Another day, another airline decides to boost its profits by charging fat passengers more. Air France-KLM have announced that fat passengers that cannot fit into a single seat will have to pay an additional 75% for a second seat. A spokesperson for Air France-KLM states that it is a matter of safety: “We have to make sure that the backrest can move freely up and down and that all passengers are securely fastened with a safety belt.” (The fact that they can charge 175% for one ticket is just gravy!) The new policy will apply for people who book their tickets from 1 February 2010 for all flights from 1 April 2010.
This development follows American airlines, such as Southwest and United Airlines, in their decision to charge their fat passengers more. (At least Canadian and Australian carriers won’t be adopting the move anytime soon.)
Predictably, the majority of commenters on the article reporting Air France-KLM’s new policy have praised the move. In amongst the explicit fat hate (“fatties need to go to the gym!” “I was nearly crushed!”) are those who think the move is completely logical: if you take up two seats, you should pay for two seats.
I can’t say I blame them. I mean, I live in Australia – we’re an island floating in the middle of nowhere. If I want to visit my big sister in London, I have to spend 24 hours in transit. When you’re spending that much time in the air in an economy seat, you want as much room as possible. I get it.
However, instead of blaming the fatty fat fatties, perhaps some pressure should be placed on the airlines. The article states that the average plane seat is 43 centimetres/16.9 inches wide. Some planes offer a generous 48 centimetres/19 inches. That’s it. Hundreds of dollars for a ticket and all you can lay claim to is less than 50 centimetres. Shouldn’t we be expecting more from our airlines? If newer aircraft can have enough room for their obscene first class suites, couldn’t they also increase the width and pitch of their economy class?
Secondly, and I’m not the first person to ask this, but who decides who is officially too fat to fly? Those booking their tickets on 1 February won’t know if their arse is too wide for the seat. Will gate agents have a tape measure at the ready? Will they rely on their oh-so-accurate perception of how fat someone is? Will passengers be weighed on the luggage scale? Or will they be given the benefit of the doubt, only to drag people who are too big for the seat off the plane to pay their 75% and hold up the flight for everyone?
But rather than put those cogent questions to those who think this discriminatory policy is logical, I’d probably tell them to harden up. Economy class is uncomfortable – that’s why it’s affordable. It’s cramped, there are lines for the bathroom, the food sucks and it smells. Until airlines charge a levy for people who have long and/or wide legs, people who have broad shoulders, rude folks that take my armrest, people who smell, people who snore, crying babies and children that make themselves known to me at any point for any reason no one deserves to complain about fat encroaching upon their precious seat.