Airfares by The Pound?

A tiny airline in Samoa has begun charging fares based on the weight of its customers. Why this is, and isn’t, a useful idea. Plus, everything you need to know about aircraft weight.

It’s interesting sometimes, the stories that get media traction.

This time it’s the one about the tiny Samoan airline that has decided to charge fares based on a passenger’s weight. The move has touched off discussions about whether such an idea makes sense for mainline carriers as well. After all, Americans are quite a bit larger than they used to be, and doesn’t that extra weight affect an airplane’s performance? Is it just a matter of time before passengers on United, Delta or American are asked to stand on a scale, like their suitcases, when checking in?

Well, no. It makes sense if, like Samoa Air, you’re a company operating light, ten-seat aircraft in a region with extremely high rates of obesity, but not if you’re a major carrier with a fleet of Boeings or Airbuses. There are some touchy social and civil liberty aspects that probably make the idea controversial, if not untenable, but let’s take a look at the practical side:

To begin with, passengers account for surprisingly small percentage of a plane’s overall weight. As a general rule, the larger the plane, the less of a factor it is. That sounds counter-intuitive, but consider the example of a Boeing 747″>Boeing 747. A 747 typically seats around 420 people, and its maximum allowable takeoff weight is 875,000 pounds. Four hundred and twenty people and their carry-on luggage weigh in at just under 80,000 pounds. That’s less than ten percent — ten percent! — of the plane’s maximum heft. Most of what it weighs comes from the mass of the jet itself, plus the fuel load, which runs into the hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Airlines use standard approximations for people and luggage. The values — currently 190 pounds per person, including carry-ons, and 30 pounds per checked bag — are adjusted slightly higher during winter to account for heavier clothing. (Please don’t ask me about trans-climate routes, i.e. London to Cape Town or New York to Rio; I honestly don’t know if the origin or destination season is used.)

After the crash of a 19-seater in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2003, ten pounds were added to the standard passenger weights, and five to the luggage. What happened in Charlotte was not the consequence of an overweight or out-of-balance condition, but it nonetheless drew attention to the topic, and the FAA responded by acknowledging our expanding waistlines. It’s possible the numbers could be upped again in the not too distant future, particularly with passengers lugging aboard larger and heavier carry-ons than ever before.

Crews are schooled in the finer points of weight and balance calculations, but in practice it’s the planners, loaders and dispatchers who crunch the numbers. The boarding tallies are added to something called the BOW — basic operating weight — which is a book value of the ship itself, replete with all furnishings, supplies, and crew. (This BOW is adjusted time to time, such when components are removed or added.) Compounded with fuel and cargo, the result is the total gross “ramp” weight. Fuel used for taxiing is subtracted to reveal the takeoff weight.

Around the time of push-back or shortly thereafter, a detailed manifest is sent to the cockpit printer. It shows the passenger total, fuel and cargo totals, center of gravity information, and gives us all of the required takeoff speeds (V1, VR, V2) and flight control settings (how many degrees of flaps, the stabilizer trim setting, etc.), for each possible departure runway.

And yes, for many planes, especially bigger ones, the maximum takeoff weight is substantially higher than the limit for landing. Thus if a return or diversion is required, a certain amount of fuel will need to be burned away first. Or, on larger jets that are so equipped, it can be jettisoned overboard. An overweight landing will be made if need be, but unless things are urgent we’ll usually take the time to get within limits. Even on planes with a fuel dump system, this can take 30 minutes or more. (No, the fuel does not come splashing down on people. Unless in an urgent emergency, dumping takes place at relatively high altitude and the fuel dissipates long before reaching the ground.)

