this: next time you book a plane ticket, you might have to pay according to how
much you weigh. That’s if a controversial proposal circulating the airline
community ever becomes mainstream
this month Samoa Air made headlines for
becoming the first carrier to charge passengers according to their weight. The
small South Pacific carrier, which flies mostly domestic routes, charges
passengers between 2.12 Samoa tala and 2.41 Samoa tala per kilogram, depending
on flight length.
coincided with the publication of a
report by Norwegian economist Dr Bharat Bhatta of Sogn og Fjordane
University College, that suggests that airlines should charge obese passengers
reasoning behind the so-called “fat tax” is that jet fuel, the price of which
has skyrocketed in recent years, comprises the single largest cost for all
major airlines. And one of the biggest gas-guzzling factors is in-flight
weight. As both jet fuel prices and average weight have increased over the last
few decades, airlines are largely stuck paying the price.
the industry is buzzing about whether it can recoup costs by charging
passengers according to weight. It’s a move that would reward surprise winners
– women, families travelling with children, shorter people – and penalise
others, including tall men, and of course, obese passengers.
to industry experts, it’s unlikely that this controversial policy will become
starters, the practice poses a logistical problem. Airlines would need to keep scales
at ticketing counters and weigh customers at check-in, a procedural change that
would require extra time and personnel, likely causing delays. Airlines would
also need to factor passenger weight into their ticket pricing schemes, which
would make an already-complex algorithm even more complicated.
be a logistical nightmare,” said George
Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com,
a low airfare alert website. “It wouldn't be cost effective.”
more importantly however, the policy would face certain resistance among
outraged flyers, some of whom would likely be irate enough to boycott any
airlines that took up such a practice. Things could get even uglier if the move
spawned legal problems, with some passengers likely to sue for discrimination,
possibly under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
So why did
Samoa Air get away with the move? Hobica suggested it was successful because
the South Pacific carrier is a very small, regional airline that typically
carries fewer than 30 people per flight, making weigh-ins logistically
possible. Customers of this airline also have few, if any, other flight options,
making Samoa Air well poised to adopt the policy.
very small airline, such as [Wyoming-based] Great Lakes Aviation or [New
England-based] Cape Air, could make it work,” said Hobica. Nonetheless, he
added, “I think we'll see airlines charging by the pound for bags, as they
already do for cargo, before we see them charging by the pound for passengers.”