25/03/2013 07:42 GMT | Updated 25/05/2013 06:12 BST

Flight Fat Tax: Heavier Air Passengers ‘Should Pay More', Says Academic Dr Bharat P Bhatta

Airlines should charge overweight passengers more for their plane tickets an academic has suggested.

The move would enable carriers to recoup the cost of the extra fuel required to carry them and could also mean falling costs and discounts for slimmer passengers

Writing in the Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management, Dr Bharat P Bhatta makes three proposals.

Dr Bharat P Bhatta believes airlines should charge overweight passengers more for their plane tickets to enable them to recoup the cost of the extra fuel required to carry them (file picture)

The first is a straightforward price per kilogram, the second is a fixed low fare with heavier passengers paying a surcharge and lighter passengers being offered discounts.

His final proposal suggests dividing passengers into heavy, normal and light bands and charging them accordingly.

Dr Bhatta, of the Sogn og Fjordane University College in Norway, believes the third option is the most suitable.

He writes: "Charging according to weight and space is a universally accepted principle, not only in transportation, but also in other services," he said.

"As weight and space are far more important in aviation than other modes of transport, airlines should take this into account when pricing their tickets."

Dr Ian Yeoman, editor of the Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management, agrees.

"For airlines, every extra kilogram means more expensive jet fuel must be burned, which leads to CO2 emissions and financial cost," he said.

"As the airline industry is fraught with financial difficulties, marginally profitable and has seen exponential growth in the last decade, maybe they should be looking to introduce scales at the check-in."


Writing for Aviation Week, Rupa Haria asks: “Imagine having to step on the scales when we show our passport to the check-in agent. Did you pack your own luggage? Yes. Are you carrying any sharp items? No. Did you eat a low-calorie breakfast this morning? Um.

“Then there’s the privacy issue. As with passenger screening areas, would airlines introduce a modesty screen to prevent prying eyes from leering and sneering while each passenger is being weighed? Would you want others, including your own traveling companions, to see exactly how much you weigh? Would it shame you into passing on the dessert tray in the future?”

It’s not the first time the concept of a so-called “fat tax” has been debated.

In 2009, United Airlines dealt with a PR nightmare for forcing passengers who were too fat to fit in one economy seat to buy another.

And, the ferry system in Washington state announced it would have to restructure capacity loads on boats to reflect the growing obesity rate in the area.

Southwest Airlines came under fire for announcing that, starting in March 2012, its subsidiary AirTran would require overweight passengers to purchase a second seat if they could not sit in one seat with the armrest lowered.

The Telegraph cites the example of one overweight passenger being escorted off an Air Transat flight from Gatwick to Toronto to see his dying aunt because he was unable to afford the £928 demanded by the airline for two seats.

British Airways provide free extension seat belts to larger passengers, but remind them they will have to buy an extra seat if they are still too large.