For a better sense of how much of a plane’s poundage passengers account for, here are some comparisons of different aircraft models. Most takeoffs aren’t made at maximum allowable weight, it’s true, and neither are most planes fully occupied; passenger load factors average around 80 percent. For simplicity, however, these examples assume max takeoff weight and every seat taken. Weight limitations can vary plane to plane, as can seating configurations; these are typical totals:

Boeing 747-400: Max takeoff weight: 875,000 pounds.
420 passenger and carry-ons: 79,800 pounds (9.1 percent of total)

Boing 777-200: Max takeoff weight: 647,000 pounds.
275 passenger and carry-ons: 52,250 pounds (8.0 percent of total)

Airbus A330-300: Max takeoff weight: 513,000 pounds.
240 passenger and carry-ons: 45,600 pounds (8.8 percent of total)

Boeing 757-200: Max takeoff weight: 255,000 pounds.
170 passengers and carry-ons: 32,300 pounds (12.6 percent of total)

Boeing 737-800: Max takeoff weight: 170,000 pounds.
155 passengers and carry-ons: 29,450 pounds (17.3 percent of total)

Airbus A320: Max takeoff weight: 166,000 pounds.
150 passengers and carry-ons: 28,500 pounds (17.2 percent of total)

Bombardier CRJ-700: Max takeoff weight: 74,800 pounds.
70 passengers and carry-ons: 13,300 pounds (17.7 percent of total)

Embraer ERJ-145: Max takeoff weight: 48,400 pounds.
50 passengers and carry-ons: 9,500 pounds (19.6 percent of total)

Dash-8 100 turboprop: Max takeoff weight: 34,500 pounds.
37 passengers and carry-ons: 7,030 pounds (20.4 percent of total)

Beechcraft 1900 turboprop: Max takeoff weight: 17,000 pounds.
19 passengers and carry-ons: 3,610 pounds (21.2 percent of total)

Little Samoa Air, who got all of this started, uses a twin-engine propeller plane called a BN-2 Islander (like the one I took to Kaieteur Falls, in Guyana). The Islander maxes out at around 6,600 pounds and has room for nine passengers accounting for up to 26 percent of the plane’s total. In the case of a Cessna Caravan, a popular singe-engine utility transport used all around the world, a full passenger load is 30 percent. For the small commuter and air taxi outfits who operate such planes, the girth of its customers matters a lot more than it does to an airline flying 747s. Should you fly with one of these companies, that 190-pound standard no longer applies. Embarrassed or not, you’ll be asked to divulge your exact weight, and your bags too will be weighed. This is nothing new. What’s different about Samoa Air is that it’s the first airline to actually charge higher fares to fatter passengers.

No, we’re not going to see this in the United States, though it does stir up some provocative questions…

Even if heavyset passengers can’t much affect a jetliner’s performance, there are definitely some implications when it comes to cabin safety and comfort. Maybe you’ve seen those seat belt extensions used on occasion? People are bigger than they used to be, but airline seats are not. Should passengers of a certain size be required to purchase two seats? Should they be prohibited from sitting in an exit row? Should airlines increase seat dimensions and legroom with larger customers in mind?

That last one is basically a nonstarter with profit margins as thin as they are (no pun intended). As for the rest, I really don’t know what the best course of action might be. I certainly don’t want to offend anybody, so perhaps these are topics (here comes more stupid wordplay) that I’d best not weigh in on.


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38 Responses to “Airfares by The Pound?”
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  1. Anonymous says:

    The facts are that as you go to more Western societies the average weight increases significantly, it is not entirely genetic that Americans are 10% heavier than Canadian people it is diet and culture related. Yes Asians are shorter and that is why they weigh so much less but on average they also have better, healthier diets causing less obesity. The average American is 23 KG/50.6 pounds heavier than the average Asian. For 520 passengers that is 11,960kg/26,312 pounds more passenger weight on an American flight than an Asian flight.

    Americans are not disabled, they’re fat – deal with it, fat people in your country made up some disability rules to excuse their poor health. It’s like the tobacco industry advertising – a crock of shit that is killing you. Contributing to costing your country 17% of it’s GDP in healthcare – nearly 3 times your military budget! The top cause of financial distress in America is insufficient financial planning for medical emergencies (not saving enough $ or having sufficient insurance for medical conditions requiring hospitalization). One size fits all is PC nonsense that defies logical reasoning. Sensitivity is for nipples.

