Should Overweight Fliers Pay Higher Ticket Prices?

21 comments
March 14, 2012 ‐ By

It’s sort of outrageous to think anyone would advocate for airlines adding on more fees than they already have, but a professor at Princeton University think airlines should be passing along the burden of high fuel expenses to the passengers they feel are to blame in the first place: overweight fliers.

In a controversial Project Syndicate essay, bioethics professor Peter Singer proposed an idea to allow airlines to base their ticket prices on each passenger’s weight. He suggests airlines do this either one of two ways. The first suggestion is to base the ticket price on a standard passenger weight so that any flier over that amount would have to pay a surcharge for the cost of additional fuel. Any passenger weighing less than the standard would also receive a discount in the same amount.

The other price model involves combining the weight of the ticketed passenger with his or her bags. The passenger would be asked to get on a scale with his or her luggage and then adjust the price accordingly—hot mess waiting to happen.

In a lot of ways the overall idea screams fat shaming, but in professor Singer’s eyes, with all of the other accommodations that have had to be made for obese individuals such as stronger hospital beds and operating tables, bigger refrigerators in morgues, etcetera, the costs of those accommodations justifies public policies such as this that discourage weight gain. According to him, the issue isn’t just a financial one, it’s an environmental one when you consider greenhouse gas emissions.

“Many of us are rightly concerned about whether our planet can support a human population that has surpassed seven billion. But we should think of the size of the human population not just in terms of numbers, but also in terms of its mass. If we value both sustainable human well-being and our planet’s natural environment, my weight – and yours – is everyone’s business.”

What do you think about this idea? Should overweight passengers be charged more to cover fuel costs?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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  • Candacey Doris

    If the person inconveniences others then yes, a surcharge would be fair.  The problem with this is not the idea of charging more, it’s the  idea of picking someone’s standards to go by. In Japan, a 160 lb woman is huge. Here, average. If you have big a** thighs that cut into other people’s seats but weigh less than the cutoff mark, do you get away? This could open up a whole can of worms we don’t want opened.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RKGTK5JBJ5PX7JARNLZMEZLTRI moniqueh

    my mother passed and i had to catch the first, cheapest flight i could find on line. I should have paid attention to the type of plane..i’m a big girl 5-9 270p. I thought i was on a toy plane I hadn’t flown in yrs I couldn’t believe how small the seats were. I have never in my life been sooo embarrassed..I had an isle seat and i do believe the flight attendant bumped me on purpose every time she came by, I was trying not to invade the space of my seat mate, I had to switch planes it was a lil bigger and i was assigned the window i spent the nxt hour and a half hugging the window willing my thighs to get smaller..I dont want to be touching folk i dont know and im pretty sure they feel the same.. And I felt like a alien when I asked fo a seatbelt extender…So if i cant drive as i usually do I will pay for first class That should make up for their gas money….

  • browngirl411

    Well I want a discount for being under standard weight. This idea is insensitive and discriminatory.

    • Calikush

      I couldn’t agree more @ browngirl411! I’m reading all these comments like these are some insensitive mofo’s, lol! It’s easy for people to agree with this crap since they’re the ones not being penelized for being overweight, but if the tables we’re turned they wouldn’t like to be singled out! Some people have medical problems that cause weight gain, not everyone is overweight cause of poor eating habits! Its very discriminatory! What’s happening to America! SMH!!!!

      • perplexed

        gtfooh! weight is something most people can control. less than 3% of the overweight pop got there because of medical problems. lose the weight and this issue will disapppear.

  • am

    I think it’s interesting that some people think this would hurt someone’s feelings. This is not about feelings it is reality. If you weight 220lbs or less you should be comfortable in your seat but once you get to 300, 400 or 500 lbs that cannot be comfortable. The arms of the seat is sticking into your sides. You are spilling over into the other persons seat. Overweight people should be asking for more comfortable seats even if they have to pay more. First class payers pay for first class service and that’s what they get. Everyone is too sensitive about overweight people when it just our reality as society. Get over it or lose weight. If you have medical problems listen to your doctor. Most overweight people do not listen to their doctors. They just keep eating.

  • LaLaLaMeansILoveYou

     People…if you think about it the airlines already make the seats
    “small” in the first place to pack in as many seats on a flight as
    possible and in turn make more money. My husband, who is no where near 
    being overweight in the unhealthy sense, but is just a largely built
    man, refuses to fly if first class isn’t available because flying coach
    is just too uncomfortable for him. 

    Why are the larger, more comfortable seats in the higher priced, first
    class section? MONEY. As far as they’re concerned, they could pack us side by side
    on slabs of wood like a sl*ve ship if it would increase their profit.
    So what you deem as an “overweight person making you uncomfortable” is
    in fact a lot of times a case of the greedy airlines really finding a
    way to squeeze more onto their bottom line.

    Between that, the
    cutting of in-flight meals and services, the outrageous luggage fees,
    etc…please see this for what it really is. Another grab at your
    wallets.

    • IAMWOMAN

      You think they make the seats small in the first place?  There were no complaints about the size of the seats decades ago.
       
      Here’s my thinking:  When I mail a package, a large part (pardon the pun) of the shipping cost is based on weight.  Why not apply that standard to passengers?  It can actually SAVE some people money, for instance those that travel with kids.

      • JustSayin’

        Before you agree to applying the weight standard to passengers you may want to consider a few things:

        1.  What will the weight standard be? Since muscle weights more than fat,  this has the potential to disenfranchise fit as well as those considered ‘fat’.

        2. And what about children?  What if they apply a standard to children as well?

        2. Different airlines have different approaches to packing folks in.  Delta, for examples, added additional rows which did not decrease the size of the seat, but can impact passengers based on the amount of room.  

