Weight-based airfare: what South Africans say

2013-07-17 09:06

Cape Town - Weight has become something of a contentious issue in the airline business lately, as more carriers are toying with the idea of implementing similar restrictions on heavy passengers as they do on heavy luggage. 

India's GoAir recently made news for saying that they would only be hiring thin, female flight attendants, in a bid to save money on fuel.

This follows on from last year when Samoa Air became the first airline in the world to charge airfares according to weight (about R10/kilogram).

Local travel site SouthAfrica.TO decided to find out what South Africans' take on the weight issue is in a recent survey.

They reported a surprising difference in opinion between those over and those under 60 years old. 
While 53% of South Africans older than 60 believe it's perfectly acceptable to weigh-in like a boxer before a flight and be charged accordingly, 64% of younger folk say it's unacceptable. So, who is right - the youngsters or the retirees?

On an overall basis, 61% of the 2334 South Africans who participated are against having airfares based on weight. Most of those against a weigh-in reasoned that it would be discriminatory, against the Constitution, that some people have medical conditions whereby they cannot control their weight, and that it would be just plain embarrassing. "No way should overweight people be charged extra for their tickets. This is immoral." was a typical response.

The SouthAfrica.TO survey demonstrates that here is a substantial minority (39%) who are for airfares based on passenger weight, with reasons varying from it making economic sense (since fuel costs depend on weight) to it encouraging people to live healthier lifestyles (there were even a few who were concerned that heavy people would interfere with the aircraft's avionics). 

Certainly there's enough of a minority to make up a market for any airline gutsy enough to implement airfares based on weight. But judging by some of the feedback received, the airline would need to brace itself for a spate of criticism and court action. 

There was a lot of feedback from participants who felt that airlines need to do something about passengers who "peel over" into the seat next to them, particularly on the long-haul flights.

Many surveyed felt that there should be a weigh-in which included luggage and the passenger: "I have always maintained that luggage and the person should stand on the scale at check in. Why should a person weighing say 60kg not be allowed more luggage than that of one weighing 130kg" said a participant.

A large portion of those who thought it acceptable to base airfares on weight felt there should be a threshold below which passengers wouldn't be penalised, with 90kg being a popular level mentioned. 
Most participants focused on the plight of heavier people, however the major beneficiaries of a weigh-in would be children.

Currently children have to pay the same as adults, meaning that children are effectively cross-subsidising adults. If airlines charged airfares based on their true cost (i.e. determined by weight), it would be cheaper for families with small children to fly.

Check out SouthAfrica.TO for a complete round-up of results. 

What do you think? Would it be fair to make passengers pay according to their weight? Tell us in the comment section below or send us your thoughts to info@news24travel.com

Read more on:    flights  |  air travel  |  travel south africa

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