Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fat in Flight

In August 2008 I blogged Airline Fat Tax where I proposed that airlines charge passengers by total weight (luggage and biomass combined). This will removed the price discrimination that is currently in place where lighter people subsidise the ticket prices for heavier passengers.

In the CBS news story United To Charge Heavier Passengers Twice To Fly we hear about how passengers that don't fit into one seat now need to buy a ticket for a second seat next to them. This is reasonable because they are taking up 2 seats. If a parent is traveling with a child in their lap they still need to pay an extra fare even though that child isn't taking up a seat.

However, what the airlines are missing at the moment is the weight discount approach. In order to reduce how much they offend their passengers they should charge a higher price and offer discounts for each pound your total weight is under their threshold. $1/pound sounds reasonable to me. Someone who's luggage and body weighs in at 240 lbs should be given a $60 refund to their credit card once they've checked-in at the airport assuming that a 300 lbs threshold per person is set. Of course there would also have to be a minimum because you're taking up a seat.

What effect would this have? Easy, people who are lighter and/or travel with lighter luggage will suddenly start traveling with that airline. The airline is carrying less weight and using less fuel and can offer a more competitive price to its customers. The other airlines have to handle the heavy weights.