I do not really enjoy taking flight, especially long distance flight. For economical seat, even for a slim traveler, airline seat is not comfortable. It can be worse for overweight people. Squeezing into a small seat with limited legroom can be frustrating. I do not mean to discriminating, but it is not easy to sit next with the person who is overweight.
Airlines used to turn their eyes closed to this issue. But, not anymore. Two reasons – other passengers are complaining and the cost of fuel has been hovering at high price for some time since year 2005.
Yes, people are complaining. Southwest Airlines said that 90 percent of the complaints are from customers whose seats are “sat upon” by overweight neighbors who occupy part of their seats. The airline has started to enforce its policy requiring overweight or obese passengers to purchase 2 tickets. Overweight customers are furious about this enforcement. Depends how you look at it – some think that overweight passengers are punished but some applaud the move by making majority of its customers happy.
This policy is not something new, just that Southwest Airlines did not enforce it all this while.
So, what happen if the traveler requiring two seats but has not purchased two tickets? Southwest staff will take the passenger aside and explain the policy nicely. Travelers denied boarding are recompensed with free airline tickets, hotel stays, and sometimes even free car rentals. The airline tried to be fair too – if the larger traveler purchased his first ticket at full price, the second ticket can be purchased at the deeply discounted child’s fare rate. If first ticket is bought at a discounted rate, the second ticket will cost the same amount as the first. If a larger traveler fits into one seat but his seat belt does not fit, an extension will be provided free of charge. He will not have to buy two tickets. Not too bad, most will agree.
However, activists for overweight people insisted that offering such small seats yet charging larger passengers for two seats is a form of discrimination against people who have a “disabling addiction to food”.
Wait, sound as if they considering obesity is a “disease” which is beyond control.
Since we are talking about charging more for overweight people, how about health insurance companies? Most of them are using BMI or other standard to determine the premium. Overweight customers normally have to pay more compared to others. It is true that overweight persons are charged more because of the chances of them suffering from weight-related health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease are higher.
Apart from that, how about clothing company? People of larger size are paying more for clothing than people of average size do. I know that most companies in Thailand do that which XL and XXL are normally 10% more expensive than S, M and L size. The extra materials used is the reason the manufacturers do so. Not because of discrimination.
Some will probably disagree – shouldn’t the manufacturers use an average price for all sizes?
If that is the case, will it be fair to average-sized customers as they are paying for oversize people? Average size customer may complain.
So, now, I guess you probably understand Southwest Airlines’ policy better when comes to charging big size passengers more and not asking average size passengers to pay slightly more to compensate for the difference.
If you look at restaurants, if you are big size and you want to eat more, you have to buy two meals. You probably will not ask the waiter to serve you more and insist others to pay slightly more for the additional portion.
Back to the airline issue, most airlines are charging more for customers who bring overweight luggage. Charging people differently based on weight is not discrimination, because weight is a key factor in determining the cost of the trip. In fact, more than forty percent of a flight cost structure is made up of the fuel and it is getting even more nowadays.
Airlines are doing everything they can to reduce the weight of the plane. Switched from wide-body plane to turboprops, took away bulky magazines, replace metal forks and spoons to plastic made, charging more on overweight luggage. The mentioned items may seem small, but when you consider airlines are flying millions of miles, they adds up over time.
In the past, when the passengers gain weight, airlines went “on diet” with red figures in their account book. Probably not any more now. Asking overweight passengers to pay is one of the ways. Airlines are looking for ways to survive and not so much in reaping profit. For the first 5 months of 2008, more than 10 airlines have gone bankruptcy with the surge of jet fuel price.
Overweight or obesity is not disease. Balancing diet and regular exercise are the solutions. If you are a frequent traveler and if you are overweight, I hope that you will really seriously consider taking action before your local airlines start to implement similar policy like Southwest Airlines.
If there is a will, there is a way.
What do you think, do you think Southwest Airlines is discriminating overweight passengers?
Talking about discrimination, you may want to check out this post too – Stop Obese People From Eating In Restaurant.
Category: Fitness News
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