Friday, November 16, 2007

Second-hand fat?

Attention students of economics. Do you see an externality here? Or not?
Dr Tickell, a leading nutritionist and author, told the BBC that society should take a more hardline stance against obesity and get tough on fat airline passengers. He said that Australian airlines should impose charges on their overweight clients, as they do for excess baggage, because heavier loads increase fuel costs. It's not fair to single out those people who have a problem, which is already impacting greatly on their life, and make them feel like pariahs

"I fly Sydney to Perth - five hours - and being totally disadvantaged by some huge person next to me literally flopping over into my seat. Why should I pay the same as them?" he asked.
But the chief executive of the Australasian Society for the Study of Obesity, Dr Tim Gill, said penalty charges should not be imposed on overweight passengers. "It's not fair to single out those people who have a problem, which is already impacting greatly on their life, and make them feel like pariahs," he said.

A spokesman for the Australian budget airline, Jetstar, said it had no plans to charge larger passengers more for their seats. Airlines are, however, monitoring long-term trends in the size and shape of their customers, the BBC's Phil Mercer in Sydney says.

Isn't there a straightforward solution here? If there is an externality the airline could eliminate it and increase its profit by charging the obese passenger more for a bigger seat. (No, I don't want to be the airline employee who enforces this policy.)



Blogger nick said...

Yes, there is a straighforward solution here:

Impose an overall weight limit for each passenger and his/her luggage.

Less body weight = more luggage allowance.
Fat = less luggage, or pay excess luggage surcharge.

This would work well as a family benefit (marketing!!): Dad pays practically only for his seat and uses up the kids' lugagge allowance.

11:47 AM  
Blogger nzm said...

Great idea Nick!

I once had to witness the disgusting display of 2 overly obese people (husband and wife) at a JFK gate complaining LOUDLY about how they should get bumped into Business Class (on Economy tickets) because there was "no way that they were going to fit into those tiny Economy seats."

And you know what?

They got them. As we shuffled onto the plane for the flight to LAX on a crowded plane, there they were - sitting back sipping on their glasses of champagne and OJ - 2 glasses each, of course.

If I had been on the gate, I would have given them 2 Economy seats each with raised armrests, and then upgraded the poor people who were due to sit beside them.

1:48 PM  
Blogger John B. Chilton said...

I'd have done the same nzm. But we must pity the gate employee who is not backed up by the airline.

I'd love to know what airline capitulated. They sure won the hearts and minds of the economy class passengers on that flight, eh?

(Goes back to thinking about how kind gate employees have been to quietly give me an aisle seat because I'm tall. Or is it because I'm a loyal BA customer?)

3:51 PM  
Blogger nzm said...

John: It must be because you're a tall, loyal BA customer!

The incident I mentioned was on a United flight.

7:44 PM  

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