    Pay per KG/pound makes the most sense to me you are then just paying for what you consume, the fare listed as PER KG when booked and then you just get weighed on the floor on the way through security/check in automatically when you get your boarding pass with your luggage.

  2. […] or female passenger, but in total the combined weight of all its passengers is usually only around 10-20% of the whole plane’s […]

  3. Gary says:

    I can see a time when they scan your boarding pass when you go through the security scanner. The floor of the scanner could easily include a scale to assign a weight to your boarding pass number.

  4. Ben says:

    A delicate subject which you have handled well. I am opposed to charging overweight pax for many reasons. But the best argument is simply one of practicality.

    To make such a scheme work, passengers would need to be weighed upon check in, and then pay accordingly. After all, what’s to stop people at the time of booking saying they are half of their actual weight? So for a fully booked 747 – 420 people need to be weighed.

    Even if the weighing and payment process took just an extra 2 minutes per person, you’d be looking at adding 14 hours to check in. Fourteen! The airlines would obviously need to add more check in staff, likely 5 to 6, not to mention the installation of scales, expanding the check in desks etc. Suddenly any supposed profit achieved from charging overweight people is gone.

  5. Danny says:

    I think luggage weight should be factored by a persons size. Over weight should be factored by BMI.

    A 200lb person should have twice the luggage allowance of a 100 lb person and if the BMI is “normal”, not pay over weight charges.

    If charge-by-weight does begin, it should really be charge by BMI
    or some other medical statistic.

  6. Ian MacDonell says:

    This reminds me of a “Herman” cartoon by the late,great Jim Unger in which a small man is complaining that he has to pay the same fare as an obese passenger. Having spent quite some time in the South Pacific I can attest to the fact that those of Polynesian ancestry are often quite, shall we say, “hefty”. Weighing passengers seems to be a very reasonable thing to do, political correctness be damned.

  7. Too Tall says:

    Patrick – thanks for another good one. Anybody care to talk about the too tall rather than the too wide? When United and others started having Economy and Economy Plus I couldn’t fit anymore into an Economy seat. Eventually I had to get my doctor to measure my femur and put a Letter of Medical Necessity on file with my employer to allow me to purchase, if necessary, an Economy Plus seat. United used to keep my need for this tied to my frequent flyer account, and would automatically open the access to EP seats when I put in my FF number. But now that they have merged with Continental they have changed the FF account numbers, and lost the info. I have to beg for a seat every time.

    Should the airlines be required to give a minimum leg room longer than it is now? Should they have different classes of length and width? If so, should they just allow people to pay for them? Or should there be some scheme for prioritizing based on people’s actual size, so that the very tall and yes, the very obese, would get priority, and mid-size people could pay extra for these seats only if they weren’t already full of the tall and fat?

    The first time I encountered E and EP seating was on a non-stop from Dulles to Narita (13 hours and 47 minutes scheduled time) and I couldn’t fit in E. The purser said “we’re ready for push-back as soon as that gentleman takes his seat”, causing everyone to glare at me. A flight attendant was pounding her fists on my thighs, trying to get my legs into the seat so we could depart. Finally a petite woman with an EP seat offered to trade with me, but only for take-off and landing; the rest of the flight I had to stand up in the galley, as she wanted to snooze in her seat.

    What should airlines do to accommodate people like me?

    • Planes, trains, and automob... says:

      What should airlines do?

      Offer you EP seats that fit your physical needs and charge you accordingly.

      Super obese people must pay for 2 seats, when they can’t fit in a normal sized seat. There is no reason why a super sized person in another dimension (height) who can’t fit shouldn’t avail themselves of a seat that is mpe appropriate for their size, yet at less than double the cost of economy.

      There’s no reason why US airlines couldn’t someday implement total weight based (person + baggage) pricing. There is also no reason why small people should subsidize the cost of transporting larger passengers, no matter the reason for the heavier weight. It’s wouldn’t be a punishment for immoral behavior. It would just be a more equitable distribution of payment based more directly on actual costs.

