Should Fat Fliers Pay More?

The debate over how to accommodate obese fliers on planes has long led some travelers to ask: why not just charge heavier passengers more?

Now the concept is getting support from a European economist, who argues asking fliers to pay according to their body weight is "intuitive, logical and consistent with simple mathematics and economics."

In a study published in the Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management this month, Bharat Bhatta points out it takes more fuel to transport heavier people and contends obese fliers produce more wear and tear on airline seats. So a pay-as-you-weigh system would distribute the cost of air travel more fairly among passengers, Bhatta argues.

He suggests three possible models for airlines:

Fares according to actual weight, in which carriers would set a fixed rate per pound so that a person weighing 130 pounds would pay half the airfare of a 260 pound person.

A fixed "base fare" for average weight passengers, with airlines either charging an extra fee for heavier fliers or offering a refund to skinnier ones.

Three separate fares based on whether passengers are at, below, or above average weight.

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