Samoa Air Charging Passengers by Weight. Good idea?
Should bigger passengers pay more to fly on Samoa Air? Flying has long lost its glamour appeal for a bevy of reasonsâ€“among them the pesky charges airlines impose on baggage, meals and pillowsâ€“some air carriers charge to pick your own seat ahead of time. Now Samoa Air has stepped into new territory: the tiny South Pacific airline has a new policy charging passengers by how much they, and their luggage, weigh.
We road warriors all have our airline stories, including ones of sitting next to someone who is, well, on the portly side. During a 14-hour flight last year my six-foot frame was wedged between an enormous oil rig worker whose mass, well, impinged on my seat. Not that I was going to say anything: it was a long flight, I had a few supplements and prescriptions to knock me out, and anyway he was flying home because his brother "had too much vodka and decided to play Russian roulette with his rifle." Mental amputation, not confrontation, was the better bet for me on that long and very uncomfortable haul.
The Economist's witty Gulliver blog has long covered the touchy issue of airline passengers and their weight. And true, the simple laws of physics make it obvious that transporting bigger people consumes more fuel. To that end, Gulliver calls Samoa Airâ€™s decision "an inspired piece of marketing." Others who do not view everything from an MBA's lens may differ on this charge by weight policy.
The problem is trying to address the issue: no airline has been able to address this issue tactfully. Southwest Airlinesâ€™ policy of requiring large passengers to buy an extra seat resulted in a lawsuit. Alaska Airlinesâ€™ policy is a tad more delicate. According to the blog Gadling, overweight passengers on United Airlines have to "prove" seat belts go all the way down. Yes, obesity is a health problem here in the U.S. But is public humiliation really the answer? And this has long been a problem for companies outside the commercial aviation industry. Years ago, 24-Hour Fitness attempted to appeal to those who were overweight with an ad campaign featuring aliens that blared, "Whey they come, they will eat the fat ones first." Talk about an epic fail, pre-hashtag days.
Samoa Air aircraft photo courtesy TE News.
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