Archive for the tag - flying

Should Airlines Charge Overweight Passengers a Fuel Surcharge?

Are airlines eying overweight passengers to pad their bottom line?

The other day, I flew from San Diego to my home in Rhode Island.

With six weeks-worth of clothing, filming equipment and speedos, my suitcase was admittedly over-packed. It weighed in at 62 pounds – which exceeded United Airlines’ baggage limit by some twelve pounds. The ticketing agent informed me that, because it would take additional fuel to fly my overweight bag to Rhode Island, I was subject to a 0 baggage fee. This on top of the that I paid to check-in my bag.

Yes, I paid a 0 fee because my bag was twelve pounds overweight. Can you see where I’m going with this?

As of 2009, the average American was twenty-three pounds overweight… and counting. Two thirds of Americans are overweight and nearly a third of Americans are considered obese. And if it takes extra fuel to get my overweight bag to my destination, it must be true for overweight passengers, too.

With my overweight baggage experience in mind, I can’t help but wonder if the airlines are eying overweight passengers with the hopes of padding their bottom line. If a Boeing 747-400 can hold 524 passengers, that’s an average of six tons of extra bodyweight. A fuel surcharge would certainly help cover the costs of keeping all that fat aloft.

Perhaps, in the not-so-distant-future, we’ll have mandatory weigh-ins at the ticketing counters – and overweight passengers will have to pay extra money to get their excess bodyweight to their desired destination.

Think it sounds too outlandish? Think again. In 2009, Ireland’s Ryanair considered implementing a “fat tax” for obese passengers after a public vote on its website. The tax was later dropped because of implementation difficulties. Weighing passengers, the airline concluded, would have the adverse effect of slowing down the check-in process too severely.

Of course, I’m not trying to suggest that a fuel surcharge for overweight passengers makes sense; it would be an embarrassing, marginalizing and dehumanizing policy. But I am suggesting that the airlines are ridiculous. Period.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!