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The Day Will Come When Airlines Are Charging More on Overweight Passenger

June 24th, 2008 · 33 Comments ·
 
 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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33 responses so far ↓
  • Damien Tan // Jun 24, 2008 at 8:48 AM

    A tough problem. Some may see it as a “pretty people only” rule which can lead to all sorts of complications. To me the only valid rule is the physcial endangerment rule. Example, you must be of a certain height to get on rides in the park, else you endanger yourself and others. No one argues with that.

    As for airlines, there is a profit motive behind the tiny seats you get in economy, and I suspect seat sizes were taken from the century when fast food hadn’t made people fat yet. The average weight of people have increased but do the airlines change their seat configuration? No. They rather charge double. In other words, they don’t want to change to suit the world. They want the world to change to suit them. I think this is a battle they’ll find hard to win.

  • muchacha // Jun 24, 2008 at 11:42 AM

    It’s high time airlines start to penalize grossly obese passengers. These passengers add stress not only to the plane but to the average air traveller as well.

  • durai // Jun 24, 2008 at 2:47 PM

    ya obese is a big problem…very good picture…

  • foongpc // Jun 24, 2008 at 5:06 PM

    No I don’t think the airlines are discriminating against overweight people. Firstly, if you can’t fit into 1 seat and have to take 2 seats, it’s only fair you pay for 2 seats. Secondly, if you are overweight, you are contributing to the weight of the plane, so you should pay more. Thirdly, you have a choice to lose weight. And losing weight just to board a plane is a good motivation too!

  • Nikki // Jul 5, 2008 at 10:37 PM

    I see this in practical terms and do not disagree with the comparisons to clothing and insurance premiums. However, the airlines do not have the opportunity to determine in advance of seeing the customer, if the customer is large enough to warrant two seats. Maybe when making reservations, people will have to provide information regarding their height and weight. If they are over a certain height, an exit row or bulk head row seat should be provided to them. If the are over a certain weight, they might have to buy two tickets. If they lie about their weight, as most obese people do, then what? What if the flight is sold out and there are no other tickets? Does the large person get pulled from the plane and have to rebook on the next flight that has two seats available? What about the luggage? It goes ahead of them? This is going to be a difficult thing to control. Maybe the planes should, one by one, be retrofitted to have less rows and larger seats. That will increase fares. Will airlines be required to have a few rows of seats that are larger placed in the coach cabin? First class seats are much larger. Those size seats in the back of the plane? there is no easy answer.

  • Aobakwe Moeti // Oct 31, 2008 at 1:04 PM

    I think it is a good idea but also a bad one, because it is not all who is obesed because he/she is a glutton or what. This will cause a consternation and it is leading to nothing but stigmatization.Let,s sympathetically encourage them to lose weight and make them realised that obesity is healthy way of good life;

  • Erika // Nov 1, 2008 at 6:15 AM

    The only time this rule should be enforced is if someone literally can’t fit into their seat. But it should be done tactfully in a polite and private manner. Also, if a passenger is required to take up a second seat and have to pay for it, I don’t think that charging them full price is fair. There should be allowances or discounts that are applied in the event an overweight passenger has to purchase a second seat. Flying should not only be about profits. It should be a pleasant and satisfying experience. Unfortunately flying in this day and age has become very stressful and not only for overweight people. Everyone is having problems with airline travel! I hope something is done to improve on the situation or I’m going to try avoiding it all together whenever possible!

  • guy // Nov 4, 2008 at 1:47 PM

    i think its the right thing that they are over charging obes people because some people are careless they just eat and eat ignoring the fact that they will get fat its not discrimination at all they are trying to cover for their costs(business is business anyway).Maybe overcharging them will make them to consider the idea of minding their weight and tring to keep in shape.Also sum of this resturants that sell junk food are to blame because some the food they sell is not healthy.

  • eric modise // Nov 9, 2008 at 6:07 PM

    if airlines are doing all they can to reduce the weight of planes,why can’t an individual do it for his or her health status,i think it would be fair for an overweight person to pay for two tickets or three so that they may have a comfortable flight,u walk into KFC and u very hungry,u going to pay more in order for u to fill better.Its not really about discrimination,people have to make an effort in their life’s to live a healthy life. Please its not that hard,balance diet and exercising.So its really fair that overweight people have to pay for two tickets or three if they have to take the sits for a comfortable flight.