      [BTW I’m not the tiniest of persons (average weight for males) so I’m not advocating a position that would benefit me. In fact, as a guy, I meant end up paying slightly higher than average, and more than now. But children and small women cost less to transport, so they need not be chatted the same as a 7 foot tall guy, who’s too cheap to pay slightly more for a seat with more (adequate) legroom.

      Ask not what your airline can do for you. Ask what you can do for yourself (and by extension, your fellow passengers).

  8. Pillai says:

    Patrick – not sure if this was asked and answered elsewhere – but why is it so hard to put some strain gauges on each undercarriage and use some algorithm to accurately calculate the total weight of the plane?

    It cannot be because we do not have the technology, correct?

  9. UncleStu says:

    “No, we’re not going to see this in the United States.”

    Ooooh yes we will, Patrick.

    All the technical details are irrelevant on larger planes – just distractions in the arguments to come.

    They’ve found ways to charge for everything else, even bags that are necessary for almost any trip and, within reasonable limits, were always free.

    Great article as usual.

  10. Jeff Latten says:

    People struggling to put their carry-ons in the overhead bins is one of the chief factors in why it takes so long to board the aircraft and get ready to push back. Oversize luggage should have been screened at the gate by the people taking your boarding pass. They see enough of this stuff all day long to spot an oversize item. Have a size checker there and either it fits or gets checked, and charged as appropriate, while that passenger steps out of line and the boarding continues. If you yourself can not put the piece in the overhead bin without endangering other passengers then you should have to check it. Cabin flight attendants could be looking for this. It takes way too long to get everyone boarded, sat and strapped, and all luggage bins closed.

  11. Bill says:

    Thank you for another intelligent, informative article!

  12. Siegfried says:

    “…currently 190 pounds per person, including carry-ons…”

    First of all I am amazed that I get, including carry-on, about 20 pounds for free.

    Second I am glad, that you wrote this article. The discussion about being charged for weight is going on and off in Europe since the CEO of a well-known low cost airline has brought up this idea for their fares, although it was never implemented.

    I can understand the idea behind it, including the fuel consumption or potential additional airfreight capacities but seeing the numbers you provided I can see that the idea is really impractical for large transport aircrafts.

    When it comes to carry-on I can only repeat the sentence I told one guy who was clearly struggling with his over-sized wheeled carry-on luggage, almost dumping it on my head: “If you can’t carry it, I do not consider it carry-on.”

  13. Roger Wolff says:

    Powered or unpowered aircraft alike have something called a glide ratio. It is the distance you can fly (unpowered) in miles when you are a mile up (or whatever unit you chose). (that’s just one possible definition of many)

    This number pops up everywhere. For example: If your are in a powered airplane at level flight, divide the airplane all-up weight by the glide ratio and you have the thrust the motors are providing.

    So… to transport a 100 ton aircraft with a glide ratio of 18 over a distance of 1800 miles. the motors need to provide a 100/18 tonne thrust over that 1800 mile trip. That’s 10000 mile-tonnes of thrust. This is a measure of energy.

    To transport 1kg more load, however small compared to the total weight of the plane, the motors will have to provide 100 kg-miles of extra thrust. This costs fuel. That one kg is unlikely to change the fuel calculations that the pilots perform, but it will change the amount of fuel left in the tanks at the end of the trip.

    Now…. just like with rockets, the fuel for the second half of the trip has to be taken along on the first half. So, if you fly a certain distance, you can calculate the amount of fuel you need as a multiplication of the total weight of the plane without fuel and a certain factor. This factor won’t be “1”, because then you’d have to take off with the same amount of fuel that your empty plane weighs. But “at takeoff 30% of the weight is fuel” is a realistic situation. So the factor would be about “50%”: Add in half the weight of the plane in fuel.

