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Should obese airplane passengers pay more?

By Laura MacNeil
updated February 21, 2017

Thanks to everyone who posted comments on my earlier blog post, A Question of Weight. I'm overwhelmed by the response! It seems that most everyone agrees that the issue of overweight passengers on airplanes is a serious problem. What to do about it, though, is the subject of (a lot of) debate!

Some readers pointed out how the size of seats in coach class hasn't expanded, even as the average weight of Americans has increased. With airline seats being uncomfortable for most passengers even in the best of circumstances, you were outraged at the notion of having to give up any seat space to someone else.

And, thanks to your comments, this is what I learned: Obese or overweight passengers don't want to take up others' space any more than seat neighbors want to share it, and they might be willing to pay for extra space—but when they follow the current airline policy of buying two seats for themselves, airlines and fellow passengers don't consistently (or ever, according to comments) honor their reserved seat.

If carriers can't or won't enforce the one and only policy that addresses the issue, then overweight people have little recourse but to inconvenience others. (I'm going to ignore comments about the causes of obesity. I prefer to let the medical profession address those concerns; yelling at someone for being overweight is not going to give me more space on a flight.)

What was also interesting was that some readers noted the inconsistency between extra-baggage fee policies and the lack of fees for overweight passengers, and suggested that airlines charge passengers based on the combined weight of the individual and his or her luggage.

As for the question of who is responsible for addressing the problem, readers were split on whether the burden should be on airlines or overweight passengers. Let's see which airline will be the first to tackle the issue—according to you guys, Southwest seems to have a running start...

[Earlier blog post: A Question of Weight.]

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