  • Benjamin Basholoko // Nov 11, 2008 at 12:13 AM

    That would not be fair because all those guys they are not the ones who created them according to me the second ticket should be paid by the one who created them.even them i don’t think think they like the way they are and that again could be descriminating them so i don’t agree with the policy

  • daniel // Nov 11, 2008 at 10:37 AM

    From my point of view obes people should be charged extra cash on plane tickets as some of them are so fat that they occupy a lot of space hence limiting other people to sit comfortably.The other thing is that its upon an indivisual to either gain or loose weight so most people do not want accept fitness for a change so this leads to obesity.I do not think this airline people are being discriminative to obes people its only a way of letting them know that this is uncomfortable to most people.

  • Ref Man // Nov 17, 2008 at 3:15 PM

    i don’t think that will be good idea,the best way is to help by giving them the ideas of how the can lose weight

  • latoyah mpulubusi // Nov 18, 2008 at 9:33 PM

    as much as it may seem unfair to obese people for them to pay for two seats, it is a very reasonable response to let them pay more.. in all cases every one wants the best of what their pockect gave them.imagine having to travel for hours being squashed by a big person , having less air to breath and afraid to tell that u are not fine just 4 moral issues!!! my GOD u wouldnt like it.
    its time we face facts ! they do need two seats no matter how sad it may be, but they do..

  • Kobamelo Tshosa // Dec 12, 2008 at 12:54 PM

    Obesity is a very concerning matter which everyone should be aware of.We may think that blaming obese is the right choice but i think these people need our help.What they need is guidance and motivation to take regular excises to keep fit.Neglecting these disease make cause the increase of discrimination among people.Above all charging obese double price is not fair at all,come put yourself in they condition and think of what people may say about you.

  • ELPHAS MADALA BROWN // Dec 12, 2008 at 1:32 PM

    The term obesity is a heath disorder condition where ones body is overweight.Every one knows about this, its natural. I don’t see any good reason why obese people should be charged extra money in southwest airlines because they had not don it deliberately so they should treat them equal like every body traveling on airlines . To solve the problem of occupation of two sits the days of traveling must be scheduled based on the number of passengers at a particular day.if then there are spare sits then they can be offered two sits to make them comfortable. As human beings we should cooperate and feel empathy for others as no one knows what will happen in the future.

  • Le Jacq // Jan 25, 2009 at 10:55 AM

    Fat people, if not really really big people, are the majority of the population. Maybe really big should stop flying altogether and put the airlines out of business.

    You penalize obese people, they penalize you right back.

    Ever notice how airlines are losing money now and flights are taking off empty? This is a good time for ALL obese people to stay off the planes.

    I’m a thin guy and I’m joining them in not flying.

  • travelgirl // Mar 15, 2009 at 6:41 AM

    SOME OF YOU PEOPLE ARE SO DENSE! Some obese people that way BECAUSE of medical conditions and not a lack of will power or eating and eating and eating. That is a common misconception. I am overweight due to a hormonal condition that makes it almost impossible to lose weight. So STOP blaming these people when you DONT know their individuall story. My opinion is that the airlines should have a row or two of roomier seating especially for people with disablities and obese people can sit there, because for those large people who cant control their weight, obesity it is truly a disablilty! However until anything changes…I would buy two seats if I had to…for MY comfort. I dont want to be squished myself. For people who are THAT huge, it would be appropriate for them to think about the comfort of others and paying for another seat. As for the person mentioning the pregnant woman shrieking that her baby was hurting…that is bull, the reason she was probably asked to changed flights is because she was causing a scene, if that was handled more discretely maybe the outcome would of been different and the fat person would have been moved to another flight or another seat beside somone who didnt mind sitting beside him. Yes many fat people could work on lifestyle changes, but many cannot. So this general judgement of these ones is just unfair!

  • Mellisa // Apr 15, 2009 at 1:16 PM

    omg..I cant believe this whole topic…this is a form of discrimation and its hard losing weight..sooo because your obese you shouldnt be able to travel to different places..when is this gonna change this doesnt make any sense..I am a obese person and im seriously doubting my trip because I dont want to get on the plane and be humilated because I may need a seat belt extention or a extra seat..it hurts the people stare and chuckle at you and I dont think its right!!

