Flying fatties

Anyone who has ever had to endure a long-haul flight with the discomfort of a larger-than-average person taking up much of their prized personal space will have nodded in agreement with the suggestion from Tony Webber, former Qantas chief economist, that overweight travellers should pay more for the privilege of flying. Is this taking fatism too far, or is political correctness standing in the way of comfortable flights for all?

The justification behind the possible charging an increased fare for heavier passengers is all about fuel consumption. Before any aircraft flies, complicated calculations are carried out to ascertain how far it can fly with the weight on board before it runs out of fuel. An average weight is assigned to each passenger, with some obviously being less and some being more. This then surely begs the question, if those deemed to be above the average weight are charged more, should those below this weight pay less?

A second quandary for the airlines is how do they define an average weight? Each country has its own guidelines for what is an acceptable healthy weight, so do airlines charge someone from a country such as the US, which has a statistically high obesity problem, more than someone from Japan where obesity is far from being an issue?

Lastly, would someone who is seated next to a larger person be entitled to a refund for the space they couldn’t use due to it being occupied by their neighbour?

The charging of overweight passengers is purely an economic issue raised by an ex-airline employee who, more than likely, has hardly ever flown economy class where space is at a premium. Charging overweight passengers more for the privilege of squeezing themselves into seats which just can’t comfortably contain someone of their size, would not actually deal with what is the common travellers bug-bear – lack of space. Airlines are a business and as such, operate on tight margins; the more backsides on seats, the more revenue an airline makes. However, if someone is to be charged more because of their weight, then surely they should be entitled to demand the space to travel comfortably?

Airlines have of course refuted the suggestion that they charge overweight passengers more. But rather than this be because of the risk of offending anyone, I’m sure it’s more about the changes passengers would demand if they were charged more. This would hurt airlines more economically than any benefit associated with the additional revenue.

Whilst I believe the rational behind the suggested charging is flawed, I do believe that airlines need to accommodate larger passengers in more comfortable seating, for their health as much as the wellbeing of those who have to travel alongside them.

Many of you have already had your say on our Facebook page and Meeting Place about this issue. But do you agree with Debbie’s summation of the issue, or should she keep her big fat mouth shut?

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