Will airlines start weighing their passengers (and charge accordingly)?

Image courtesy of kpmarek
Image courtesy of kpmarek

I was on the jury of the Startup 2.0 event in Barcelona this week. I travelled with Aer Lingus as there was a direct Cork <-> Barcelona flight.

When I went to check-in on my way back, I mentioned that I only had one bag and it was hand luggage. For the first time, I was asked to weigh my bag. It weighed 13kg (28.6lb). I was informed that Aer Lingus have a policy hand baggage cannot exceed 6kg (13lb) so I had to check it in and pay a surplus of €18.

I understand that airlines are really feeling the pinch at the minute what with oil prices breaching $135 per barrel yesterday and no significant reduction in sight. And I further understand that the more weight a plane carries, the more fuel it burns but in this case, yet again, the wrong people are paying the bill.

WARNING: The rest of this post is completely politically incorrect.

I weigh around 75kg (165lb). With my hand luggage the total weight I was asking Aer Lingus to transport was 88kg (194lb). The guy sitting in the next row up from me on the plane easily weighed 150kg (330lb). Even if he had no luggage, the cost to Aer Lingus of getting him to Cork was likely significantly more than for me.

This is not an easy nettle to grasp and no airline has yet even mentioned the idea of charging passengers by their weight. Even the always controversial Michael O’Leary, CEO of low-cost airline Ryanair has made no moves in this direction.

However, with oil getting ever closer to $200 per barrel and Michael O’Leary predicting that this will “bankrupt half of the airlines flying today”, charging passengers by their weight may well become a reality sooner rather than later.

Now where did I leave that diet book!