The island air carrier Samoa Air recently made headlines by announcing that it would start charging fares based on weight. Travelers will now pay a price that is based on the total weight of their person and their baggage. Is this a fair practice due to the different amount of fuel required for different weights, or is this just another proof of the rampant fat discrimination facing the world today?
If you’ve flown on island airlines in the South Pacific, you’ll know that for many years, passengers are weighed the airport along with their baggage to determine the total weight of the loaded aircraft for fuel and safety purposes. You step up on a scale with your carry-on to determine your total weight so that the tiny plane is not overloaded.
These public airport weigh-ins, usually done at the check-in counter, are necessary because of the small size of the aircraft and the widely varying weight of flight passengers. Being weighed in public for the entire world to see is an experience many people would balk at, however, accurate weight readings are needed to ensure the safety of the flight. If every passenger who shows up for their flight weighs 300 pounds, someone will have to sit out due to flight weight restrictions. Without this discrimination, the plane could crash. The laws of physics do not care about being politically correct.
But now Samoa Air is basing its rates on passenger weight. Is this a fair practice, or fat discrimination?
Yes, it’s fair.
Just as healthy people pay higher insurance rates to make up for the unhealthy people in the pool, lighter people pay higher flight prices to make up for the larger people on the plane – and this should change. Science doesn’t discriminate: it takes three times the amount of fuel to fly a 300-pound person than it does a 100-pound person. According to Samoa Air, fares should be adjusted accordingly. Just as XXXL tee shirts often cost more than regular sizes because they require more materials to produce, XXXL humans cost more to fly – and ticket prices should reflect this. Why should a 300-pound person with a 50-pound carry-on pay the same as a 100-pound person with a 5-pound carry-on, even though it will take more than three times the amount of fuel to fly them? Should we just bump up the prices for all passengers in order to accommodate the people who take up more than their fair share of space and fuel? That’s lowest common denominator thinking that punishes the small and slender. Larger people have benefited from lower prices for so long, that fair pricing is now seen as discriminatory.
No, it’s discrimination.
Just as airlines can’t base pricing on your race or gender, establishing airline rates based on weight is a discriminatory practice that harms overweight passengers with higher prices. While some people may be responsible for their oversize status, others are overweight through genetic disorders or other imbalances that are no fault of their own. Airlines should be made to accommodate people of every size, and if they have to install larger seats, reduce plane capacity or add longer seatbelts, so be it. No one should be judged on their appearance, especially not by airlines. This unfair pricing practice singles out heavy flyers with heavy baggage. Weight-based airline fares set a dangerous precedent for fat discrimination. What is next? Weight-based lunch buffet prices? Weight-based medical services? Weight-based bus passes? While larger people do take up more resources, they should not be penalized for this with higher airline fares. Everyone should share the cost of a flight equally, even if it costs the airline more to transport some people than others.
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