If You’re Fat, You Should Pay Extra for Your Flight: It’s Not Discrimination

There is no standard "fat tax," but maybe there should be 7 photos
Most airline companies have so-called "obesity policies," which vary from company to companyA standardized "fat tax" is yet to be implementedMost airlines will charge you extra if you're overweightOverweight people occupy more space, so they should pay more for their plane ticketOverweight people occupy more space, so they should pay more for their plane ticketOverweight people occupy more space, so they should pay more for their plane ticket
Some years ago, airlines started toying with an idea that proved – and still remains – controversial: charging overweight passengers more than they would their thinner counterparts. Today, it is generally known as “fat tax,” and though it’s not universal with all airlines around the world, maybe it should be.
Airline obesity policies (or size policies, for those more easily offended) vary from carrier to carrier, country to country. In U.S., where 70% of the population is obese, fat people do pay more for a flight on a regular, but they’re also the most outraged by it. They’re reasoning is simple – and simplistic: since so many people are fat, why should they have to pay more when a more PC means to achieve the same results would be to force airlines to offer wider, more comfortable seats?

They do make on valid point, at the very least: the problem is two-fold. People are getting fatter with each year and each generation, while airline seats are getting smaller and more crammed. Right now, even a skinny person can only fit in the seat with minimum comfort, which can prove problematic on long-haul flights.

At the same time, though, why should regular-sized people have to travel in an even more crammed space because an overweight passenger is seated next to them? This isn’t about fat shaming and it definitely isn’t about oversimplifying the issue of obesity: we all know that solving it isn’t as easy as saying “just eat a salad, lose some weight!” This is an entire practical issue: overweight people, whatever the reason that made them so, occupy more space. Consequently, they should pay for that extra space and not use the one someone else paid for.

A standardized "fat tax" is yet to be implemented
Right now, most airlines across the world impose an extra charge, though they don’t all do it in the same way, which often prompts discrimination cries at a later date (Canada is the only one to fly the tolerance flag, regarding obesity as a disability and offering the extra seat free of charge). Overweight passengers are asked to book an additional seat at the initial moment of purchase: in some cases, they may get a refund on that second seat if the flight is not full, in others, they won’t. If they wait until boarding, they will be told they have to buy a second seat at the daily rate, upgrade to first-class, or risk not getting on the flight at all. If gate agents or cabin crew have had zero sensitivity training or no common sense, this may also entail a humiliating or disheartening experience as well.

Precisely to avoid this and to do away with all talk of discrimination is why we need a universal fat tax on planes. Simple mathematics should dictate that, if your body takes up two seats, you should pay for both, and airlines shouldn’t be able to sell that second seat after your booking – which is what they do these days, leading to overbooked flights, cancellations and fully justified cries of outrage.

Then, there’s also the question of safety and fuel consumption. All flights take into account the number of passengers, baggage weight and an estimated weight for each passenger, in order to establish how much fuel is needed to get from point A to point B. The estimated passenger weight is outdated in countries like the U.S. and the U.K., 93kg (about 205 lbs.) for men and 75kg (about 165 lbs.) for women, so planes carry more fuel as a precaution. Heavier planes are less green because they have a larger carbon footprint, and are less efficient.

Overweight people occupy more space, so they should pay more for their plane ticket
In early 2019, British startup Fuel Matrix suggested introducing weighing pads in airports, to determine the actual weight of all passengers boarding a plane, which would lead to a more accurate approximation of how much fuel would be needed for each flight and thus less waste and less pollution. They didn’t suggest having overweight people pay more for their flight, but it was widely assumed that airlines would do it once they had the actual figures of each passenger’s weight.

Right now, their suggestion is yet to be applied. Other initiatives have also been left hanging or scraped, whether they implied an “even” distribution of obese passengers across the cabin for safety reasons, or having an actual, clearly stated rule that they should pay more because they’re overweight. The controversy and pushback was simply too much for airlines.

But in all this talk about how fat people are being discriminated against and how airlines need to stop putting profit above everything else, maybe we should think that us skinnier folks do pay for one seat each. If an obese passenger encroaches on our personal space, who’s going to give us half our money back?
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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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