        3.  Apply that energy to demand the airlines stop adding rows to back more people in, demand a bottle of water instead of a cup, demand options if flights are delayed and/or canceled, demand that the person that takes up two seats pay for two, but to agree with an arbitrary suggestion to charge ticket prices based on weight alone is, in my humble opinion an agreement that has not been though fully thought through.

        • IAMWOMAN

           In no way is this a clean cut issue as few things in life are black/white.
          1. Use the same standard the shipping industry (FedEx, UPS, etc.) uses.  Yes, muscle weighs more than fat, but do you believe there are more muscular folks in the US or fat?  By the results of many studies, I’d say there are more fat people.
          2. Short answer: yes, apply it to children too.  Thus how people could save money on flights for the little ones.
          3. What if some airlines put this into practice and some didn’t?  That way, it would be an experiment of the free market.  You don’t know how beneficial something will be (or not) until you try it.
          4. See my response #3.

  • LaLaLaMeansILoveYou

    People…if you think about it the airlines already make the seats “small” in the first place to pack in as many seats on a flight as possible and in turn make more money. My husband, who is no where near  being overweight in the unhealthy sense, but is just a largely built man, refuses to fly if first class isn’t available because flying coach is just too uncomfortable for him.

    Why are the larger, more comfortable seats in the higher priced, first class section? MONEY. They do not care about the comfort of their passengers. As far as they’re concerned, they could pack us side by side on slabs of wood like a slave ship if it would increase their profit. So what you deem as an “overweight person making you uncomfortable” is in fact a lot of times a case of the greedy airlines really finding a way to squeeze more onto their bottom line.

    Between that, the cutting of in-flight meals and services, the outrageous luggage fees, etc…please see this for what it really is. Another dig into your wallets.

  • MZ.79JACKSON

    PERSONALLY I THINK ITS A SHAME TO CONSIDER THIS AN IDEA  TO EITHER SAVE MONEY OR GET MORE MONEY OUT OF PASSENGERS,AND IT REALLY SAYS THAT YOU DONT REALLY CARE ABOUT THE FEELINGS OF THOSE OVERWEIGHT PASSENGERS BY CHARGING THEM MORE TO FLY,BUT ON THE OTHER HAND I DO FEEL LIKE THAT EXTRA WEIGHT ON THEIR BODIES DOES CREATE ALOT OF HEALTH ISSUES. FOR ONE WHEN  YOU CANT DO “REGULAR DAILY ACTIVITIES” SUCH AS WALKING TO THE END OF YOUR DRIVEWAY TO RETRIEVE MAIL,WALKING UP OR DOWN A FLIGHT OF STAIRS, WALKING TO THE PARK W/O BEING OUT OF BREATH IS A  MAJOR HEALTH ISSUE TO ME.I HATE TO SEE A PERSON THAT IS OVERWEIGHT STRUGGLING TO DO THIS ACTIVITIES, W/O HAVING TO SIT DOWN FOR 5-15MINUTES OF TIME,BREAKING OUT INTO A SWEAT, OR GASPING FOR AIR, OR THEIR INHALER.THE AIRLINES CAN COME OF WITH OTHER IDEAS TO BALANCE OUT HAVING TO BASICALLY OVERCHARGE ANY PASSENGER WITH HAVING TO PAY MORE FEES(EVEN ME) W/O HAVING TO RAISE THE AIRLINE FEES EXCESSIVELY.THE ECONOMY IS STILL TRYING TO GET ITS SELF SORTED OUT,REALLY DONT NEED MORE FEES TO BE ADDED ON.

  • http://www.facebook.com/imani.finn Imani Finn

    i feel like most airlines make your pay for two seats anyway. I think thats good enough. I sound horrible, but I had to sit next to what had to be a 400 pound man. And he did not even attempt to make any type of room. He kept his legs open and everything. I didn’t have any room and Im only 130 pounds. They had to move me to first class.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/LMVI6QGGVLHIAIVA6NXW3SZQWI BROWNIE

    no, don’t think so at all…now if you are taking up two seats, then that is different, but for fuel costs? bs. no one is that fckng big!

    • Basel

      not true.  im a former flight attendant and some pilots, when asking for a head count, would ask how many passengers are obese.  this was done in order to not exceed the aircraft’s weight limit. obese passengers, believe or not, do take up the weight of 2 or more passengers.  sometimes this means standby passengers may not get on a flight b/c several obese passengers have taken up weight.  i do not sit next to someone if they will infrige on my space.  i will asked to be moved.

  • Anon

    They most certainly should pay more.  Thats not fair that they take up their seat AND MINES. Thats total bs, making me uncomfortable and enjoying a portion of the seat I PAID FOR.

    • Lalatarea

      this article has nothing to do with seat space its about fuel charges. yes, if your body takes up more than one seat then you should pay for the extra space. but this fuel surcharge is ridiculous

  • LisaLuvless

    Well because I know I’m not overweight I wouldn’t mind if it was actually implemented,but then I would also have to know whose weight standards we’re going by. This is all motivation for obese and overweight people.

    • snowball1

      So you care more about airlines saving a few dollars than hurting someones feelings.
      This country is going to hell in a handbasket.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JAI4SRENU2A5WKRTELXXYJPDSI Kayla

    They have a small minute point. Aren’t some airlines making overweight people pay for two seats. It’s uncomfortable to sit next to an overweight person, because that leads to less room for me. Esp, if I get the “trapped” feeling when I’m sitting by the window, It’s either lose weight,move to first class where there is more room, or freakin walk. 

  • http://g00.me/7k << Work at home, $60/h, link

    Trust your instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.

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