light — and have them be charged accordingly

Passengers would declare their weight when purchasing an airline ticket — and they could be randomly selected by representatives of the airline at the airport and pay a penalty in addition to the appropriate airfare.

This initially may sound like a good idea in terms of pure logic — you weigh more, you pay more — but could this lead to discriminatory practices by employees of airlines? What if the passenger has a medical condition which prevents him or her from being able to lose weight or girth through typical means, such as a diet or exercise? Perhaps certain passengers with known physical ailments might be targeting next by the airlines to avoid having to deal with a medical emergency aboard the aircraft during a flight — or consider excluding passengers with mental issues, passengers of a certain age, or passengers with certain acknowledged beliefs and ideals.

Also, does this potential ancillary fee pave the way for possible abuse by the airline? What if fuel prices decrease significantly? Will the airline lower ticket prices as a result? Fat chance — pun intended.

This does not even address the issue of whether or not obese passengers will be able to have two seats in which to sit if they do indeed pay more. While it is certainly better than attempting to squeeze 500 pounds of human into a single seat, I cannot imagine that straddling two seats with a raised armrest pressing against your back would be all that comfortable. Should the airline not only provide two seats if the overweight passenger pays for them, but also some sort of removable or adjustable alteration to help increase the comfort of sitting in two seats simultaneously?

Despite its potential drawbacks, I suppose this proposal still beats the alternative of being denied boarding an aircraft altogether primarily because of weight or girth.

Although obese passengers could add weight to the aircraft — thereby theoretically increasing fuel costs for the airline — the real issue is the rights of passengers who are forced to suffer being seated next to a passenger whose girth infringes upon the space for which they paid. I know that I like to be as comfortable as possible when I am seated aboard an aircraft — and I want all of the space for which I paid to be available to me at all times.

I really do not believe that is asking for too much.

Meanwhile, the only way I know of passengers currently being charged by the pound is if their purchased their airfare in countries such as the United Kingdom…

Comments (Showing 4 of 4)

  • imt24 at 5:20pm March 26, 2013

    I think this could potentially be workable, but only if people were weighed alongside thier luggage – thus not allowing the EU loonatic human rights thing to go banging on about ‘privacy’
    If no one knows what the bag weighs then they can’t work out your own weight.
    win win I say!

  • AlwaysFlyStar at 8:24pm March 26, 2013

    This is just silliness. If I purchase a flight a year out, I have little way to know my weight at that point. My scales may not be 100 percent accurate. I may wear heavier clothes, and considering the fact that passengers are not currently weighed by airlines, it becomes clear that they pack the same amount of fuel regardless of passenger weight. An infant may way 10 kg, but if he takes up the same seat as someone at 150kg, the latter passenger shouldn’t be charged 15 times more.

  • Enigma01au at 9:09pm March 26, 2013

    I don’t mind paying more, if for the added price I get a seat which fits me.

  • ronin308 at 6:06am March 27, 2013

    AlwaysFlyStar brings up a really valid point, if passengers are really billed by weight then airlines would have to offer children’s fares as well since they obviously weigh significantly less.

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