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!


  1. says

    This makes you stop and think. Hard. I don’t think this is politically incorrect. There is massive focus on the health aspects associated with weight by most governments including consumption taxes in order to offset healthcare costs, and mathematically there is only a simple x/y (total weight / cost of oil) x profit factor involved in any transportation, shipping or baggage fee structure.

  2. Asa says

    Southwest does charge more for large passengers (“customers of size”), by requiring them to purchase two seats. The justification is comfort, rather than fuel use, but it’s the closest I know to what you’re talking about that’s actually in operation ( Other airlines may have similar policies, but Southwest got the most press about theirs.

  3. says

    At least in “green” terms, isn’t this a red herring? I weigh 95 kg, but surely the difference in fuel consumption to an airline if I lost 10 kg or so would be measurable only in pennies, not in pounds (or euros) even given high oil prices, and would only make a neglibile difference to carbon output.

    The real answer is to fly less. Use alternative modes of transport, and if that’s not realistic, use technology (and there’s a lot of that, as I’m sure you’ll know) to avoid having to travel in person. Yes, airlines will try and squeeze the last penny out of travellers, but please don’t let them dress this up as some sort of green issue – they are diagonally opposed to any ecological progress by definition.

    I see a lot of internet A-Listers fly all over the place all the time, and at the same time beat their breast about global warming and ecological issues – but I remain to be convinced that these people really need to travel (despite what they may claim) any more than the budget-airline holiday makers they so despise.

  4. gregory says

    the courage of the business mind is pathetic…

    example, all the hidden costs added onto the air ticket fare…

    just have the guts to raise the price, quit the nickel-dime stuff. it increases transparency, shows the true cost, helps me keep my respect for you ….


  1. Charge passengers based on weight…

    In this high oil price marked, the airliners try everything to offset the higher prices of fuel. Charging more for extra luggage is one way, but as Tom at Greenmork writes in his post……