Should Airlines Charge Fat People More?

Bioethicist and philosopher Peter Singer was in an airport when he noticed that a slender lady with an overweight suitcase has to pay, whereas a fat man with a regular suitcase didn't have to pay anything.

With their luggages, their total weight on the plane would be about the same, but why is the woman penalized?

Tony Webber, a former chief economist for the Australian airline Qantas, has pointed out that, since 2000, the average weight of adult passengers on its planes has increased by two kilos. For a large, modern aircraft like the Airbus A380, that means that an extra $472 of fuel has to be burned on a flight from Sydney to London. If the airline flies that route in both directions three times a day, over a year it will spend an additional $1 million for fuel, or, on current margins, about 13% of the airline’s profit from operating that route.

Webber suggests that airlines set a standard passenger weight, say, 75 kilos. If a passenger weighs 100 kilos, a surcharge would be charged to cover the extra fuel costs. For a passenger who is 25 kilos overweight, the surcharge on a Sydney-London return ticket would be $29. A passenger weighing just 50 kilos would get a discount of the same amount.

Link (Illustration: Tim Brinton) - via The Dish

So, what do you think? Should airplanes charge you by the pound?


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Missing from the discussion is the cost of handling the baggage. Note that one doesn't have to pay a checked bag fee if they carry their bag to the gate. Handling the bag in the airport appears to have an associated cost.
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They should have a sample seat next to where you get your boarding pass. If you fit into the seat with both armrests down and without spilling over onto another seat then you are fine. Otherwise you pay for 2 seats. It's as simple as that.
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If the guy sitting next to me is taking up part of my seat, he needs to pay for the part he's preventing me from using.
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