    As there are people who weigh 50kg and people who weigh 150kg, having the heavier people pay for 50kg of extra fuel would surely make sense. Their weight actually CONSUMES that amount of extra fuel.

  14. Speed says:

    “Airbus is to offer airlines the option of an extra-wide 20in (51cm) seat on its A320 family aircraft which it believes will allow carriers to generate additional ancillary revenue.

    “At present the airframer configures its narrowbody with three 18in-wide seats in each row of the economy-class cabin. However, under the new concept, two seats would be reduced to a width of 17in, with the third growing to 20in.

    United (and possibly others) already charges more for additional legroom, window seats and aisle seats so it is likely that wider seats would/could also carry a premium.

    • Designgauge says:

      Interesting concept – mixing different width seats in the same row. How about making the middle seat in every set of three seats 20 inches wide, the window and the aisle 17? Would even out the desirability of that middle seat.

  15. Tom Hill says:

    All I want is all the seat I paid for…

  16. Bryant says:

    If american airlines do this they will be sued out of their businesses. Any jury with obese people on it would see to that.

    We have an Americans With Disabilities” act that would prevent this and would support the lawsuits. No, weight is NOT a matter of choice in many cases – it is a matter of genetics, age, gender, physical ability/disability and countless other factors – and thus falls under the ADA. Someone in a wheelchair who is 75, for example, will probably not be able to control their weight by any exercise that they can reasonably do.

    Thin/non-obese people should “walk a mile in their shoes” before trying to excoriate overweight people. But, isn’t our whole society becoming one that would like to outlaw all flaws that the particular individual doesn’t have.

    • Dave Jones says:

      “weight is NOT a matter of choice in many cases”

      Choice is certainly not the word I used. People don’t directly choose to be heavy. But they don’t exercise the good judgement and self-control necessary to avoid it.

      About 36% of USA adults are obese (BMI >= 30). A huge amount of the problem is behavioural/cultural. Their cousins in other countries (Europe, Africa, etc) have common ancestors and thus the same genetics – but with much less obesity. Coincidentally, they walk/cycle more, eat less fat & sugar, more whole-food, smaller portions, etc.

      There is an obvious truth here! The only reason one might not see it is because it’s an uncomfortable truth.

      I am not without sympathy for Americans, who find themselves in a country that makes it particularly easy to make unhealthy choices. Plus they’re surrounded by other overweight people, which provides a feeling of normality. But the fact is, they are not purely victims of fate – for the most part it’s about their own (in)actions.

      “Someone in a wheelchair who is 75, for example, will probably not be able to control their weight by any exercise that they can reasonably do.“

      Nobody controls their weight by exercise alone. It’s always a function of calories in AND calories out. And it’s usually much easier to improve calorific balance via nutrition than via exercise (you need to do a LOT of exercise to burn off calories). Correspondingly, most elderly wheelchair-users where I live are not obese – sensible nutrition suffices.

      “Thin/non-obese people should “walk a mile in their shoes” before trying to excoriate overweight people. But, isn’t our whole society becoming one that would like to outlaw all flaws that the particular individual doesn’t have.“

      Excoriation? Outlawing? This is silly straw man rhetoric which doesn’t reflect the moderate and sensible discussion above.

    • Designgauge says:

      Under Federal anti-discrimination rules, fattness is not one of the protected categories, like gender, religion, race etc. so there’s no legal impediment.

  17. Don says:

    In the 1950s, as a boy growing up in Hilo, Hawai’i, and flying via Hawaiian to Honolulu regularly (DC3 and then Convair 340(?)) I was always asked my weight, as were my parents.

    “And what is your weight, please?”

    My mother, who went to great lengths to avoid telling her age, always seemed quite happy to speak her weight.

    I’m pretty sure I remember flights where either bags or people were left behind because the DC3 was too heavily-loaded.

  18. me says:

    The argument that truly obese people should pay for an extra seat isn’t unreasonable. But, if we’re going to do that, these people should also be required to pay for an extra seat or otherwise pay more:

    * People with very wide shoulders or hips, even if they are otherwise thin (these people often encroach more than really fat people built on small frames);

    * People who can’t help but use the seat in front of them every time they get up and sit down. They are using my seat during the flight, just like the fat guy.

