Published on Thursday, January 12, 2012
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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