Friday, April 24, 2009

Ryanair: Considering charging by weight?

All the way back in July last year I mentioned how some airlines (Ryanair) should be charging passengers based on their weight (see here), with the logic that people should be paying for a proportionate amount of fuel they are using.

I believe I wrote:
"If an airline lowered the weight of its average passenger, through enforcing restrictions, by say 7kg (just a bit more than a stone), and assuming a plane holds 200 passengers that would mean having 1400kgs less to be lugging through the air"

Well Ryanair launched a competition recently asking for customers' suggestions on how they could best cut costs and... well look what came out as the most popular idea:
“Over 100,000 passengers logged on to to take part in our competition and almost one in three (over 30,000) think that very large passengers should be asked to pay a fat tax,” Ryanair’s Stephen McNamara said.

It has to be said though that there are fairly obvious problems with this plan, firstly what is the definition of fat? (for example a grossly obese midget might weigh less than a skinny 7 footer - should you charge on absolute weight or excess weight?) secondly unless you are going to stand people on a scales in the airport how are you going to calculate it, and thirdly it could backfire and be a PR disaster.

However I still maintain that if it is acceptable for car insurance companies to discriminate based on sex, a way of getting cheaper rates to a group that contribute less cost - then it should be acceptable for other services to do this too... Just need to find a way to implement it.


Andy Mcfarlane said...

There was already some noise from the equality authority on this, and the general idea I think was that the fairest way to do this was based on body/mass index - still major potential for disaster if they tried implementing it, besides how could they sell low fares as easily without knowing someone's weight in advance along with getting rid of check-in desks?!

ed said...

Hi Andy, good to hear from you!
Yeh I mean to bring it in might cause more hastle and ultimatly cost than its worth. I suppose really the only way you could do it is get people to declare the information online and then have them step on scales in the airport, which to be honest would be a frankly absurd thing to see.

I do like the way Ryanair have no qualms with bringing this sort of stuff up!

Nick said...

I love this idea!

Why shouldn't they be charging by absolute weight that you personally take onto the aircraft? Just have people select a maximum weight (body mass + luggage) when they book their ticket and if they exceed it at check in then just charge them extra.
Its not discriminating based on body type its just purely an issue of how much weight you want transported from X to Y.
(ok so I am ridiculously light so i might be a little biased but even so....)

Rowan Manahan said...

As someone who has to suffer the indignity and abuse of the brutal, insensitive graffiti found in lifts (EG: Max 8 persons, 600kg - how cruel is that?) I have long expected something along these lines to be suggested by Ruinair.

I have three things to say on this:
(1) I will be expecting significant rebates from Mr O'Leary every time my children (aged 9 and 11) travel with his ghastly airline. On the basis of the nonsense I have seen spouted on this weight issue, I reckon O'Leary will be paying my daughters significant sums every time they decide to travel for the next 6 years or so.

(2) I have heard anecdotally about airlines in the US charging circumferentially challenged passengers for two seats - because they occupy at least that many seats. The problem I would immediately see for Upyoursair with their lovely scramble-for-your-seats policy is that one of those seats would be in the middle of the plan and the other at the rear.

(3) Is it possible, just possible, that O'Leary has released this 'survey' into the wild in order to generate mile upon mile of free column inches? (Which it has done). Given Begladwegaveyouaseatatallair's predeliction for sock-puppeting on blogs etc, is there not just the smidgen of a possibility that they ... oh, I don't know ... MADE UP this survey in the first place?

Just a thought from someone who is willing to pay €50 more to fly with ANYBODY except this cruddy little prick.

ed said...

WELL! SOMEONE has an issue with Ryanair.

As far as your children go, I guess you could negate that by saying below X kilos or X BMI = one rate, and above = another amount.

I has occured to me that the whole thing is a bit of a media stunt... The website did deal with it in rather a ridulous way and to be fair anytime O'Leary decideds to talk to us small folk it tends to be in some sort of promotional drive.

I am also sure that Michael O Leary doesnt give a fiddlers fart what anyone outside of his boardroom and the usefulness of this survey will be approx zero - But I can see why some people would like to see those with excessive weight billed more.

The situation is a bit grey over in N.America, the Canadian govt recently banned charging people for two seats, whereas America airlines can. Maybe charging for weight is a little unethical, however if someone takes up 2 seats, I think it is unfair to expect the airline to just give up the revenue for that seat - perhaps a government refund system on that? get a new department going - creat some jobs (See I have it all thought out)

Andy Mcfarlane said...

Hey Ed, how are you?
The situation definitely reeks of a publicity stunt - do either of you guys remember a few years ago when he got people to e-mail Bertie Ahern (through the Ryanair website) at the time to protest at something like the then-govt. refusing to allow him build his own T2 out in Dublin Airport? It sure got a lot of publicity - was even on RTE news, but who is building T2? Eh...the DAA. Look at this one - it's made it into a lot of the papers (internationally) so we could well be seeing a repeat.

Anyway, on a more practical note, if they hand out 2 seats to those needing it, as you pointed out, they lose the potential revenue the seat could be earning. Secondly, if they don't give them 2 seats, either the person has to squash in (and if I'm next to them, that's going to piss me right off, whatever anyone says) or hope there's a second seat free on the day (difficult, when Ryanair strives to maintain minimum load factors of approx 75 - 80% per flight). Surely if someone really needs an entire two seats they should pay for them - are you telling me that if I go into a shop and need two sandwiches I should only pay for one because that's all most people would need?

ed said...

Its a touchy subject though, the whole, you are too big to fit argument. I saw one of those airline programmes on Sky1 a while back and when a customer was told she had to buy a second seat she went into an absolute Tizzy, creating quite a scene and the likes.

Im not sure whether any government should get involved with that sort of thing like the Canadians did, I reckon it should be part of the terms and conditions of the sale, and it should be up to the airline to decide.