Prices: Why don’t airlines charge more for these bags?

On the road this week …  savoring the joys of air travel.

Stop #1: Southwest’s curbside check-in.

Guy in front of us had one of those “c’mon man” moments.

His bag weighed in at a couple of pounds over the 50# limit.

The skycap – a very nice guy – explained that he’d have to take a few things out of his bag to sneak under the weight limit or shell out 75 bucks – roughly $25 per pound – for the excess.

The guy started rifling through his bag and made weight.


Of course, the incident got me thinking …


I understand ala carte pricing.

And, I get it: offer low ticket prices for stripped down travel and charge people for services that they use.

It does cost money to handle the bags.

And, no reason that non-baggers should have to subsidize baggers.

But, the weight thing raises an obvious question: why should overweight bags get surcharged, but not overweight people?

Flying 25 pounds of shoes and souvenirs uses as much fuel as 25 pounds of blubber.

There’s a societal cost to somebody’s ample butt hanging over onto somebody else’s seat.

Here’s a novel plan: how about a base ticket price for the first 175 pounds and then $75 for each 50 pounds (or portion thereof) over the limit.

Price the human  heavyweights,well, just like the overweight bags.

Then, rent the seat belt extenders for say $20.

Profit improvement for the airlines and major step forward in the war on obesity.

As President Obama likes to say: “It’s common sense.”

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5 Responses to “Prices: Why don’t airlines charge more for these bags?”

  1. Tim Says:

    I see your point, but your solution might be a little tricky, and might set you up for a sex discrimination suit, since men (even physically fit men) are far more likely to exceed 175. In my experience, men are also more likely to fly.

    How about a combination of passenger plus baggage weight? Pardon the stereotyping, but women tend to pack more, so it might even out…

  2. Elyse Says:

    Tim, it sounds like Prof. Homa’s suggestion is to charge for both overweight bags and people.

    To your point, Prof. Homa chose the weight of 175, because that is /about/ the average weight for an adult white male around age 35.

    Besides sex discrimination, what about age discrimination? What about ETHNIC discrimination? Also, what about disability discrimination? Some people are overweight due to disease, and not just culture-based disease.

    The point is, people can /choose/ how much luggage to pack, but they cannot necessarily /choose/ the shape of their body. The lack of choice is where the real issue of discrimination lies.

  3. John Carpenter Says:

    Most airlines already charge for obvious overweight passengers. The test is the seat belt. If you cannot get your seat belt with the airline-approved extension, around your waist you have to pay for two seats. In the past some travelers have gotten around this by bringing their own, longer, seat belt extension. Most airlines, backed up by the FAA, are no longer allowing non-standard extensions. There are also FAA guidelines for travelers who’s arms and shoulders extend beyond the arm rests. If you are presented with this situation the airline normally has to re-locate one or the other. I suspect a lot of fat people get put in first class at no charge because of this. This may be as non-discrimatory as you can get as the test is actual size.

  4. Samoa Air: Pricing by weight is the ‘concept of the future’ | The Homa Files Says:

    […] See: Why don’t airlines charge more for these bags? […]

  5. Norwegian economics professor jumps on the scale … endorses “pay what you weigh” | The Homa Files Says:

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