Friday, December 12, 2008

"Tubby custards should pay more to fly..."

Janet Albrechsen makes a point about obese air travellers.

After returning home from overseas recently, I raised this idea with a group of friends. They nodded in furious agreement. They were sick of having to subsidise the bad lifestyle choices of so many obese people. While some obesity may be caused by medical conditions or genetic makeup, most is caused by the simple equation of too much food and too little exercise. It’s bad enough that obesity is causing a blowout of costs within our health system. “Why should we also have to subsidise the poor lifestyle choices of the obese when we fly?” asked my friends. I agreed.

Then something interesting happened. A couple of friends said this: “But, of course, you can’t write about ‘fat’ people. It’s too judgmental.” At least, suggested one friend, call then “tubby custards” instead of using the “f” word.

Surely, I wondered aloud, making rational judgements was not a bad thing for a society? Perhaps there would be fewer tubby custards and therefore less strain on our health system if we were more willing as a society to make judgements about patently bad lifestyle choices like overeating.

Similarly, the fear of hurting someone’s feelings about their self-inflicted weight problem should give way to some rational thought when it comes to flying. As airlines the world over have been getting tougher on imposing baggage weight limits and charging mightily for excess luggage, it makes sense they start taking a closer look at their passengers.

She has a point. But where do you draw the line at what is going to attract a higher charge? What weight will be the limit? What about someone who is just naturally large?

What about someone who is thin? Will they be able to pay less?

Will we not be able to buy our tickets on-line any more because we must be weighed before we travel?

Will we have to arrive at the airport four hours before the flight for safety and chubby checks?

If airlines were to charge more for fat people then, in all fairness, they should reduce the charge for slim people. You will no longer have to pay full price for a child over, what is it now, twelve? And full child fare for a toddler in a seat?

I don't think it will happen.
I travelled on a bus from Melbourne to Sydney and had the aisle seat. The passenger beside me was sleeping like a baby, very comfortably with her feet stretched out on my side and her head resting on my shoulder. Great. I'd rather fly, a shorter time of discomfort. She wasn't fat, just very tall (at least 6 feet).
Oh, and the last thing someone dieting needs, particularly a woman, is people who are friends* or workmates adding their advice when they are watching what they eat (or even have announced that they'll be going on a diet). I have a friend who decided to start a diet. She mentioned it at work. Immediately one of her "friends" made the remark that she hoped that exercise was going to form part of the diet. Many fat people know they're fat, and they know exactly what they need to do to lose weight. They don't need to be told, or nagged, or advised, and they certainly don't need supposed helpful friends (or acquaintances) giving them advice.

*I'd tell them to mind their own bloody business.


Skeeter said...

An aircraft definitely uses more fuel to carry heavier people. Simple physics really — lift must equal weight, generating lift causes drag, drag is overcome by thrust from the engines. More thrust means more fuel burnt.
Extra weight also affects take-off performance and the pilot needs to know the total weight of the aircraft so she can calculate how much runway she is going to need to get airborne.
But as a skinny 140-pounder, I'm more interested in the space that fatties occupy in an economy class cabin. Notice how they slump and spread sideways as they settle into the seat. My elbow is forced off my half of the arm-rest as it disappears into a fold of fat. If I have a fatty on both sides, I lose both armrests into deep canyons, and wind up feeling like something being squeezed in a vice.

I propose a simple solution:
When making a reservation, passengers must divulge their slumped width,
measured at the hips. If it's more that the width between economy seat armrests, they must buy two seats. Some of them might need to buy three seats these days.
Just to keep them honest, they should be made to sit in a bum-gauge (like the ones for carry-on baggage) at check-in. Airlines already carry extenders for seat-belts to cope with wide passengers.

kae said...

Two comments:

1. I've had my arm rest hijacked by not-skinnies who think it's OK to take the whole damned thing over, and

2. What do the check-in staff do when someone's bum gets stuck in the bum-gauge?

tee hee

Anonymous said...


I find nothing wrong with the proposal, that the price of a ticket be tied to the weight and (breadth) of a passenger.

After all if you have overweight luggage, you pay extra!

These days when, and IF, I travel overseas I go business class.

Only way I can afford it, that I go less often, but it's worth it.


Kaboom said...

Kae, I'm always being weighed in light aircraft flights, i.e. helicopters and those things that look like a VW Beetle with wings.

I weighed too much for a Robinson R-22 flight, where the pilot had to weigh somewhere less than 38 Kg. I thank my lucky stars.

Nothing offensive about it at all, and I believe that transport should be like postage used to be.... the more you weigh, the more you pay!

kc said...

And I like the idea of paying less, since I'm 4'11" & weigh (usually) less than 110lbs. A cut in airfare would help me pay for the extra suitcase I might want to pack!

Skeeter said...

I'm with you kc. The present situation is that an average weight is used for load-sheets and for determining fares. That average figure has been steadily climbing over the years. This means that you and I are subsidising the fatties and paying too much.
Kae, the bum-gauge would have a moveable arm sliding across a scale (like calipers) to determine the number of seats required for the bum.
It will have to come. The alternative is that the wide bums will get stuck in the aircraft seats.
Which brings to mind another problem. In practice emergency evacuations, the cabin crew has to get a full load of passengers off the aircraft in two minutes — with half the emergency exits blocked off.
Just think about it next time you are sitting in a cabin full of fatties.

kae said...

I suppose that the average that they calculate on would include the info that people are getting bigger? Midgets like my mum and kc (and lots of my other friends), aren't that common these days...

My comment about the armrests being hijacked up there ^ should have read "not-fatties", but I must have had skinnies on the brain.

It's going to be a hot day today. Again. An humid. I hope there's a storm to cool it down.

Gosh, I need a gardener/groundsman!

kc said...

I prefer the term 'Little People,' if you don't mind, Kae. 'Midget' sounds like a candy bar.

/sarc 8-D

Minicapt said...

How about "Them What Don't Measure Up"; or "Runt"?

... being quite 'right-sized' myself.