    * Children who are allowed to kick the seat in front of them. Again, they are using my seat when they kick me.

    * People who carry large bags on the plane. They are taking up more cabin space than people who do not do this. They are also taking up other passengers’ time, since it takes them longer to load and unload from the plane.

    I’m sure there are more examples. I’m not being sarcastic here. I think it’s reasonable to charge people based on how much space they take up. But I think we should be across-the-board about it if that’s what we’re doing.

  19. Tim says:

    Many US airlines already do do the thing with charging for an extra seat. But to avoid PR disasters, they tend to err on the side of not charging it. I’d guesstimate that 25% of the people heavy enough that they should be charged aren’t.

  20. Dave Jones says:

    I am fortunate enough to live in Europe, where it’s unusual for a passenger to overflow beyond their seat. For their neighbours, this must be impractical (reduces your ability to sit in a position that’s comfortable for you) and unpleasant – not because we hate fat people but for reasons that are hard-wired into human psychology (personal space).

    I would be annoyed with any airline who put me in this position and if they weren’t able to move me or my neighbour on request that would be totally unacceptable and I would boycott them in future.

    *How* the airline avoids the problem is not really my business. I would prefer them not to provide extra space (multiple seats or higher class) free of charge, because ultimately this increases my ticket-price (fewer passengers can be carried without significant cost reduction), but I don’t demand that. I only demand that I travel in comfort.

    Personally, I think a sensible policy would be to base the seat configuration on the size of your passengers and charge those who are significantly over average and thus need extra space.

    No, this is not unfair discrimination. Most individuals have considerable control over their girth. This is evidenced by greatly different obesity rates in countries with the same ancestry (e.g. caucasian Americans vs the caucasian Europeans). If your decisions cause you to require significantly more resources than the average person, why shouldn’t you bear the cost?

    However that’s just what would be *sensible*. What is prudent for an airline is a different question. Public & press reactions are not particularly rational or selfless…

  21. Vinny says:

    I can’t dispute any of this. I can only add that it will indeed be sad when Bill Cosby passes.

  22. Guy Hamilton says:

    @ Tom
    It wouldn’t be up to the TSA or whatever the security agency was called in the country in question. It would be up to the airline. Don’t the airlines alrady weigh luggage? They do where I fly.
    Of course the charge is about revenue. This would just be a fairer way to collect it.
    And, in response to your snide comment about “skinny people”, I am not making this as a self-serving comment. I’m not fat but I’m not skinny. Just slightly more than I should be.

  23. Tom says:

    Of course this is a non stater. The logistics alone would make the TSA look like the Swiss Railroad. When do you weigh everybody? How do you handle the up charge or over payment?

    And Guy, charging for bags or excess baggage has nothing to do with the weight involved. It’s all about revenue.

    On thing this is though is another chance for skinny people to feel superior.

  24. Guy Hamilton says:

    I agree that the passengers’ weights are not a large part of the total. However, since the airlines have fairly low limits on luggage allowances it does seem that they are interested in these figures. In light of that it seems absurd that someone who weighs 50 kg and someone who weighs 100 kg should have the same allowance. At present the economy checked luggage allowance is 20 kg and the carry-on is 7 kg. The lighter person with full luggage still weighs less than than the heavier with no luggage.
    It would seem to be much fairer and more logical to weigh each passenger, along with carry on plus checked luggage, and set a total allowed weight with excess charged for anything over that. If the limit were set at, say, 120 kg, our 100 kg passenger would be allowed to carry 20 kg, checked and carry-on, before hitting the excess charge point whilst the 50 kg passenger may carry 70 kg with no charge.
    Fair and practical.
    And yes, fat people over a certain limit should be required to pay for two seats. I had the distinct displeasure of flying in the aisle seat next to an immense person. Fortunately, it was a short, about one hour, flight but even so it was most uncomfortable. I was hanging into the aisle and being hit by anyone passing because part of my seat space was taken up by the rolls of fat flowing over the armrest. And, of course, as do many fat people, this person sweated profusely and odiferously.
    And yes, they should not be permitted to sit in an exit row. There is a serious risk of their blocking the exit and causing the deaths of many other people.

