Charging by the Pound

Warning: Sarcasm ahead - A recent news article was sent to me today that discussed a Samoan airline, which will now charge passengers by the pound. The article, titled “A Samoan Airline Now Charges Passengers by Body Weight,” discusses how Samoa Air will now charge its passengers based on body weight.

According to the article, “Prices will vary $50-$200 per 100 pounds, depending on the length of the journey.”

Now, I see two arguments being made here by a lot of individuals. On one hand, you have the “physics” argument and on the other, there’s the “discrimination” argument. I get the whole concept of the weight of the plane is extremely important during takeoff, landing and fuel consumption. I understand that. Therefore, let’s put the physics argument to rest for a moment. To me, the real question is, “Is this discriminating to individuals affected by excess weight or obesity?” My answer, “Yes, it is.”

An individual cannot help their genetics. They can address their weight and improve it; however, it is unfair to expect someone to “diet,” as the article suggests, before a flight just so they can afford the ticket. I wonder how many times some affected by obesity actually weighed less, considering total body weight and luggage weight, than the person who flies with two extra pieces of luggage and all the carry-on items allowed. Why do airlines feel it’s okay to discriminate based on weight? Airlines accept a myriad of responsibility when welcoming passengers onboard. They accommodate all types of disabilities with the availability of defibrillators, oxygen tanks, etc.; however, they don’t tack these costs onto people who require them because they could not get away with it. They do; however, feel free to tack extra cost onto people with obesity because they see less risk in disrespecting them.

As much as airline travel is a staple in today’s business world and for those vacationing, it is a luxury. Yes, I said it. It is a luxury. We don’t have to fly. It sure is convenient and quick; however, we don’t have to fly. Personally, I wouldn’t fly on an airline that made me weigh myself before they told me the price of the ticket. Ethically speaking, I wouldn’t fly on an airline that made me weigh myself period. Weight is a personal issue. Weight is a health issue. It’s not a determining factor for the monetary ability to travel.

To go back to the “physics” argument for a moment, I think I can sum up this argument in a few sentences. Are you ready? This is going to be groundbreaking…

Airlines transport people. People are not cargo or freight. I am not a box that was “overnighted,” so I reach my destination by 8 am the next day.

If you’ve ever battled obesity, and I have, you know how hard it is to combat that fight and even harder to keep the weight off.

Yes, I’ve flown on the flight where the person next to me was in my seat a bit. Yes, I’ve been in the middle seat. We are people. We are all human. There are A LOT of things I would like to ask of an airline BEFORE I asked them to address passengers’ weight, such as:

      • Please re-construct the lavatory so that I don’t have to step on top of the toilet to open the door.
      • Please ask the flight attendants to not hit my shoulder with the cart when they come down the aisle.
      • Please encourage the baggage handlers to unload the bags faster.
      • Please ensure that my tray table, when in the upright and locked position, actually stays that way.

Do you see where I am going with this? There are things that we all face when flying. Most of them could be controlled or improved if we all had a little more patience and decency.

I will end on this. If this type of payment policy is adopted by more mainstream airline carriers, I will most certainly expect more out of the airline as well. In fact, I encourage any airline considering this type of policy to take a look at the above list to start. After all, if we consider air travel a luxury, then shouldn’t it be luxurious?

Think about it…

James Zervios

4 Comments for this Post
  • Dr. Martin Binks
    April 3, 2013 at 9:59 am

    I truly believe that it is obese individuals who are discussed in board rooms when these ‘economic plans’ are cooked up…However, if we are to be truly objective, and do not wish to be seen as bias ourselves (or at minimum myopic), We have to look beyond obesity on these issues. This is about more than just obesity bias…

    First…If its truly about economics (fuel) then more weight on the plane = more fuel… therefore they need to have people stand on the scale with all their luggage, their cats and dogs, their sports equipment and so forth…….. to accurately measure the passengers total contribution to the weight of the plane….That is the only way to accurately charge for the total weight burden a passenger contributes (and it will reward people like me who carry < 3 pounds of stuff in my bag).

    If it IS bias…. then its bias against the following groups.

    1) Men – who on average are heavier than women

    2) Average fit, healthy muscular people (also bodybuilders and athletes).
    - muscle weighs more than fat .

    3) Tall people

    4) Overweight and obese people

    5) Physically handicapped (wheel chairs and assistive devices must be weighed too).

    6) People who require oxygen tanks or other portable medical devices like CPAP

    7) Active vacationers who carry sports equipment (oh wait – we already get charged extra).

    • lizr
      April 3, 2013 at 7:37 pm

      Muscle weighs more than fat? I thought a lb of muscle and Lb of fat both = 16oz. Fat takes up more space, muscle is more compact so you can build more muscle and remain lean.

    • Cristie
      May 1, 2013 at 4:09 pm

      I agree! Whole-heartedly! (and if people need to use the O2 tanks on the plane, there is a sometimes steep fee for that, also.).

  • nancy ellis
    May 1, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    never heard of this carrier, but will post on “do not use list.”

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