An academic in Norway, Bharat P. Bhatta, has proposed that overweight people pay more for airline tickets since their offensive girth creates more costs for the airlines themselves.
In a paper published in the Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management Dr. Bhatta says that charging overweight fliers more would let airlines recoup the costs of extra fuel.
According to the Telegraph:
“He suggests three methods of implementing the scheme. A straightforward price per kilogram, a fixed low fare with heavier passengers paying a surcharge and lighter passengers being offered a discount. The third option would see passengers divided into three bands – heavy, normal and light and being charged accordingly.”
He also said:
“I think the simplest way to implement this would be for passengers to declare their weight when buying a plane ticket. This would save time and eliminate expense. At the airport airlines could randomly select passengers and if they lied about their weight they would have to pay the fat fare and a penalty.”
Intellectually, I understand this argument. But as someone with actual empathy and emotions, I think it’s pretty awful. Randomly selecting people at the airport and weighing them? Charging them more if they lied about their weight? That’s just not ok, not ok at all. Making overweight people pay more for plane tickets, to me, is basically fat-shaming. I’m sure many people will say “Well, they chose their unhealthy lifestyle, so they should have to pay for it,” but I don’t think penalizing people is a way to enact change of any kind. Let’s remember that people who weigh more than average aren’t like, an abstract problem we all have to deal with. They are actual people with brains and hearts and lives, people who need to fly on airplanes without being made to feel ashamed.
I also wonder about the logic that says that airplanes use more fuel to carry overweight passengers. Now, I freely admit I know nothing about aviation or airplanes or fuel, but I don’t think it’s anything close to “WHOA, a fat person just got on the plane, better add another gallon of fuel!” They just fill up the plane based on how many tickets are sold and where the plane is going, right?
The issue of overweight people on airplanes has been a hot one in recent years, spurred by director Kevin Smith‘s experience with Southwest. Airlines have different policies in regards to overweight people, from encouraging or flat-out requiring them to buy more than one seat to providing them with seatbelt extenders. Interestingly, Bhatta’s argument doesn’t seem to address the issue of overweight people buying more than one seat. Would they have to pay more for one seat or more for both seats?
What do you think about this? Is this environmentally and economically sound or just another case of fat prejudice?