  • Sam // Apr 17, 2009 at 9:31 AM

    Wait wait wait…they want obese ppl to pay for 2 tickets? Woooow what is this world coming to? This is bullshit! I’m not overweight, but it’s so wrong. Airlines just want to make more money obviously especially if they are going bankrupt. They know that the US has thousands of overweight ppl and they are taking advantage. It’s bad enough that tickets cost like 200-400 dollars and they want them to buy 2 tickets, even if they don’t have to pay full price for the second ticket that’s like almost 500 dollars for round trip tickets or maybe even more depends on where you’re going. This is just gonna cause more chaos. I hope they really sit down and think about what they’re doing because this is just ridiculous.

  • G C // Apr 17, 2009 at 9:57 AM

    There are a number of diseases which *do* cause obesity. Numerous thyroid conditions to name just one family of them.

    I am 5’11”, 220lbs. I’m not grossly overweight, but I still don’t fit in those tiny seats without rubbing the person next to me. Remember that “average” in the US is about 6″ of height and close to 80lbs over “average” in Thailand. If I weighed 160 lbs, I’d *still* have to wear XL sized T-shirts because of my natural, /skeletal/, shoulder width. Those seats fit an average American pre-teen.

    So. When will they stop overbooking? when will they stop charging me for the lousy 15-lb bag I had to check?

    Any airline that discriminates because of customer size isn’t getting my business. So I guess no, I do not agree.

  • Karen B. - New York // Apr 18, 2009 at 6:21 AM

    I understand the problem BUT those condeming oversized people should understand that NOT all oversized people are that way because of overeating…. I have medically diagnosed condition that causes weight gain and the inability to lose weight….. I have insulin resistance, hashimoto’s thyroiditis, pcos and vitamin D deficiency which ALL cause weight gain and the inability to lose weight….. In fact, I don’t eat half of what a skinny person eats…. So, why should I be punished for something that is NOT even my fault and that IS MEDICALLY DIAGNOSED by a licenced Physician / Specialist………

  • TOM RHODES // Apr 19, 2009 at 12:00 AM

    THE AIRLINES DO HAVE A RIGHT TO SELL THEM TWO TICKETS FOR BEING OVERWEIGHT. THEY DID THIS FOR YEARS ON OVERWEIGHT LUGGAGE.

    THE ISSUE IS THE COST OF FUEL. IF YOU ARE OVERWEIGHT THAN DON’T FLY
    UNLESS YOU CAN AFFORD THE EXTRA TICKET. THAT IS FAIR NOWADAYS, AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN 20 YEARS OR 30 YEARS AGO, THEN NO ONE COULD BITCH ABOUT IT. WE ARE STRAINING THE OIL RESERVES NOW!

    GET USED TO IT, OR DON’T FLY. PERIOD.

  • Boyd // Apr 19, 2009 at 12:14 AM

    The airlines are – again – putting themselves out of business. It doesn’t matter if logically 2 seats = 2 tickets. What matters is by charging double for a situation caused by uncomfortably small seating you create loss of passengers. No passengers = no revenue. They will spiral down until they become just another charter service. No more commercial airlines will exist if they don’t start thinking of a viable solution.

  • TOM RHODES // Apr 19, 2009 at 5:29 PM

    I THINK THAT PEOPLE THAT ARE GROSSLY OVERWEIGHT SHOULD BE SOLD A
    FIRST CLASS TICKET, OR TWO SEATS. IT IS PERFECTLY RIGHT TO DO SO.

    I DON’T FLY BUT PEOPLE THAT ARE GROSSLY OVERWEIGHT SHOULD EXPECT
    THE EXTRA SEAT, OR FIRST CLASS TICKET. PERIOD.

    I AM NOT OVERWEIGHT, BUT PEOPLE THAT WANT TO FLY AS OPPOSED TO TAKING A BUS, OR TAKE A TRAIN. EVEN THEN THEY ARE UNCOMFORTABLE
    WHEN TRAVELING SHOULD STAY AT HOME. THAT IS FAIR TO THE PEOPLE
    THAT ARE NORMAL.

    OVERWEIGHT PEOPLE THAT CAUSES THE PROBLEMS WITH TRAVEL SHOULD NOT TAKE JOBS THAT REQUIRE TRAVELING ON AIRPLANES SHOULD DIET, OR
    DIE. WE ARE NOT GOING TO MAKE NORMAL PEOPLE UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THESE PEOPLE THAT CAN’T CONTROL THEIR WEIGHT, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER
    PEOPLE THAT ARE GROSSLY OVERWEIGHT LOOSE THE WEIGHT AND THE HEALTH PROBLEMS THAT COME WITH IT.

