AS IF THE SKIES AREN’T UNFRIENDLY ENOUGH FOR MY FAT ASS

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.

Yeah.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0969699711000846

http://www.palgrave-journals.com/rpm/journal/v12/n2/abs/rpm201247a.html

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

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4 thoughts on “AS IF THE SKIES AREN’T UNFRIENDLY ENOUGH FOR MY FAT ASS

  1. The thing that burns my beans is, “Okay, we’re going to make it so you have to pay lots of money if you weigh more than we think you should because OBVIOUSLY you’re a fat fat fatty foo-foo fat-fat. Fatso.”

    But besides people who have to haul around medical equipment, what about pregnant women? It’s not uncommon for a woman to gain 35 or more pounds before reaching that stage of late pregnancy at which we aren’t supposed to fly. So which part should the pregnant woman remove? The extra blood supply? The amniotic fluid? The fluid reserve that is helping to cushion her joints? The placenta? The baby?

    What about the baby? Do little kids get to be told they’re fat fat fatty foo-foo fat-fats too?

    I think it was Fat Heffalump who told the story of taking part in a disaster simulation in which her partners decided to leave the hypothetical 300-pound man with the broken leg to die because nobody could possibly move his helpless flabby butt around. But muscle also has weight. There are pro athletes who weigh 300 pounds without an ounce of socially unacceptable fat on view. Did you think about that, doctor?

    Hey, if I was just over the okay line, and I went and got my waist-length hair cut and came back and asked for a reweigh, could I get a refund for the fatty foo-foo fat-fat surcharge? What if I went and took a giant dump? Could I get a reweigh then?

    Even if we could be shamed and nickel-and-dimed into becoming socially acceptably thin, this proposal would be a load of stupid crap.

  2. Wasn’t there some recent study (maybe this one – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21249462 ?) showing that financial incentives do not produce long-term weight loss? Maybe this guy should read up a little before he advocates creating accessibility barriers to a vast group of people. Someone on FB made the excellent point that programs like these disproportionately punish people who have less money to begin with by forcing them to pay more for the same product/service. Not every fat person is poor, but there is a correlation between income and BMI that may be partially explained by employment and other discrimination. So this kind of policy would hit those people particularly hard.

  3. The major airlines will never do this. They rely heavily still on business travellers – still a majority of who are men. Most business travellers actually fly coach or economy. And it is pretty common for men who are about 6′ tall to be 220 lb or more and not be fat at all and the airlines know these passengers will not be happy to be paying extra. And their female business travellers are likely to be self-conscious about their weight even if model-thin, and would avoid airlines that weighed them. This is without even getting to any consideration an airline would give to its fat customers! I don’t think Dr Bhatta really understands the air travel market at all let alone human beings.

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