Should Overweight Fliers Pay Higher Ticket Prices?

March 14, 2012  |  

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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