Published on Thursday, January 12, 2012

Obese fliers should pay more, says ex-Qantas economist

A former Qantas group chief economist says people who weigh more should pay more to fly on planes.

Writing for Business Day in Fairfax newspapers, Tony Webber, now managing director of Webber Quantitative Consulting and Associate Professor at the University of Sydney Business School, claims fuel burnt by planes depends on many things “but the most important is the weight of the aircraft. The more a plane weighs, the more fuel it must burn”.

Webber said if passengers on the aircraft weigh more, the aircraft consumes more fuel and the airline's costs go up.

In turn, the airline would need to lift airfares to recover the additional costs. And when they did, the burden of the higher fees should not be lumbered “on those who are shedding a few kilos or keeping their weight stable”.

Webber said airline fuel costs have increased since 2000 not just because of higher oil and jet fuel prices…”but also because the average adult passenger is carrying a bit more heft”.

Between 1926 and 2008, the average weight of an Aussie female adult increased from 59 kilograms to 71 kilos and the average weight of an Aussie male adult increased from 72 to 85 kilos, according to Webber.

On a route like Sydney to London via Singapore, Webber said the extra passenger kilos meant around 3.72 extra barrels of jetfuel per flight is burnt, “which at current prices cost about $472”.

“This tally may not seem like a lot of money but when you add it up over all flights for a year the extra cost can all but wipe out an airline's profits, such is the thinness of margins these days particularly on international routes.”

Webber concedes that while a weight surcharge may be a good idea in theory, it would not be easy to implement as passengers would have to be weighed at check-in.

“As the obesity crisis worsens, however, and the price of jet fuel continues to spiral upward, such user-pay charge may be something the airlines can't ignore for too much longer,” Webber wrote.


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  • Discrimination is live and well

    I'm sure State & Federal Anti Discrimination Laws will be ready to take on this. It's not April 1st is it?

    By David Phillips, Thursday, January 12, 2012

  • overweight fliers

    50 odd years ago i used to fly between Sydney and Forster on the Nth Coast of NSW in Focker Friendship planes .We had to stand on the scales then and we and our baggage were weighed. Being a light weight and less than 50kilos dripping wet i never worried. Now when we fly o/seas i get angry when some overweight person totes heaps of luggage and puts into the locker then sits down and takes up nearly 2 seats.The sooner the better they introduce this.

    By pamela burt, Thursday, January 12, 2012

  • Quantity not Qantas

    Qantas is already heading down the slippery slope of no longer being a full service airline, why does it continue the pretence that it is? If the airline charges for overweight passengers I suppose it should offer discounts to skinny or anorexic passengers. I hope this type of suggestion is why Tony Webber is an ex Qantas employee. Qantas needs to lift is game - including its quality of facilities and service - if it really wants to compete with the Asian and Middle East airlines.

    By Peter Gray, Thursday, January 12, 2012

  • only fair way to go !!!

    this is the only fair way to go. Current fares are discriminatory against fit or thin people. Why should someone who weighs 60kgs & want to check 40kgs of baggage, pay more-as charged for excess baggage (when on same fare) as some fat pig who weighs 140kgs & wants to check 20 kgs, who's not charged for excess weight. Great publicity for any airline (no such thing as bad publicity). Look at Ryanair, everytime O'leary wants some free publicity, he starts talking again about paying to use toilets on planes.

    By Craig Mathews, Thursday, January 12, 2012

  • What about small people

    As long as small people pay proportionatly less.

    By Dipak Shah, Thursday, January 12, 2012

  • Nuts

    I would support this - so long as tall passengers were also charged more, short passengers were charged less, thin & anorexic passengers were charged less, those wearing heavy clothes or heavy jewellery ere charged more while those with summer clothes & no jewellery charged less .... and the list could go on! We are all different and we should celebrate that - not make everyone look, think and behave the same!

    By Noman Gandhi, Thursday, January 12, 2012

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