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Fiction vs. Fact on the “Fat Tax” for Flying

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An eager-to-be recognized economics scholar in Norway, Dr. Bharat P. Bhatta has decided to impart his wisdom to the world and recommend that air ticket costs be calculated according to a passenger’s weight.

Bhatta proposes  three models for fat tax fares.  His favorite involves a base fare with a predetermined discount applying for those below a certain weight threshold and a predetermined surcharge applying for those above a certain weight threshold. Using this option passengers weights would be self-declared and one in five passengers would be randomly picked for an actual weigh in to discourage cheaters.

Bhatta believes that pay-as-you-weigh scale for airline tickets will cause fuel savings and a reduction in CO2 emissions.

That all sounds great in theory but most people lie to their doctor about their weight, who wants to tell an airline attendant and the group of leering listening folks behind you in line?

With such a sensitive subject involved as someone’s weight this policy would be nearly possible to instate. But it’s not impossible. In fact one week after, Samoa Air announced a new pay-by-weight model, that requires passengers to type in their weight and the weight of their baggage when booking online. Passengers are then charged between $1 and $4.16 a kilogram based the distance of their flight.

Before we expect a pay-as-you-weight model to become the standard, let’s take a look at the logistics of this argument. This option would also incur huge transaction costs, and would require an even earlier check-in arrival time than we have now for the weigh ins to be performed.

Airline passengers are already put through the ringer these days with the TSA, body scans, and having to throw away their water bottles. Do we need to add body issues to it as well? Next thing you know, people will be wearing black garbage bag sweatsuits to get down to “weight” for check ins. This doesn’t quite sound like healthy travel to us.

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By Laura Lee for Peter