Given how much weight affects fuel consumption, this makes a lot of sense.
Samoa Air planned on Wednesday to start pricing its first international flights based on the weight of its passengers and their bags. Depending on the flight, each kilogram (2.2 pounds) costs 93 cents to $1.06.
That means the average American man weighing 195 pounds with a 35 pound bag would pay $97 to go one-way between Apia, Samoa, and Pago Pago, American Samoa. Competitors typically charge $130 to $140 roundtrip for similar routes.
The weight-based pricing is not new to the airline, which launched in June. It has been using the pricing model since November, but in January the U.S. Department of Transportation approved its international route between American Samoa and Samoa.
It makes sense until a lawyer sues the company in a class action on behalf of the obese for discrimination.
Great. When do US Airlines start?
I’ve seen old photos of passengers being weighed before boarding a DC-3. They were weighed to ensure the correct weight distribution in the aircraft. The photos show them sitting in what looked like a large produce scale, with a very visible weight dial on top (no privacy).
And it’s not just airlines. I saw a hospital room designed for the obese- a very heavy duty hospital bed with overhead assists to help get the patient of of bed, a toilet supersized to accommodate an 800-pounder, etc. Of course, patients couldn’t be charged more for this- since medical care is a “right,” it’s all to be free of charge.
In a competitive market, lightweights would fly on Samoa Air while the more rotund would use their competitors.
Which just might force those competitors to raise their fares.
In any case, fuel is hardly the only cost to an airline for a flight. After fuel, labor is the largest expense- the flight, cabin and ground crews all expect to be paid. And presumably the airline wants to recover the capital cost of the aircraft (or lease payment), pay for its reservation system, administration, etc.
So, a more rational pricing scheme might be a base fare for the seat plus a per-pound/kilogram charge.
I’d think there would be a way to do this and avoid discrimination. Being obese is a choice. If you’re naturally heavy because you’re big and tall, that’s different than being obese. But for the most part, it’s basically impossible to be over about 225# without choosing (actively or passively) to be.
Not really a choice, at least for Samoans, who seem to have the genetic make-up to be big as a freaking house.
How does this not discriminate against men?
BVB nailed it. At bare minimum, for this to hold up legally an airline is going to have to set a base rate that takes into account things like gender, height, etc. as Albigensian suggested.
But aside from that, it’s impossible to distinguish biological factors for weight from behavioral factors without invading one’s privacy. At least, I’m guessing that’s what a U.S. court will say the second one asks it for an opinion.