    • Mark says:

      On my last flight, I was sitting one row behind the exit row. The couple who were in the exit row were relatively obese and I suspect they would have difficulty lifting the 50 pounds of the emergency door. I realize the airlines don’t want to offend passengers but I agree with the previous comment that people obviously in poor health should not be given the responsibility to operate the emergency exit doors, should that be necessary.

    • Eva says:

      I can see volume being a problem. 70 kg worth of luggage will rarely fit on a typical carry on size allowance. I have not had experiences with overweight neighbors on flights, but I have often seen people having to check their carry on because there is not enough room in the overhead bins.

      I think the problem is not yet big enough to be addressed by new policies. I doubt major airlines will do anything about it anytime soon.

    • mike says:

      the weights on luggage is also about worker safety, union rules and revenue streams, not weight safety.

    • Wanderley says:

      I’m obese and I mostly agree that people like me should pay extra to fly. But boy are two seats a raw deal for us. You pay double but that doesn’t really translate in doubling your comfort, because you can’t really sit in the middle of two seats and you’ll only be able to spread on one side, not both.

      Why not have seats for obese people that are 50% wider than a normal seat? Instead of 3-seat clusters (probably the most common seat arrangement), why not have a 2-seat cluster and charge 50% more? That’s it. I’m speaking for myself, but I would never consider buying a normal economy seat if there was one 50% wider for 50% more.

      But right now we obese people either have to pay double or much more if we choose business class (whose seats are usually badly designed, with most extra space wasted on those thick armrests).

      • Wendi says:

        I know JetBlue already does this, they have certain rows on their planes that offer bigger seats and more leg room that cost more than all the other seats. I flew with them a year ago and all of those rows were empty because people here in the US are very cheap when it comes to flying. Several passengers asked to be moved to those seats but scoffed at the idea of having to pay extra in order to move over there. Hey if you want more space, you pay for it. Same concept when you have storage space, a 10×10 unit is going to cost more than a 5×5 unit. Why flying passengers cannot understand this logic is beyond me. Luckily I am a very small female and I fit in their seats comfortably so I don’t have the problem with having to have more room except when I am smooshed against the window on a 6 hr flight because the two people sitting next to me make 600+lbs combined. If I could know ahead of time how heavy the person is sitting next to me was, it would almost make it worth it to buy the more expensive seat.

        • Ian MacDonell says:

          Speaking up for Jet Blue, I’ve flown them return Seattle to New York and found their seating more generous than usual. I’m 6 foot 2 inches, and often find seating tight on other airlines.

      • Vince Mokaloka says:

        How about you get on a treadmill and lay off the Dunkin Donuts and Big Macs?

    • Jim Houghton says:

      The low limits on baggage weight have more to do with creating a profit center than with getting the plane safely off the ground.

      On the other hand, each pound of weight takes a certain amount of fuel to get it to its destination. Why should I, weighing in at 180, subsidize the fuel costs for a 300-pounder by paying the same ticket price?

      It’s a head-scratcher, all right.

    • Diane says:

      So if we’re not skinny, we should pay for two seats, right? But how about those people who actually DO do this, for one reason or another, and wind up having to relinquish the extra seat because another passenger complains that there’s an unused seat he or she wants? And who is to determine just what obese is? Do we weigh passengers? Or measure their backsides? Finally, while we’re thinking about regulating seat usage, how do we handle the guys who feel it’s important to spread their legs wide into others’ leg room? As an old lady with a sarcastic sense of humor, I’m often tempted to tell them not to worry about the family jewels getting squeezed to nothing–and to put their legs together!! Or giving them a swift kick!