    THE INSURANCE COMPANIES HAVE DONE THIS FOR YEARS. IT IS TIME THE AIRLINES TO DO THE SAME. PERIOD.

    THEY SHOULD HAVE DONE THIS FOR LAST 20 YEARS, AND THIS PROBLEM
    WOULD JUST GO AWAY. GET USED TO IT, OR LIKE I STATED BEFORE TAKE A BUS, OR TRAIN.

    THANK YOU.

  • Michael // Apr 20, 2009 at 10:50 PM

    I completely am behind this decision to charge obese people for more than one seat or a first class seat. Is it sad? of course and I do feel bad for them. however this is a huge problem with society and I have actually had to sit next to someone “overflowing” into my seat on a plane and I must say. I was fairly pissed about it. I wish there was some other way to solve the problem but Ill have to side with the airlines on this issue. it is important that everyone on the plane is as comfortable as possible.

  • PG // Apr 21, 2009 at 7:09 AM

    I want to know why you all think it is okay to charge an overweight person 2x for everything they buy — because they supposedly take up 2x the room-material-space -et cetera but you do not cut the price for people who are small? My son is quite large – over 300 pounds and pays 2x for everything – I am size 00 – I pay 2x for everything because I am not “average”. Is it just my family that is being penalized?

  • CS // May 27, 2009 at 1:11 AM

    I am extremely overweight. I just took a trip on Southwest. I had to buy 2 tickets. Fine, I have no problem with that, but the airline can overbook a plane and sale the second seat to someone else. So now 2 people have paid for the same seat. Explain how that fixes the problem. I see some of you are siding with the airlines like they are your friend by making someone buy 2 tickets. So now that you still have to set by a fat person who just paid out way more money than you did is now uncomfortable themselves.

  • eric // Sep 8, 2009 at 10:37 PM

    I find the comments quite agrivating claiming all people who are over weight is due to eating too much, etc. My spouse is overweight due to illness and medications that cause weight gain. Not to mention limited mobility from her illness does not allow for much exercise. Foe one such as her to ha\ve gone from running 2 miles a day to not able to get around as well is disheartening as it is, but then to have this type of judgement is pathetic.

  • ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? // Jan 5, 2010 at 3:28 AM

    The problem is with the airlines, not the imperfect person. The average sized human being has changed dramatically since airline seats were engineered. Also, there is a wide spectrum of size when height and weight are factored into the equation.

    Example: 5’0 small-framed woman who weighs 220 pounds would be considered morbidly obese. 6’0 large-framed woman who weighs 250 pounds would be considered overweight. The shorter woman might not be required to purchase a second ticket, but the taller woman might have to. Therefore, should a person be penalized for being tall. The author of this blog may feel that “fat” people should be treated as inferior individuals, but does that apply to tall people as well? Maybe these skinny people who have never experienced any kind of weight problem should fly in first-class if they don’t want to sit next to us “disgusting” overweight people. Seriously!!!!

  • Don LaJocies // Jan 25, 2010 at 5:54 AM

    All people come in different sizes shapes and colors. To say that one group of people should pay more because they are different in Discrimation…

  • Murf // Feb 18, 2010 at 7:28 AM

    Well – let’s take this a few steps further. In order to be consistent and fair – Maybe we should adjust taxes based on usage as well – households that utilize more services – schools in particular, should be taxed at higher rates. The more children, the higher the tax burden.

    Come on folks, think about the big picture, slight pun intended …

  • Berry // Aug 31, 2010 at 11:14 PM

    for the 1st time i sat beside a very obese guy in a fully booked plane.
    felt so terible..
    he was so huge taking almost half of my sit with his fat arms..
    was a freaking nightmare sitting 8 hours plane ride..

    pls enforce a rule for obese to buy 2 seats..

  • Deanna Graham // Feb 12, 2016 at 9:46 PM

    I used to travel frequently, and I was once placed next to an obese person by the flight attendant because I am very petite. Talk about unfair! She was able the fasten her seatbelt, but everything else flowed over to my side of my seat. The flight was much unbearable, and she didn’t seem the least embarrassed. I finally stuck my arms and legs out, staked my claim and stepped on her foot. Petty, yes. Satisfied, yes.

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