ONTD Political

Airline 'fat tax': Should heavy passengers pay more?

11:40 am - 03/26/2013
From excess luggage to excess flesh -- an economist says flight fares should be based on body weight.

An economics scholar in Norway has recommended that air ticket costs be calculated according to a passenger’s weight.

Dr. Bharat P. Bhatta, associate professor of economics at Sogn og Fjordane University College, Norway, is proposing three models that he says, “may provide significant benefits to airlines, passengers and society at large.”

In his paper, published in the Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management, Dr. Bhatta noted “a reduction of 1 kilo weight of a plane will result in fuel savings worth US$3,000 a year and a reduction of CO2 emissions by the same token.”

He cited a move by Air Canada, which removed life vests from its planes to make each flight 25 kilos lighter, and other initiatives by low-cost carriers such as charging for excess luggage and making oversized passengers book two seats.

“Charging according to weight and space is a universally accepted principle, not only in transportation, but also in other services," Bhatta says. "As weight and space are far more important in aviation than other modes of transport, airlines should take this into account when pricing their tickets.”

His three “pay as you weigh” models are:

Total weight: A passenger’s luggage and body weight is calculated, with the fare comprising a per kilo cost. In this scenario a passenger weighing 100 kilos with 20 kilos of luggage (120 kilos total) would pay twice that of a passenger of 50 kilos with 10 kilos of luggage (60 kilos total).

Base fare +/- extra: A base fare is set, with a per-kilo discount applying for “underweight” passengers and a per-kilo surcharge applying to “overweight” passengers.

High/Average/Low: A base fare is set, with a predetermined discount applying for those below a certain weight threshold and a predetermined surcharge applying for those above a certain weight threshold.

Bhatta prefers the third of these options. He goes on to say that weight could be ascertained through passenger self-declaration, with one in five passengers randomly selected and weighed to dissuade cheats (with penalties for cheaters) or by weighing all passengers at check in.

This latter option however would “incur huge transaction costs” and “would require a passenger to arrive a couple of hours early to have time to get through weigh-in, security and passport control.”


Tag suggestions welcome.
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thelilyqueen 27th-Mar-2013 12:45 pm (UTC)
Oh, for... ::facepalm::

I'm one of the people who'd benefit from this proposal, as I'm under 5 feet and 100 lbs, but NO. This proposal can't promote health when health has a tenuous correlation at best with weight/height and even less of one with 'raw' weight, and how would the logistics even work? Airlines are cutting costs wherever they can, automating check-in, etc., and he wants them to hire 'fat cops'?

Edited because he did address some logistics I missed on my first read.

Edited at 2013-03-27 12:48 pm (UTC)
muizenstaartje 27th-Mar-2013 01:07 pm (UTC)
When looking at reducing environmental impact it sounds great in theory, but in practice you deal with people and human nature. What's going to keep companies from hiring only light weight people for positions that require lots of travelling? Average sized people would cost too much and then "average" becomes the new "fat" that needs to be shamed into losing weight.
(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
zendequervain 27th-Mar-2013 01:12 pm (UTC)
Weight and space are only taken into account when CARGO is concerned. People are not cargo, Dr. Bhatta. Reducing the weight of people on a plane won't save the airline any money in fuel, because they will simply increase the cargo weight.

Not to mention how triggering this would be to anyone who has or has had an eating disorder. Just the thought of having a possible weigh in at an airport is problematic for me.
mastadge 27th-Mar-2013 01:13 pm (UTC)
I propose that the fat tax be complemented by an asshole tax, whereby those above the asshole threshold pay extra and those below it receive a discount. The asshole threshold shall, of course, be scientifically determined and easily testable by TSA employees for maximum objectivity; any objections to it, therefore, automatically put one over the asshole threshold.

Seriously, this kind of bullshit for a "token" savings is, well, bullshit. If you're that concerned about the environment, invest in research into more efficient aircraft and engine design and fuel sources. Or, y'know, invest the money you're spending on this fattist crap instead in lobbying for reform of the major pollutant industries.
fluffydragon 27th-Mar-2013 02:27 pm (UTC)
I want to hug your entire comment.
gambitia 27th-Mar-2013 01:13 pm (UTC)
I think the thing that offends me most about this is that it treats humans like nothing more than variably-sized fleshbags. I know airlines have profit margins thin enough to shave with, but it seems like this is just bitching about what an inconvenience it is to cart people from A to B, especially people who have the gall to be heavy. Since carting people from A to B is an airline's modus operandi, they can just shut up about it.

And people don't understand why my 5'4" 200-lb self would rather drive for a week than step on a plane.
sandstorm 27th-Mar-2013 01:20 pm (UTC)
Since carting people from A to B is an airline's modus operandi, they can just shut up about it.

This is my primary thought here (After "How about no.")
clevermanka 27th-Mar-2013 01:18 pm (UTC)
I think this needs the "not this shit again" tag.
grimmerlove 27th-Mar-2013 01:23 pm (UTC)
I submit "fuck this guy".
lone_concertina 27th-Mar-2013 01:30 pm (UTC)
If someone weighed me while I was just trying to check in for a flight, I would murder their ass. I would murder it so fucking hard.
lithiumflower 27th-Mar-2013 01:50 pm (UTC)
1) Are we really going to delay the boarding process to WEIGH people? No. So his other option is to allow self-reporting with "random" checks? Which would basically be some attendant looking at you and gauging whether you're really 100lbs? Let's imagine the embarrassing situations that will arise as they abuse their power by over-targeting the obese.

