Make overweight passengers pay 'fat tax', says former Qantas exec

By David Flynn, January 11 2012
Make overweight passengers pay 'fat tax', says former Qantas exec

Heavy passengers should pay more to fly, while those sitting on the shy side of the scales should get a discount.

That's the argument put forth by Tony Webber, Qantas Group chief economist between 2004 and 2011, in a controversial article in today's Sydney Morning Herald.

"People who weigh more should pay more to fly on planes, in the same way that people who exceed their baggage allowance must fork out extra" says Webber, now an Associate Professor at the University of Sydney Business School.

His rationale? The more a plane weighs, the more fuel it must burn – which directly impacts costs. (As we detailed earlier this year, fuel costs represent almost $300 of a $2,200 international airfare)

"In turn, the airline will need to lift airfares to recover these additional costs" explains Webber. "And when they do, the burden of these higher fees should not be lumbered on those who are shedding a few kilos or keeping their weight stable."

Webber's proposed solution is to set a weight limit per passenger and then levy a surcharge "on a per-excess-kilo basis".

"If the critical weight limit (per passenger) is 75 kilograms and a man weighed 100 kilograms, then the surcharge would be $14.50 one-way or double this for return" Webber explains.

"Conversely, a female weighing just 50 kilos would get a "petite" discount of $14.50 each way."

Attempting to head off cries of discrimination, Webber suggests that "what economists term price discrimination - charging consumers who buy essentially the same product a different price - is a common feature in the modern market".

"Movie theatres practise price discriminate on the basis of age and employment status. Trains price discriminate on the basis of time of travel. Insurance companies price discriminate on the basis of where a car is usually parked, or the suburb in which a house is located."

You can read Webber's argument in full at The Sydney Morning Herald, and we'd be interested in your thoughts via the comments box below...


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 670

You have GOT to be kidding me! Sounds nice if you're sitting cosy behind a university desk but in The Real World, this would be commercial suicide for any airline, what little extra they'd make would be lost in p*ssing off passengers plus a PR mess that'd make #qantasluxury look like a success by comparison!


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 670

But, if it WAS going to work, why not make it part of your overall baggage allowance? If it's all about weight then if I'm allowed 25kg of bags and I carry only 10kg then I should be able to put that extra 15kg towards my 'personal' weight. And, do Platinums get the right to pack an extra 20kg around the tummy?

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 665

It's the best part about being a corporate fat cat, obviously.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Oct 2011

Total posts 4

Well they already discriminate against me for having legs, so why should this be any different?

Seriously tho - if they want me to pay more for girth I would expect more seat pitch for the price as weight often increases with height.

Really, you want me to pay more. How about stopping people with huge carry on bags. I recently watched a family of 3 stow 7 bags in economy on a MAS flight to Adelaide.  MAS carry on limit in economy is 5kgs.

I'm happy yo pay more if I get more

11 Jan 2012

Total posts 3

you are all forgetting something really important here. this isn't discrimination agiant fat people, but it IS discrimination against TALL people.

height we have no control over, so it's completely unfair to set an "average" weight of a man, because a 6ft 5" guy with a BMI of 24 will weight more than a 5 ft guy with the same BMI, but they'll both be classed as "healthy" weight wise.

so in the case of tis article, 85kg for a man is allowed, any over costs money. for the 6'5" man at a BMI of 24 is going to be 6kg over that. how is that fair? he's now being punished for being a healthy man who is tall?

it's bad enough the tall guy has to fork out extra for an exit row seat and now they wanna charge him for being heavy?

i think airlines simply need to implement something less subjective. work out what the biggest measurement a person can be around to fit into their seat without spilling over. make a hoop this size, and then if the passenger can't get the hoop from head to feet, they have to buy a 2nd seat. it's fair for everyone, it's not subjective to the person on the desk's opinion about who is too fat to only have one seat. it's a simple rule that will ease up on fuel costs as well as make sure no one feels they are being unfiarly picked on as their is a very clear guideline as to what constitutes the need to buy a second seat. that rule can be clearly stipulated on the website and at the time of online ticket purchase. people can easily measure themselves and determine whether they need to buy a second seat. and the measurement can happily change from airline to airline based on the seat width.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Jan 2012

Total posts 3

So if a heavy/larger person pays for a higher class (larger) seat, would they still pay more?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

06 Apr 2011

Total posts 18

Remember this is he same man who went on Sky News during the QF shutdown weekend and said the most economically sensible option is for the government to buy QF for around $23B and run it as a public service.  No wonder he is a ex-economist now looking for a job.

Seriously these are he two best ideas he could come up with?  Should find a differnt job.

18 Mar 2011

Total posts 6

At Thromby Air our patented Fully Automated Tariff Adjustment Sizing System (FATASS) will ensure that generously sized passengers are well serviced.

17 Jan 2012

Total posts 1

So where do we stop.? So if they are going to pick on the Fat person why not pick on the disable person, for surely there needs will be greater( than the Fat person)  and won' t that take time to attend to their needs which will cost the Company time attending to them. Maybe we should put at extra cost for Disable commuters, or maybe we could get at discount if we don't reach our baggage allowance or when planes are cancelled and we are inconvience, does someone in Qantas actually cares.( I don't think so)


Well Mr Webber..........where will you stop.

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