Airlines to Charge Fatties More?

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I sincerely doubt this will ever happen (imagine the backlash from groups arguing that excess avoirdupois isn’t a person’s fault and hence shouldn’t be punished) but those who have beenn compressed more than once by an overweight neighbor on a plane might applaud. From Bloomberg:

Imagine two scales at the airline ticket counter, one for your bags and one for you. The price of a ticket depends upon the weight of both.

That may not be so far-fetched.

“You listen to the airline CEOs, and nothing is beyond their imagination,” said David Castelveter, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group. “They have already begun to think exotically. Nothing is not under the microscope.” He declined to discuss what any individual airline might be contemplating, including charging passengers based on weight.

If this were to happen, would you see arbitrage? I’d certainly consider sending things ahead by Fedex of UPS if my schedule permitted it and the savings were material.

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  1. Anonymous

    why not? so it’s fair for thin people to be sandwiched and uncomfortable but it’s not fair for the BUSINESS to charge the increased costs of lifting a 350lb fatty and their enormous suitcase stuffed with Twinkies?

    While we’re at it, health insurance should be tied to your CHOICES (yes, weight is by and large a choice). Like smoking a cigarette with your morning Twinkie, then pay up because you’re costing the system more.

    Let’s be clear – I am not talking about people 10, 15, or maybe even 20% over their body weight. But if you weight 300 when you should weigh closer to 180 or 200, then you’re a burden to society. Pickup your own tab…. we’re tired of carrying it for you (plus you need the exercise).

  2. Anonymous

    How will they handle someone who is 6′-7″ – will weight be determined based on height?

  3. Anonymous

    Look, I weigh 260 while being 6’7″ tall. I have a 38″ waist and exercise frequently, don’t smoke, and try to eat healthy foods.

    There are few clothes, cars, shoes, etc that I can easily find to fit in. Airline travel sucks enough as it is.

    I would pay more if the airline guarantees me a seat that I can actually fit into. I cannot afford business/first class to travel.

  4. Peripheral Visionary

    The airlines are barking up the wrong tree on this one. I’m definitely on the skinny side, but it isn’t the weight of the airplane as much as it’s empty seats and uneconomical routes where they are losing money. Fill up the flights, and get rid of local short-hop flights that cost far more than they generate in revenue, then start thinking about charging bulk rates (hehehe–I couldn’t resist.)

    The one thing airplanes could do to kill, and I mean kill, their business is allow people to talk on their mobile phones in flight. I will not voluntarily fly any airline that allows passengers to talk on their phones in flight, period.

    When it comes to “fatties pay more”, however, I am all for allowing insurance plans to shamelessly discriminate on everything excepting gender, race, and genetic conditions. Auto insurance companies charge different rates for just about everything except race, why should health insurance be any different?

  5. Anonymous

    If the airlines will start individually price each passenger (as they have already started with the luggage), we should demand compensations for each minute of their endless delays, changes of gates, delayed luggage, long lines, etc. Although, with the current direction of the fuel cost, very few will be able to afford to fly anyway.

  6. dearieme

    Charging by weight will be, in fact, discriminatory by sex – just as imposing various strength requirements for jobs is classed as discriminatory by sex. How will they get round that?

  7. Jojo

    Seems fair to me. People are no different than freight. It is a fact that it costs more to fly a heavier person than a lighter person. Why should lighter people subsidize the cost to fly heavier people?

    We could make this even more interesting using current financial flim-flam techniques. We could set a price for the average person’s weight. Those less than the average could accumulate credits that they could then sell/trade to people who exceed the average. Sort of like the carbon credits.

  8. Barley

    I think an airline in Canada tried this by asking fat people to pony up for a second seat. If memory serves, it was struck down as unlawful.

    Having sat many times beside a fat person, I always just sigh and stuff my head in a trashy novel.

    Now this being said – why not charge a premium for kids. The little buggars that bounce around, cry, throw things, run up and down are somehow forgiven for all sins by way of ignoring parental responsibilites. This to me is far worse that sitting next to a fat person because it is hard to ignor and more often to pc to say anything. Actually let me correct this: I have asked and always will ask to not be seated next to children/families.

  9. HoosierDaddy

    Cool! Are we going to charge people who are in wheelchairs due to a preventable accident extra as well. Definitely should count the weight of oxygen tanks for ex smokers with emphysema as well. Oh, and I expect that the “underweight” will be refunded on the same per pound scale.

    I haven’t flown in years and am thankful for that every time I hear about another idiot scheme to extract more money and/or dignity from passengers.

  10. etc

    If I sit next to an obese person, I force them to lower the arm rest, and that works all right. Two have objected, but they shut up after I said the price of raising it was buying my seat.

