This Airline to Start Charging Passengers By Their Weight — or Is It?

ews reports from multiple sources indicate that passengers of Uzbekistan Airways will be weighed before boarding its airplanes for flights and possibly will start charging passengers by their weight…

…but when clicking on a link to the official announcement from the airline — such as included in this article written by Michal Addady of Fortune — I get the following message:

Page not found

The requested page “/en/news/national-airline-uzbekistan-airways-has-introduced-procedure-preflight-weighing” could not be found.

Although I have written several articles over the years at The Gate pertaining to overweight passengers — this article about how the debate continues pertaining to obese passengers being the most recent one — back on Sunday, March 24, 2013, I first reported in this article on Bharat P. Bhatta of Fjordane University College in Norway suggesting three possible methods of airlines implementing a policy of charging:

  1. A straightforward price per kilogram or pound
  2. A fixed low fare with heavier passengers paying a surcharge and lighter passengers being offered a discount
  3. Divided passengers into three groups — heavy, normal and light — and have them be charged accordingly

 

Passengers would declare their weight when purchasing an airline ticket — and they could be randomly selected by representatives of the airline at the airport and pay a penalty in addition to the appropriate airfare.

Curiously, 2013 was reportedly the same year that Samoa Air started charging its passengers based on how much they weigh — and this policy still exists today:

A world first: The “Samoa Air System” of pay by weight ‘Pay only for what you weigh’!

Welcome to the fairest system for payment of carriage of anything by air. The world is now aware that charging by weight is the fairest way of paying for carriage. Whether its people, baggage, freight or anything which we might want tot take or consign by air.

At Samoa Air we will do our best to ensure that every passenger is afforded the same level of comfort and travel throughout their flying experience. We want to bring back Air Travel as an enjoyable experience, where you, and your baggage will always travel together. No more excess fee’s are charged and no more discrimination, because as we know: A kilo is a kilo is a kilo!

The Sky’s the Limit!

This initially may sound like a good idea in terms of pure logic — you weigh more, you pay more — but could this lead to discriminatory practices by employees of airlines? What if the passenger has a medical condition which prevents him or her from being able to lose weight or girth through typical means, such as a diet or exercise? Perhaps certain passengers with known physical ailments might be targeting next by the airlines to avoid having to deal with a medical emergency aboard the aircraft during a flight — or consider excluding passengers with mental issues, passengers of a certain age, or passengers with certain acknowledged beliefs and ideals.

Also, does this potential ancillary fee pave the way for possible abuse by the airline? What if fuel prices decrease significantly? Will the airline lower ticket prices as a result? Fat chance — pun intended.

This does not even address the issue of whether or not obese passengers will be able to have two seats in which to sit if they do indeed pay more. While it is certainly better than attempting to squeeze 500 pounds of human into a single seat, I cannot imagine that straddling two seats with a raised armrest pressing against your back would be all that comfortable. Should the airline not only provide two seats if the overweight passenger pays for them, but also some sort of removable or adjustable alteration to help increase the comfort of sitting in two seats simultaneously?

Despite its potential drawbacks, I suppose this proposal still beats the alternative of being denied boarding an aircraft altogether primarily because of weight or girth.

It can also possibly fend off lawsuits: for example, Shawn Coomer of Miles to Memories reported in this article that James Bassos — a passenger from Australia who is suing Etihad Airways because he was reportedly hurt after sitting next to an obese passenger on a flight from Abu Dhabi to Sydney back in 2011 — claims he had to “contort and twist” to avoid the obese neighbor who he says coughed and “expelled fluid from his mouth.”

Not long after that lawsuit seemingly pervaded throughout the media, Katie Hopkins — a television personality in Great Britain — expressed her opinion that overweight passengers should absolutely be subject to hefty fines during a preview of her upcoming show, If Katie Hopkins Ruled the World.

Speaking of the United Kingdom, the only way I know of passengers currently being charged by the pound is if their purchased their airfare in countries such as the United Kingdom — but I digress once again; so please pardon me.

Although obese passengers could add weight to the aircraft — thereby theoretically increasing fuel costs for the airline — the real issue is the rights of passengers who are forced to suffer being seated next to a passenger whose girth infringes upon the space for which they paid. I know that I like to be as comfortable as possible when I am seated aboard an aircraft — and I want all of the space for which I paid to be available to me at all times.

I really do not believe that is asking for too much.

Although there was no definitive verbiage that Uzbekistan Airways would charge each of its passengers by weight, for what other reason would an airline weigh passengers? Also, why would the announcement pertaining to its new policy on weighing passengers before each flight suddenly not be found? Was it officially retracted?

What are your thoughts?

One thought on “This Airline to Start Charging Passengers By Their Weight — or Is It?”

  1. Nico says:

    This is a most excellent idea. As a practical matter being fat costs more both to the obese person and to society, but most of those costs are rather thin or not directly priced (the total weight of passengers plus cargo relative to the car’s base fuel needs are rather low and gasoline or diesel is billed per liter of product) or are spread out thin. This would help internalize a part of the social costs of being obese and since people fly so often it would give a real and traceable motivation to shed some excess weight.

    What about obesity resulting from medical conditions? Unfortunately that is a real drawback, but let’s have some perspective here. The vast majority (>90%) of excess weight arises because the patient 1. eats too much and 2. moves too little. What about the rest? Well, some of them undoubtedly have conditions serious enough that intensive travel might not be such a good idea anyway. For the ones who don’t, there are all sorts of possibilities, including insurance mandates for a certain amount of subsidized travel. Again, though, remember that obesity always has a cost regardless of where it comes from, and if we choose to internalize those costs we may have to accept some trade-offs. The few people who are set back because of medical conditions have to be weighed against 1. the thin passengers who currently effectively subvention both financially and comfort-wise heavier passengers, and 2. the critical need to bring down Americans’ waistlines.

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