Most travelers say obese passengers should pay more

Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:42am EST
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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Should airlines charge overweight passengers more if they need an extra seat? Yes, according to three-quarters of travelers in a poll.

A survey by travel website Skyscanner ( found that 76 percent of people believe airlines should charge a "fat tax."

Only 22 percent of the 550 people questioned disapproved of introducing extra payments for overweight passengers.

The poll was conducted in the wake of a heated debate that started after Air France was misreported earlier this month to be planning an extra charge for passengers unable to fit into a single seat.

Air France has, since 2005, offered overweight passengers the option to buy a second seat at a 25 percent discount.

Skyscanner co-founder Barry Smith said a so-called "fat tax" was a very sensitive issue for airlines who would need to tread carefully so as not to alienate heavier passengers.

"On one hand, it's not unreasonable for airlines to charge passengers extra if they occupy more than one seat. On the other, many would argue that it should be the responsibility of airlines to adjust their standard seat size, enabling them to comfortably accommodate all passengers," he said in a statement.

Some respondents to the poll said it was airlines' responsibility to make seats for all shapes and sizes of passengers while others suggested that the charge should be calculated on the weight of the passenger plus their luggage.

In the United States, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines have a policy where "oversize" people need to buy a second seat and can claim a refund if the plane is not full. This followed complaints from neighboring passengers.

The Supreme Court in Canada ruled that obese and disabled people traveling on airplanes cannot be forced to buy a second seat.

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Miral Fahmy)

<p>A passenger waits for a delayed flight at Heathrow airport's terminal four in London August 12, 2006. REUTERS/Toby Melville</p>