First there was the obesity tax. Now there is the obesity surcharge for airfares.
Early last year, United Airlines started charging extra-wide passengers for an extra seat. Airline seats are designed for an average-sized person and passengers who do not fit this category need to have seatbelt extenders and lowered arm rests – at the discomfort and the inconvenience of the passenger in the neighboring seat. According to the United Airlines website site:
- are unable to fit into a single seat in the ticketed cabin;
- are unable to properly buckle the seatbelt using a single seatbelt extender; and/or
- are unable to put the seat’s armrests down when seated.
If no unused seats are available on the ticketed flight, then the customer must either purchase an upgrade to a cabin with available seats that address the above-listed scenarios, or change his or her ticket to the next available flight and purchase a second seat in addition to the one already purchased. If a customer meeting any of the above-listed criteria cannot be accommodated next to an empty seat and chooses not to upgrade or change flights and purchase a ticket for an additional seat, he or she will not be permitted to board the flight.
United Airlines was one of the first of the major airlines to implement such a policy. Another was Southwest Airlines.
Last week, media reports indicated that the alliance Air France-KLM might follow suit starting February 1. However, the airlines that they have plans for implementing an obesity surcharge. According to a released statement,
They recommend, however, that extra-wide passengers should buy a second seat at 75% of the normal price, a recommendation that was in place since 2005.
“It is not an obligation; we suggest to such passengers they buy a second seat for their own comfort and in order to be sure the seats are adapted to their needs. If the plane is not full, they can get a refund.”
What do you think?
Is it fair for airlines to charge overweight passenger extra? Is it fair to the other average-sized passengers? Is obesity surcharge discriminatory? Is it an effective measure to fight the obesity problem?