Dr. Bharat P. Bhatta (PhD in transport economics and Masters of Science in MSc in development and resource economics) is an associate professor at Fjordane University College in Norway. Up to now, his writings have been about analyzing access to roads and other modes of transportation as they affect the marketplace.
So how does this guy end up on my radar?
Because Dr. Bhatta has published a paper suggesting that it would be a good idea to base airfares on passenger weight.
And of course, the media has jumped on this story with both feet.
While I am sure Dr. Bhatta is a whiz with numbers and travel, I’m thinking he doesn’t know a whole lot about people. Especially fat people. I’d have to pay to read the whole thing (which I’m not going to do), but this seems to be the gist of his paper:
The model rewards passengers who weigh less than average and/or when they reduce weight, providing financial savings and improved health benefits.
Okay there is no question that this kind of policy would reward and punish travelers based on their weight – but where the fuck does Dr. Bhatta come off claiming that less fat means better health? Your bias is showing Dr. Bhatta. Fat does not necessarily equal unhealthy; and since your policy is likely to lead to yo-yo dieting and disordered eating there will be negative health consequences as well.
Oh, and will the “average weight” these fares are based on be adjusted by gender, age, ethnicity? You know, groups that have a legally protected status? And what about the ADA? Do you include the weight of medical equipment that some disabled people must use to be mobile?
Dr. Bhatta also thinks the airline companies will have major savings as well.
In his paper, published in the Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management, Dr. Bhatta noted “a reduction of 1 kilo weight of a plane will result in fuel savings worth US$3,000 a year and a reduction of CO2 emissions by the same token.” http://travel.cnn.com/airline-fat-tax-should-heavy-passengers-pay-more-619046?hpt=hp_c2
Well you know what? When a lot of fat people stop flying (which I predict will be the case – I will certainly need a very good reason to get on a plane if this policy is adopted), the airlines will save a lot by flying much lighter planes. Unfortunately for the airline, those planes will be lighter because they’ll be a whole lot emptier.
And let me tell you, fat people won’t be the only people who will think very carefully before buying a ticket to fly. Anyone who is self conscious about their weight (fat or not) may decide they’d rather stay close to home or travel by car or train or boat. Because the fact is most people don’t like telling anyone how much they weigh, much less having to step on a scale at the airport and have some stranger record the results. And then you have the issue of your weight (which is medical information) being “out there” for anyone to data mine, including insurance companies who are notorious fatty haters.
Dr. Bhatta has three models:
1) Fare is based on weight of passenger and luggage
2) Fare is based on passengers weight
3) There is a base price for a fixed weight, if you weigh more, you pay more; if you weigh less, you get a discount. I don’t know if that means if you buy 2 seats you get to use double the base weight – which seems to me would be only fair – but since when has air travel been particularly fair to fatties?
The thing is, all three models will require a passenger getting on a scale at the airport. You think people had issues with the TSA screenings? As the saying goes, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
“What kind of scale compares the weight of two beauties, the gravity of duties, or the ground speed of joy? Tell me, what kind of gauge can quantify elation? What kind of equation could I possibly employ?” Ani Difranco