  11. Anonymous

    Should airlines accommodate tall people with more leg room and fat people with wider seats before increasing the price of the tickets for them?

  12. Anonymous

    I’m a very frequent flyer, and I have to say that any airline hoping to pin their survival on restricting baggage or eliminating a bag of pretzels on a coke is doomed.

    This is the only industry where every company tries to be the low-cost low-quality provider. Southwest is low-cost and beats most airlines on service and, say, not extorting money from passengers whose plans change. You can’t beat Southwest on price.

    Now if a few of the airlines could just compete on service, I’m sure that they’d survive and flourish. Every other industry allows their weak hands to fail and go under; airlines should be no different, and a little less competition would surely strengthen the remaining companies in the space.

  13. Anonymous

    I have a lot of sympathy for 6/7 260 — in part b/c I am 6/3 or 6/4 and 210 or so. That means I am reasonably fit — but I don’t really “fit” into a cramped coach seat designed for the median passenger. The spacing in coach (or lack thereof) doesn’t really work for me — my knees are right at the next seat. I would pay 20% more for 20% more leg room. But like 6/7, business class is more than a 20% premium, and generally not a viable option … I wouldn’t want, tho, to pay 20% or 30% or 50% more for the same (cramped) seat as before, one that makes both me and anyone forced to sit next to me uncomfortable.


  14. Filmo

    the problems is that we don’t let airline fail. The perpetual cycle of bankruptcy prevents service, schedule, decent seats, etc. It’s a race to the bottom when the solvent carriers are competing with one or more bankrupt carriers at any given time. Ironically, when the bankrupt carriers come ‘out of bankruptcy’ they are then competing with previously solvent carriers who themselves fall into bankruptcy because of the previous ones in sort of a never ending merry-go-round.

    Frankly air fares are artificially cheap due to too many carriers perpetually operating in bankruptcy.

    people bitch and moan about cramped seats, fat passengers, and leg room (I’m 6’3″ so I know all about the leg room issue.) yet the same people have shown time and time again that they’re more interested in the lowest price than any of those things. Experiments in that direction have always failed as the customers aren’t willing to pay the extra 50 bucks for slightly more leg room or larger seat, etc.

    ya get what you pay for. No shortage of leg room in business or first class is there? I can’t afford those either, but I understand why they’re more expensive.

    As to how to fairly charge passengers based on mass, use the BMI. Each index is sex and heigh adjusted. However, if you’re going to charge more for BMIs above a certain number, you better be offering me a discount if I’m below the average as well. That said, I think charging by mass, while perhaps a nice libertarian fantasy, probably isn’t going to happen in the U.S.

  15. Anonymous

    As Filmo pointed out – it surely would be fit to your BMI and height. The 6/7 guy – rather than getting defensive, doesn’t it seem logical to you that it would be adjusted for height?

    As far as people paying more for more legroom – many do. Look at United’s Economy Plus. $300 per year for unlimited use and you can upgrade companions for free – it gets you 8″ of extra leg room and personal space. I’m 6′ 180 lbs and it was quite comfortable on a 9 hour flight to Maui, a 9 hour flight to Anchorage, and a 21 hour flight to Thailand. I HIGHLY recommend it. On all flights this section was FULL, while there were a few empty seats in coach. Seems there were plenty willing to pony up for space that is competitively priced.

    As far as the person in a wheelchair paying more – c’mon that’s a pretty “flame bait” type question. I think we all know the answer.

    Now, as far as the person with emphysema from smoking and an oxygen tank – why shouldn’t they pay more? Why is this country so obsessed with entitlement. How about personal responbibility? Freedom to choose AND freedom to personally pay for those choices!!!

  16. Anonymous

    Of course it would be easier for everyone if everyone looked the same, if everyone looked like they spent their life in a concentration camp. Unfortunetly as much as there is diversity in this world, a 100 years ago this diversity was a cause for a KKK member to cut off his own nuts and eat em. Let me tell you something, you don’t like fat people? Too bad. Cause I don’t like black people, Albanians, Greeks Americans or Jews yet I still look to them to give me alot of today’s life’s pleasures. If some self obessed skeleton likes to dislike fat people all the time, god forbid a nuclear snow storm hits New York or Los Angeles the fat people will survive it because they have all the fat to keep them warm, and no they won’t give you any of the fat. Of course you might force cutting it from them, but of course they will just sit on you and squish you. You have no chance. We win. :D Oh and just for the record, I bet the irony must be burning a thin poor person’s soul knowing that a rich fat person can get more sex than he can. Here comes the explination why and how it’s better to be thin and poor than rich and fat. Better to be a starving African child with AIDS than a fat American getting his penis sucked by 20 prostitutes while sipping orange juice sunbathing at a luxury hotel in Havana? Ok. Sure.

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