The idea that passengers should be charged according to body weight is nothing new. The incensing suggestion has been presented for years as a way for airlines to recoup rising fuel costs and prevent the discomfort of other passengers.
Because, let's face it: Air travel, especially in coach, is uncomfortable enough without someone else invading your already-limited personal space.
Dr. Bharat P. Bhatta, an associate professor of economics at Sogn og Fjordane University College in Norway, is the latest to propose a "pay as you weigh" model for airline pricing. His investigations were recently published in the Journal of Revenue & Pricing Management.
"Charging according to weight and space is a universally accepted principle, not only in transportation, but also in other services."
Bhatta bases his argument on economic and environmental concerns, noting that "a reduction of one kilo weight of a plane [or approximately 2.2 lbs] will result in fuel savings worth $3,000 a year and a reduction of CO2 emissions by the same token."
"Charging according to weight and space is a universally accepted principle, not only in transportation, but also in other services," Bhatta argues. "As weight and space are far more important in aviation than other modes of transport, airlines should take this into account when pricing their tickets."
He proposes three different "pay as you weigh" pricing models. One would determine fare on a case-by-case basis according to the actual weight of each passenger and his/her belongings.
Another would add a surcharge to a fixed base fare for each pound of overweight passengers, or apply a discount to the tickets of underweight passengers. A final option would apply a discount for passengers below a certain weight threshold or add a surcharge to those above a certain weight threshold.
Southwest Airlines already has a Customer of Size policy, which asks overweight passengers to purchase a second seat if their girth gets in the way of lowering the armrest. Spirit Airlines, the no-frills carrier that recently started service from Houston's George Bush Intercontinental, already tacks on additional fees for every conceivable convenience.
Still, the issue remains a contentious one. Would you favor airfare prices that takes body weight into account?