Academic says heavier flyers should pay higher air fares

The plans by Dr Bharat P Bhatta would see scales brought in at the check-in. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Heavier flyers should pay more for air fares than lighter passengers in proposals for a controversial new airline pricing scheme.

Weight and space should be taken into account when flight companies price their tickets, a Norwegian professor has said.

Supporters of the pay-as-you-weigh scheme say heavier flyers require more expensive jet fuel to be burned, which costs more and hurts the environment.

The scheme's author, Dr Bharat P Bhatta, put forward three proposals to lead to an airport weigh-in:

  • Fare according to actual weight. Charging passengers according to how much they and their belongings weigh, fixing a rate for kilograms per passenger so that a person weighing 60kg (132lbs or nine stone 6lbs) pays half the airfare of a 120kg (264lbs or 18 stone 12lbs) person.
  • Base fare minus or plus an extra charge. This option involves charging a fixed base rate, with an additional charge for heavier passengers to cover the extra costs. Every passenger could have a different fare according to this option.
  • Same fare if the passenger has an average weight, but discounted/extra fare for low/excess weight below/above a certain limit. This option results in three types of fares: high fares, average fares and low fares.

Dr Bhatta, of the Sogn og Fjordane University College, said she preferred the third option.

Outlining her plans in this month's Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management publication, she wrote:

Charging according to weight and space is a universally accepted principle, not only in transportation, but also in other services.

As weight and space are far more important in aviation than other modes of transport, airlines should take this into account when pricing their tickets.

The journal's editor, Dr Ian Yeoman, gave his backing to her argument, adding:

For airlines, every extra kilogram means more expensive jet fuel must be burned, which leads to CO2 emissions and financial cost.

As the airline industry is fraught with financial difficulties, marginally profitable and has seen exponential growth in the last decade, maybe they should be looking to introduce scales at the check-in.