2) High/Average/Low: A base fare is set, with a predetermined discount applying for those below a certain weight threshold and a predetermined surcharge applying for those above a certain weight threshold.

What is this average going to be that there can be a LOW? If we use the ever popular BMI, there's a whole range of HEALTHY weights. If you're in the HEALTHY range, are you going to be charged more or less depending on which side of the HEALTHY range you fall on? If you're in the underweight category, do you still get the LOW discount or do you get a penalty fee for trying to cheat your way into cheaper airfare by being underweight? Of if there's bare minimum, the system is now open to complaints that you're having to pay a BASE fare to lower the amount for the overweight people, even though at your weight you should be paying FAR LESS.

Everything is dumb. Let's stop making this news.
lithiumflower 27th-Mar-2013 01:53 pm (UTC)
Furthermore, if they charge you more because you're overweight, where does it end? If they think you need 2 seats, does that get included in the overweight tax? Or do you have to buy both seats at the overweight tax price? Or is it put as as an add-on to your first seat at the base price?
kangofu 27th-Mar-2013 02:03 pm (UTC)
You know what, I think this guy needs to just fuck off.

Airlines are having enough trouble filling seats without turning off even more passengers with this fatphobia bullshit.
evilnel 27th-Mar-2013 02:33 pm (UTC)
Hey, that sounds like a great idea. Let's shame overweight passengers and trigger passengers with eating disorders so the airlines can save some money. Passengers are totally the same as luggage and other cargo and have no feelings or insecurities about their weight WHATSOEVER. /sarcasm

Bad idea is bad. Even people of "normal" weight often experience psychological distress at being weighed. I am of average weight but I lost over 130 lbs and being weighed in public would be EXTREMELY distressing for me because I still feel fat and feel judged about my appearance because of how I was treated for so long. Not to mention patients with anorexia or bulimia. What the actual fuck?
(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
idemandjustice 28th-Mar-2013 12:47 am (UTC)
but if they do so, can we have seats big enough for people to sit in as a result?

Seriously! I haven't flown anywhere since my honeymoon. I was maybe 150 pounds at the time, probably around average sized, in the target BMI range, and those seats in coach were cramped for me then. And I've gained a lot of weight since then. I can't even imagine how uncomfortable it would be to fly now.
(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
cozmic_oceanz 27th-Mar-2013 04:07 pm (UTC)
OK this article is super shitty...
but I have to admit that I don't totally get something safety-wise in terms of weight on airplanes...

The supposed reason we have to pay extra money for heavy luggage is so the airline can afford the extra fuel it takes to carry the heavier plane - whether or not they could afford it *anyway* isn't my point, but this is how their budget or w/e is, right?

So, honestly, now I may be completely off here, but I do get nervous when I notice most passengers in a flight are obese (not just overweight), because the flights don't seem to take it into account in the same way as luggage. Or, have the airlines taken precautions already in terms of this?

Honestly just saying it plane crashes scare me and I know a lot of planes have crashed due to too much luggage. Someone please explain my naivete here, cause I figure I must be missing something?
per_simmon 27th-Mar-2013 04:23 pm (UTC)
Honestly, I see both as "let's charge the customers extra for things that should be included in the price already". Passengers are not what weighs the most on flights- fuel is. And planes are engineered to be able to carry much more weight than what is typically on board. I wouldn't worry about planes crashing due to passenger weight.
crossfire 27th-Mar-2013 04:12 pm (UTC)
YOU GUYS he's not being fatphobic, he's just concern trolling being practical, gosh.

I love walking down the aisle in an airplane, you can actually see people rediscover their lapsed religions. ("Please don't let the fat man sit next to me, I promise I'll go to church and be a good person, please please please.")
sfrlz 27th-Mar-2013 08:46 pm (UTC)
Honestly, they should just make the seats larger. I know they won't because they want to fit as many people as possible and make more money, but even as an "average" sized person if I sit next to another "average" sized person I feel squished, get elbowed all the time, etc. I hate flying, it's just too cramped.
bellichka 27th-Mar-2013 04:12 pm (UTC)
and I know a lot of planes have crashed due to too much luggage.

cozmic_oceanz 27th-Mar-2013 06:41 pm (UTC)
Isn't that how Aaliyah died? Granted that was on a small jet, not large plane, but yeah. Irrational fear ingrained into my head at an impressionable age, I realize. Though I'm not really afraid of flying or get honestly/sincerely frightened about a large amount of people who are obese on an airplane, but I did wonder about the science behind it.
princesethking 27th-Mar-2013 04:26 pm (UTC)
I get why this is a good idea. Fuel is expensive, and being greener is always the better option, however, people shouldn't have to weigh themselves at an airport. This definitely needs some rethinking before it is an even remotely useful idea.
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