Why passengers should be weighed along with their luggage!

by Sep 29, 2016English, Travel

Paying for ‘overweight’ luggage is one of my pet hates when traveling. You start off your trip at 20kg (which is the maximum for check-in luggage with most airlines) and by the end you’re hitting 25 kgs (my suitcase always seems to get heavier like magic 🙁 ).

Next thing the representative of the airline at check-in is telling you to pay exorbitant amounts of money to get your suitcase on board the plane.

So are such charges for additional weight justified and is there a more just system for calculating? In this article, I’ll break it down for you.

How much difference does weight to the airlines’ costs?

Fuel makes up 25-30% of the airlines’ costs. That makes charging passengers additional money for suitcases and excessive weight justifiable as there is a strong nexus between the costs and the weight of the luggage.

But €10/per kilo?? That’s what Ryanair charge (as of October 2016). No, that does not appear proportionate to the additional costs arising from the additional weight.

Airlines typically burn through €0.30 per kilo of weight so the cost of the excessive weight should be substantially lower.

overweight fine

The €30 airport fee that I was charged by WizzAir for being 6 kgs overweight. Justified or not?

So excessive weight charges are just excessive?

While excessive weight charges are definitely excessive, they are also not the whole story.

Airlines are charging passengers for excessive weight luggage and (sometimes) for the suitcases themselves but this is only part of the weight load due to the passengers.

In fact, most of the weight due to passengers on board flights is actually the weight of the passengers without their luggage. So why not take that into account?

The most accurate way to factor in the weight caused by the passengers would be to weigh them along with their luggage (both checked and hand luggage).

That way any charges, additional or standard, for passenger (and luggage) weight would be more accurately determined.

So why isn’t this system currently in place?

In fact, such a system has been used by the airline Samoa Air which serves islands in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga and charged passengers a price per kilogram per kilometer traveled on their routes.

But the practice has yet to catch in the airline industry, how come? Well, in the past airlines didn’t charge additional fees at all for luggage or excessive weight.

These have come in progressively over time. So it would be a logical progression to passenger weight to this calculations.

selfie plane

Me on a recent flight to Canada – was I subsidized or subsidizing by weight?

But isn’t weighing people with the luggage going to lead to discrimination against the obese?

Well, that depends on what you mean by ‘discrimination’. The current system means that lighter passengers effectively cross-subsidize heavier passengers.

Airlines only currently charge for excessive luggage weight and (sometimes) the luggage. They ignore the body weight of the passengers which is directly related to the costs of the airline so they are effectively taking the average weight of a passenger when they make their calculations for fares (where fuel cost is a factor).

So let’s say that the average passenger weighs 65kgs. That means that a passenger weighing 55kgs is paying for part of the ticket of a passenger who 75kgs (assuming that they carry the same weight in luggage).

Let’s take an even more egregious example:

Say you’re a woman who weighs 50kgs and you are traveling with a suitcase weighing 25kgs. You would have to pay €10/kilo in excessive luggage charges.

Now let’s take a woman who is morbidly obese and weighs 100 kgs and is traveling with a suitcase weighing 20kgs. She pays zero in additional charges.

But hold on! The 100kg woman is responsible for 45kgs more in weight on the flight! That means that the lighter passenger not only has to pay €50 extra (5 kgs X €10/kg) but also whatever amount of cross-subsidization was built into the fares. Clearly skinnier passengers are being discriminated against by the current system.

Queue airport

Shouldn’t everyone be weighed with their luggage if weight has a direct link to the costs of the airline?

The future – everyone having to step on the scales?

So perhaps in future instead of placing just our luggage on the weighing scales, we’ll be stepping on those scales with our luggage ourselves? It would certainly be fairer based on the weight.

However, that’s unlikely to happen for the moment (in spite of the example in Samoa). Why? Because such a policy may leave the airlines open to legal cases.

For example, heavier people may sue for ‘discrimination’ and ‘emotional damage’ for having to stand on the scales in public and then pay additional fees based on their weight.

On the other hand, passengers may try to lose a dangerous amount of weight in a short time period in order to avail of lower airfares leading to health problems, which in terms they may sue the airlines for.

So in conclusion, I’m not expecting a worldwide revolution in airline excessive weight policy any time soon no matter how much Michael O’Leary, the CEO of the infamous low-cost airline Ryanair, might love to see them introduced:

“Nobody wants to sit beside a really fat ****** on board. We have been frankly astonished at the number of customers who don’t only want to tax fat people but torture them.”

What do you think about paying for excessive luggage or even extra to put a suitcase in the hold? Do you agree that body weight should be added to luggage weight when airlines make their calculations? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below this article. I love reading your opinions. 🙂

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