Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fat tax, seat infringement, and other flyer equality issues

Political correctness is finally succumbing to financial pressure, at least as far as airlines are concerned. More airlines—United the most recent—are now requiring overweight people who can't fit into one airplane seat to purchase a second seat. Those of us who have had the misfortune of involuntarily sacrificing part of our own small real estate to a large fellow traveler are secretly celebrating.

No, I have nothing against fat people, overweight people, "weight challenged" people, or whatever term is politically correct. No more than I have against tall people or short people, black people or brown people, old people or young people, or any other people. All I ask from my fellow man and woman is to treat me as they'd like me to treat them, and vice versa.

I am relatively tall, so when I fly coach, I don't have a lot of room to get comfortable. Do I ignore the people sitting next to me, and just stretch my legs as wide as I can? Do I lean over into the seat next to mine to take a nap? No. I respect my neighbors' space, as I would like them to respect mine.

So if I were overweight enough that I could not fly without encroaching on the seat next to mine, I would not feel right about forcing that person to give up some of his or her space. They ostensibly paid the same price as me for their ticket, so they should be entitled to the same amount of space.

And if the airlines are charging extra fees for checked baggage for weight or fuel cost reasons, then the only fair way to charge everyone equally is to weigh each passenger with his or her bags, and then assess fees based on the passenger's total weight, including bags (an idea I proposed last year). RyanAir may soon consider such a "fat tax."

It's easy to be politically correct in the abstract, but where the rubber meets the road—where political correctness has a dollar amount attached to it—common sense will tend to win out. So this is one rare example where I'm in agreement with new airline fees. What's your opinion?



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