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.


Rob said...

This is a wild fictional fantasy - but man, wouldn't it be great. I've spent way too many hours scrunched up between two fat bastards, one on either side, encroaching on my space!

Anonymous said...

Just for the record, most airlines do NOT charge for an infant (under 2) that sits in a parent's lap. Although there is usually a tax. Still, not a very safe situation for the child!

Fat Charlie the Archangel said...

I've thought a bit about this now, and it doesn't seem to be a linear function - regardless of the weight of a single passenger, the seat weighs the same.

The number of seats determines the number of possible passengers, so EMPTY seats are a penalty both in mass and missed opportunities.

So perhaps the total amount of a passenger is his own weight + baggage + the weight of the seat?

Would you have the passengers re-weigh their luggage upon returning? Would they have to pay a penalty if the bags were heavier?

Guy Ellis said...

No - you would ignore the weight of the seat because its weight does not change for each passenger.

Yes, empty seats are missed opportunities but will you have more or fewer empty seats under this plan? My impression is that you will have fewer empty seats because you will be able to offer lower priced seats to large number of (lighter) passengers because your costs are lower.

Yes - I would have them weigh in on each leg of the journey. The logic is the same. You need to incentivize passengers each time they board to carry less.

Remember that what you are doing with this plan is to steal all the lighter passengers from your competitors and give them your heavy passengers.