According to the World Health Organisation, obesity around the world has tripled since 1975. In 2016, 39% of those aged 18 above were classed as overweight and 13% as obese. Worringly, over 40 million children were overweight even before starting primary education. Being overweight or obese kills more people than being underweight. The obesity epidemic affects many different walks of life. It’s also stirred up debate about air travel. For most airlines, a person’s weight doesn’t affect how much their plane ticket costs. However, there are some who feel that those who are overweight should have to pay more. Would this be fair?
Yes – If You Weigh More, You Pay More
Let’s say there’s someone who weighs 170 pounds and they’re going on a flight. This person has a bag weighing 30 pounds and they’re charged extra by the airline for it. Another passenger on the same flight weighs 250 pounds but doesn’t have any extra bags and isn’t charged any extra. The way this works, the first passenger has to pay extra when they’re bringing 200 pounds onto the plane (170 in body weight, plus the 30 pound bag). The heavier passenger is bringing an extra 50 pounds, yet doesn’t have to pay any extra.
The amount of fuel needed for a plane to fly is in relation to how heavy it is. The heavier the plane, the more fuel is needed. It’s believed by some that instead of passengers of different cumulative weights (taking any bags into consideration) all paying the same amount for different weights, the price of flying should take into account how much weight each passenger is bringing onto the plane with them. The 170 pound passenger with a 30 pound bag would pay slightly less than the 250 because they’re bringing slightly less weight onto the plane and therefore using slightly less fuel. Samoa Air, which was only in operation from 2012-15, garnered much attention for charging by weight. The weight of your body and any baggage you would be bringing with you both factored into the price of your ticket. It makes sense that those who are bringing on more weight should pay more. It’s a logical way of approaching pricing plane tickets and it ensures that things are fair.
No – Some People Can’t Help Being Overweight
On the other hand, there are those who disagree with the notion of people being charged according to the weight they’re taking onto a plane. The main argument is that many people who are overweight or obese can’t help being the size they are – they could well have a medical condition of some kidn or they could have a genuine reason as to why they’re finding it hard to lose weight. It’s not really fair to charge people more to fly if they genuinely can’t help bringing a bit more weight onto the plane.
There’s the argument that larger passengers who struggle to fit in the seats should purchase two tickets. This is apparently for their own safety and so that they don’t invade the personal space of other passengers. A complaint some have is that if they’re sitting next to a larger passenger, that larger passenger takes up more room (leg space, arm rests etc.), which can be a problem when personal space on planes is already limited.
Should more airlines charge you based on how much weight you’re taking onto the plane? It seems fair, since it means that those with baggage who are bringing less weight onto the plane than an obese passenger would have to pay less, whereas now thye’d have to pay more. However, there’s always the argument that larger people can’t help being the way they are and shouldn’t have to pay extra, even if it is just a small amount more.