Overweight?You'll Have to Pay for Two of These

By Simon Calder Senior Travel Editor | The Independent (London, England), January 22, 2010 | Go to article overview
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Overweight?You'll Have to Pay for Two of These


Simon Calder Senior Travel Editor, The Independent (London, England)


Airlines to penalise obese passengers as bulging waistlines boost fuel consumption

With the world's airlines collectively losing around 10m a day, they are looking closely at the bottom line - of their passengers. In the battle to squeeze maximum earnings from its seats, Air France- KLM will have an explicit policy aimed at obese flyers.

From 1 February, Air France and its Dutch subsidiary, KLM, will insist that "passengers with a high body mass" book a second seat at 75 per cent of the original fare.

The definition of overweight depends on the cabin: in economy class, the airline says its seats are designed for passengers with a waistline up to 135cm (53 inches). If the cabin turns out not to be full, Air France will refund the price of the extra seat.

Obese passengers comprise a growing problem for airlines on three counts. First, with average weight across the population rising, fuel consumption is increased. Next, with more overweight flyers, more passengers experience discomfort from sitting next to them. And with airlines collectively filling a higher proportion of seats, there is literally less room for manoeuvre on board for the cabin crew to shuffle passengers around.

The first airline to address the problem was Southwest Airlines of the US, which now flies more passengers, of all shapes and sizes, than any other airline in the world. The seats aboard its Boeing 737s, though, are one-size-only, and one passenger in 200 cannot fit into them. The airline says: "Our responsibility is to provide safe and comfortable air transportation for each and every customer.

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