Newsweek and Forbes have weighed in on whether airlines are likely to charge passengers more if they weigh significantly more than the typical person of their height and age. They say: Fat chance.
Not that the expanding American waistline hasn't affected the airlines. Forbes cites government statistics to say that "the average weight of an American has increased 24 pounds since 1960." Writer Emily Stewart then does the math:
Airlines flew 735 million passengers last year. Multiply that by 24 pounds and airlines are flying 17.6 billion pounds of extra weight around. It takes roughly a gallon of jet fuel to move 100 pounds on a domestic flight. That means 176.4 million gallons of fuel, costing $538 million (at an industry average price of $3.05 a gallon)
Newsweek cites similar talked to a variety of industry experts, however, and decides that the airlines have no practical way of charging passengers for perceived excess weight.
One reason: The airlines might be sued for discrimination. Here's a quote:
Rebecca Puhl, director of research at Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, thinks weight should be a protected category, like race or gender, which would make discrimination against fat people illegal. "Some people can diet, exercise, do everything right, and still have a tough time losing and keeping weight off," she says.
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UPDATE Aug. 5: Despite what you may have heard on blogs or on TV news, it is not true that AirAsia X, a Malaysian airline, will charge passengers by weight. "We have not planned nor even considered charging passengers by weight," says the airline, countering a report in the publication Travel Today.