Luxe Insider

May. 2nd, 2013

Should Passengers Pay by the Pound for Airfare?

passengers on plane
Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Dundanim
Weigh in on this one.

Since the cost of a first-class ticket already ensures that high-end customers pay a premium for their space at the front of the aircraft, it is unlikely that passengers flying first class would ever be charged by the pound for their ticket.

However, the weight of the passengers does impact fuel costs incurred by commercial airlines. If industry analysts have it their way, commercial airlines will soon be adding one more variable to their revenue calculations: the weight of the customer. The old profit model of per-passenger mile flown may one day add the weight of the passenger as well, because it takes more fuel to transport heavier people.
seats on airplane
Photo credit: Jorg Hackemann/Shutterstock

The statistics offered in a recently published study in the Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management state that by the numbers, it would distribute the cost of air travel more fairly among customers. Three new pricing models are presented: per pound of actual weight; a fixed base fare for average-weight passengers with airlines charging more or less accordingly; or three separate fares based on passengers being below-average weight, at it, or above it.

Bharat Bhatta, the research head of the study and an associate professor in Sogn og Fjordane University College in Norway, told NBC News that he likes the third option best, and went on to say that sooner or later he thinks that airlines will adopt this type of pricing. However, he does anticipate that such a policy could be “potentially contentious because it may be viewed as discriminatory against heavier people.”
passengers on airplane
Photo credit: Pressmaster /Shutterstock

Bhatta also stated that heavier fliers would receive more space for the extra fees. So, would airlines have to call them first class, business class, economy, and obese? How would a customer check-in? How could they order tickets in advance? How would an employee of an airline say to a customer, “I am sorry, ma’am, you're over the weight limit and must pay more” without getting slapped silly? How would airlines enforce such a policy without having employees getting pulverized?

Many airlines do have a policy in place that if a passenger cannot fit into one seat with the armrest down that two seats must be purchased. Samoa Air, the national airline of Samoa, is ahead of the curve on this one, as it has been charging its passengers by the pound since December. There has been no report on customers’ reaction to the new policy to date. No weigh!
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