The debate concerning the fairness of the fees for the overweight passengers using the services of airlines has been going on for years. Ever since this practiced was first introduced by the Samoa Airlines, the society has been divided into two groups: the individuals who agreed that the excess weight fees should be charged and the ones that stated that these fees should be banned. Excess weight fees charged by the airlines are a harsh and discriminative practice that injures self-esteem of the individuals for whom weight is already a sensitive issue.
A passenger of an airplane is considered overweight when they cannot fasten their seatbelt using an extension, when they do not fit into a single seat, and when they cannot put down the armrests of the seat when sitting down (Appleton, 2009). When a passenger who fits into these characteristics travels it is highly uncomfortable for them or the passengers near them.
This is why they are encouraged to buy additional tickets and comfortably occupy two seats. The supporters of the point of view that the fees for the overweight passengers of airlines are fair mainly agree that when it comes to the air travel, comfort is the most crucial aspect. They maintain that excess weight fees make the travelling safer and more pleasant for both the overweight passengers and their neighbors reducing the risk of possible injuries and frustrations from both sides (Rodriguez, 2012). Yet, I believe that charging the passengers additional fees based on their weight is a kind of discrimination and is unacceptable.
The ethical side of this issue is extremely important. First of all, when an individual purchases a plane ticket it is impossible to detect what their weight is and whether or not they fit into a single seat. As a result, when a passenger comes to board a plane they end up being told that they are “too fat to fly” which is an clear case of discrimination based on appearance and is similar to the practice of unreasonable searching nonwhite individuals at the airports because they fit the stereotype of the typical appearance of a terrorist.
According to the American Heart Association, at least one out of six adult people suffers from weight-related problems and obesity (Tips for the Weight-Challenged Traveler, 2015). Besides, scientists still do not have a complete answer concerning the degree to which a person is responsible or in control of their own weight. There are hormonal disorders that cause obesity, so punishing the individuals for their body size is harsh and unfair.
This problem also has an emotional aspect. For example, not many overweight airplane passengers would agree to speak up due to the fact that their weight is an extremely sensitive subject, so going to the court and challenging the airlines for unfair treatment is difficult for them because they do not like to attract excessive attention towards their appearance. In the contemporary world when skinny figures are widely promoted and desired, obese individuals have hard time finding a place where they would not be silently judged, discussed or even laughed at.
Making airlines weight-unfriendly the society minimizes the world for the weight-challenged individuals and increases their sufferings. Today, the fact that overweight people have to pay emotionally every day for being who they are is not enough, and they are also charged financially for their weight and size. Ever since the new rule concerning the excessive weight fees for the passengers of airplanes has been implemented a number of weight-challenged individuals have rebelled, tried to speak up, and attempted to sue the airlines, yet only few of them actually won the cases. The policy responsible for excess weight fees for airplane passengers destroys the obese individual’s self-esteem and makes it clear for them that their weight affects their rights and freedoms in the modern society.
Among the examples of utter dissatisfaction of the overweight passengers with the airlines’ policies concerning the extra fees, there is a case that involves a lawsuit against Southwest Airlines. A female passenger of Southwest Airlines called Cynthia Luther attempted to sue the airlines for unfair attitude. The passenger who travelled from Reno to Burbank, California was forced to buy an additional ticked.
According to Luther, she was openly humiliated by one of the employees of Burbank Airport; the employee states that Luther was too fat to fit into one seat (Liu, 2000). The airlines won the suit explaining that Luther was travelling on the next day after Christmas and the flight was full. In cases if the flights are full, the rules of most airlines say that an overweight passenger is to purchase an additional seat. Legally, the airlines are the winners, yet morally they committed an act of humiliation of a weight-challenged person.
To sum up, charging overweight airline passengers for additional seats may make sense technically because in order to seat a large passenger comfortably their neighbor has to be displaced. Otherwise, both passengers are likely to experience a great deal of discomfort during the flight. It goes without saying that comfort is a very important aspect of an air travel, especially when it is lengthy. Yet, sorting people based on their size and weights is morally and ethically wrong. Such actions are discriminative against overweight individuals; they legally depower such people, destroy their self-esteem and result in public humiliation and insulting comments.
Appleton, K. (2009). Obese passengers on United flights may now need to buy a 2nd seat.
Liu, C. (2000). Airline Passenger Loses Suit Over Weight Discrimination.
Rodriguez, C. (2012). The Pain of Overweight Airline Passengers.
Tips for the Weight-Challenged Traveler. (2015). TravelChannel.