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Airlines face demands caused by oversize passengers

Airlines face demands caused by oversize passengers
August 13, 2019

Following reports that climbing rates of obesity may force Australian airlines to recalculate the average weight of their customers, a senior Qantas executive has advised that carriers will not be charging their passengers based on how much they weigh.

As reported by Global Travel Media, the concept surfaced briefly at TravelManagers’ national conference in Perth at the weekend, in the form of a question put to the head of Qantas’ 787 Dreamliner program, Peter O’Donohue.

O’Donohue said there was no prospect of passengers being charged on a per-weight basis as airlines are not allowed to discriminate on grounds of weight.

The pay-by-weight formula - seen as potentially being the ultimate extension of user-pays - has been put into practice by some smaller oversea carriers but has never been adopted by major airlines.

With World Health Organization (WHO) data showing that global obesity rates have more than doubled since 1980 and two thirds of the Australian population being either overweight or obese, the issue highlights the conflict between airlines’ needs to generate income and basic passenger rights.

Writing for Global Travel Media, Peter Needham explains that “every traveller’s nightmare - being seated next to an enormous passenger who bulges into their space - is an increasingly likely prospect.

“Passengers who claim to have been squished and injured have launched lawsuits over the issue.”

To counter this, The Australian newspaper reported at the weekend that air safety regulators in Australia are considering adding an extra 5kg to the estimated average passenger weight.

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), which regulates air safety, is preparing to update average passenger weights for commercial airlines for the first time in 30 years, with many suspecting the existing regulations no longer reflect reality in these fatter times.

Airlines use CASA guidelines to help calculate the gross weight of an aircraft - which must be within certain limits to fly.

Currently, for the B737-800s and A320s that form the backbone of Australian domestic air transport, airlines are advised to assume an average 81.8kg for men and 66.7kg for women.

However, as The Australian reported, the 2017/18 national health survey shows the average weight of an Australian man has risen to 87kg and 71.8kg for women - while 67% of the population is now overweight or obese.

Back in 1990 when CASA calculated its guidelines, just 36.5% of the population fell into that category.

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17th May 2019 - Cultural approaches to activity the key to tackling obesity for women

21st April 2019 - Queensland Government to end junk food advertising in bid to address rising obesity

15th February 2019 - Fitness Australia to join World Health Organization dialogue on global action plan for Physical Activity

12th December 2018 - Deakin University launch first report that ranks Australian obesity policies on value for money

18th October 2018 - Obesity Summit focuses on five-year plan for early intervention and weight management in Western Australia

25th March 2018 - Otago researchers reveal childhood predictors of becoming overweight or obese

1st March 2018 - New Report says supermarkets must do more in fight against obesity

29th January 2016 - Childhood obesity rates to soar without urgent government intervention

30th May 2014 - Study shows Australian obesity rates rising faster than anywhere else in the world

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