Friday, June 26, 2009

A Growing Controversy

As the airline industry struggles, it has looked to put a premium on every aspect of flying - now you pay more not just for a seat in first class, but to check baggage, to get more legroom and yes, in most cases, to get food. There's even been talk of charging to use the restroom.

Another idea that has entered the realm of possibility is charging more for obese passengers. They might be required to purchase two seats or to upgrade to first class on crowded flights and if neither of those options is available, could be bumped to the next available flight.

While this is perhaps only indirectly related to the main topic of this blog, obesity is obviously related to food, and the debate is an interesting one. Obesity has been an increasing problem for years now and it seems that as it has become more prevalent, the issues dealing with it are popping up everywhere (menu calorie counts, soda taxes etc.).

CNN today digs into the idea of how airlines are dealing with heavier passengers. But had an excellent discussion of the controversy of the idea of a "fat tax" a few months back when United Airlines decided to add such a thing to their policy.

It's easy to see how such a policy would be controversial. There's a sense of discrimination. Many defend obesity as something not easily changeable for many people. So instituting policies that target them seems to say they are in a different class and that they must pay for being that way. But those in favor of a "fat tax" say that people who are not overweight are paying for their seats too and shouldn't have to be made uncomfortable because they end up next to people taking up more than their fair share of space.

In discussing this issue, one friend said, "students often pay less for tickets than non-students do. frequent travelers are treated better by airlines than non-frequent travelers (which ends up being a form of economic/class discrimination). airplanes are not democracies. you get what you pay for."

It seems that for now the tide is in favor of the extra charge for overweight people. It will be interesting to see if that changes if and when overweight people become the majority of the flying public.

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