Last week, SmarterTravel.com asked readers to voice their opinions on an incendiary topic: whether or not obese airline passengers should be required to pay extra to fly. Controversy over how passengers who do not fit in one seat should be dealt with has been an issue with flyers for years. However, with the airlines adding extra charges for baggage and doing everything they can to eliminate excess weight on the plane (from ditching blankets and pillows to scrapping in-flight video systems) in order to save on fuel, it seems not unlikely that the airlines may be forced to confront the issue of weighty passengers head-on.
The vast majority of readers (69 percent) who voted in our poll believe the obese passengers should be forced to purchase an additional seat if they cannot fit in one. Twenty-two percent disagreed while 9 percent were unsure.
Reader Comments in Favor of Forcing Obese Passengers to Purchase Two Seats
- "Those of us who can fit in one seat should not have to suffer because obese people cannot. Unless they have some sort of medical condition, they need to buy two seats. I think the airlines have quite a battle ahead with this situation as it seems the amount of obese people continues to grow rapidly. The airlines will not have a choice but to address the situation."
- "Requiring anyone to sit next to an obese person is discrimination against the 'normal' person!"
- "Passengers who are forced to sit next to a weight-challenged fellow flyer should be compensated for the inconvenience. If I pay for a seat, I want my full seat. If the person next to me oozes his or her bulk into the space that I have paid for, then I want compensation in proportion to my loss."
- "Stop being so PC and tell it like it is. Body mass is not a handicap; it is a choice. Fat folks have to deal with the baggage that comes with the choices they make. It can even be a safety issue for the rest of the passengers on board. Airlines should post their policies loud and clear."
- " I think customers should be asked up-front whether they have any special needs such as being very tall, overweight, etc. Then the airline can inform the passenger of their policies regarding such special needs. The passenger should also be informed of every other passengers right to the full space they are entitled to. Unless the special needs passenger is willing to purchase the extra seat for his own comfort, he has no right to expect anyone else to forfeit their rightful space and therefore the passenger with special needs should be informed that he/she would be subject to being denied boarding rights."
Reader Comments Against Forcing Obese Passengers to Purchase Two Seats
- "I think this is discrimination against obese people. It would be the same thing as not letting someone fly because they were black."
- "I think that it is so unfair to punish the consumers, most of whom are loyal multi-flight purchasers, because of the higher costs of fuel. It boils down to pandering to a common base, and if you are in any way different, you are punished. It seems it is fair game to discriminate against the obese, many of whom are medically not at fault for their condition. Who's next? The wheelchair bound? They require manpower assistance, and this might cause additional manpower costs. Doesn't that sound appalling?"
- "What is the definition of obese? 200 pounds? 400 pounds? Who determines whether they fit in the seat or not? Is this just a way for airlines to make more money?"
- "Singling out individuals for public humiliation is not alright. Air travel has become an unpleasant enough experience as it is, without adding more us versus them aspects to the trip."
- "Why not have "special" seats (larger than a single, smaller than two together) to accommodate (at an additional cost?) It doesn't seem fair to force the purchase of a second seat AND to charge a fuel surcharge. After all, you're then dividing the weight between two spots."
When asked if airlines should charge fuel surcharges based on body weight, readers weren't so sure. Thirty-two percent said they favored the idea while 56 percent disagreed and 12 percent said they didn't know.
Reader Comments in Favor of Passengers Being Charged Fuel Surcharges Based on Body Weight
- "If I am charged extra for a heavy bag, obese people should be charged extra for their extra weight. It is not discrimination, it is fact. A person's weight and their luggage weight should be taken into account."
- "Make these people stand on the luggage scale, maybe a little humiliation will be incentive to start doing something about it."
- "Everyone should be mandatorily weighed with their luggage at the airport, then the pilot knows the exact weight on board when trying to lift off. We ship packages thru various shipping companies by size and weight, why not make the same requirements for people travel?"
Reader Comments Against Passengers Being Charged Fuel Surcharges Based on Body Weight
- "It makes no sense to charge by body weight because for every overweight passenger, there will be one or more (e.g. children) who are much smaller. In other words, it all evens out."
- "Next thing you know, very thin people will want to pay less because they don't use as much fuel!"
- "A skinny passenger with a lot of luggage may have a total weight equal to that of a large passenger with little luggage. All in all, I think this is a stupid direction for the airlines. They have enough bad publicity."
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