Heavy passengers should pay more, suggests former Qantas finance chief
January 12th, 2012 by elisa

We’re all told that there is an obesity crisis and that we should lose weight for the good of our health. Now, according to some controversial comments made by a former Qantas group chief economist, our weight could cost us more as heavier people should pay more to fly on planes.

Tony Webber, now managing director of Webber Quantitative Consulting and Associate Professor at the University of Sydney Business School, said that although there are many factors which contribute towards fuel burnt by planes, the most important is the weight of the aircraft, so the heavier people on the plane are the more fuel will be burnt, thus raising the airlines costs significantly.

He made the comments in Business Day in Fairfax newspapers, adding that airlines will have to raise airfares to recover the additional costs, which should not be lumbered “on those who are shedding a few kilos or keeping their weight stable”.

Between 1926 and 2008, the average weight of an Aussie female adult increased from 59 kilograms to 71 kilos and the average weight of an Aussie male adult increased from 72 to 85 kilos, according to Webber.

On a route like Sydney to London via Singapore, he said the extra passenger kilos meant around 3.72 extra barrels of jetfuel per flight is burnt, “which at current prices cost about $472”.

“This tally may not seem like a lot of money but when you add it up over all flights for a year the extra cost can all but wipe out an airline’s profits, such is the thinness of margins these days particularly on international routes.”

His comments may be contraversial, but he did concede that although he believes it to be a good idea to charge larger passengers more, that implementing it by needing to weigh each passenger at check-in, may not be quite so easy.

“As the obesity crisis worsens, however, and the price of jet fuel continues to spiral upward, such user-pay charge may be something the airlines can’t ignore for too much longer,” he said.


What do you think to these suggestions? If this were to be implemented, would it be a form of discrimination? Would being weighed at check-in be an unjust embarrassment?


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