Friday, May 23, 2008

A not-so-modest proposal

Babble on.

Here's an idea for the marketing gurus at the airlines to consider: charge based on the total weight hauled - whether human or cargo or a combination of both. If the real issue is fuel consumption, that's directly tied to the payload carried, not to the number of passengers or the number of checked bags.

Charging fares based upon the combined weight of each passenger and their baggage is much more easily justifiable than charging a flat fee per bag and per person. Why should a 130 lb woman with two fifty-pound checked bags be charged more than a 225 lb man with a 15 lb carry-on? He's responsible for 240 lbs of payload, and she's responsible for only 230 lbs.

Fare's fair? (couldn't resist)

Babble off.


At 5:12 p.m., Blogger rabbit said...

Perfectly reasonable, but people will claim airlines are discriminating based on a physical handicap (obesity).

My biggest problem with charging for each checked-in bag is that this will encourage more carry-on luggage. I can't stand it when people try to haul steamer trunks on to planes. The overhead compartments will fill up quicker, which means more carry-ons below the seats. I can see fist fights.

At 5:26 p.m., Blogger Chris Taylor said...

That's a fair idea, but the airlines will never do it. Their whole business model now revolves around the idea of the public seeing flying as both affordable and an utter necessity.

If one airline jacks up its rates, a cut-rate charter will dump theirs and take the loss just to get the traffic spike. They are all terrified of losing customers.

You will get asked about your weight and luggage weight if fly aboard bush planes or small GA charters. They need to know so they can adjust their weight, balance and fuel calculations, and their margin for error in these factors is much, much smaller.

No large carrier today is willing to build the full cost of fuel into their pax fares, and then adjust them for individual weighting. You can imagine how various privacy and other interest groups will scream once airlines start weighing pax and individually adjusting fares to compensate. Someone will scream discrimination and legislators will fall over each other lining up to ride that train to re-election.

These guys are in the same place the insurance industry was, pre-9/11. That sector didn't stop subsidising their premiums with investment income until the market tanked and there was no investment income to subsidise with. Then everyone started re-factoring their premiums to handle 100% of the assumed payouts.

The airlines will eventually have to do the same and build full fuel costs into the pax fares, but they won't until the choice is between painful change and complete destruction.

Oh, and rabbit: Carry-ons are limited by size and quantity. Some airlines limit by weight, too, but not all of them. See chart for examples.

At 6:06 p.m., Blogger rabbit said...


True, carry ons are - in principle - limited. But this limit is often ignored.

Even if the limits are enforced, fees for checked-in baggage will encourage more people to approach those limits. And there isn't enough room in the passenger cabins for that - especially on regional jets.

At 2:55 p.m., Blogger Ben (The Tiger) said...

I think I remember a Mad Magazine cartoon which suggested the same in the late 1980s...

At 10:29 a.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Well, as long as I'm in agreement with Mad Magazine, I must be on the right track... ;)

At 2:12 p.m., Blogger John of Argghhh! said...

Not that this will affect you lot, (unless you're US taxpayers) but if the airlines start making me get on the scale at check-in, then I'm going to be pushing Congress to up my VA disability payment.

By a lot. Oh, I know, if I want to save money, I should just rad-diet. Heck, that'll save me money too!

Secondly - just how is this going to work? In the era of e-tickets, we're *all* going to have to check-in, individually, with a weigh-in, so's the charges can be adjusted? That will will certainly make the flying experience much more fun.

I hate you skinny people.

At 11:24 a.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

When I thought about it for awhile, I figured you could have a weigh-in pad for you and your luggage, with a display that showed only to the person on the pad and the airline employee checking you in. That way it's not about what you weigh, it's about what you and your luggage weighs.

To your other question, yes, you'd be given a rate per kilo or pound at the time of booking, and have to put down a deposit. Your final charges would be determined once you'd checked in. It would have to be subject to minimum fares and maximum weights so that the airline could have some ability to book close to capacity.

And, like it or not, you can't escape the physics: it's not about how many people and pieces of baggage the plane carries, fuel costs are largely dependent upon the weight of those passengers and cargo. No way around that.

I don't think I quite qualify as "skinny people" yet, John, but I'm working on it... ;)

At 3:52 a.m., Blogger NightFallTech said...

Doesn't the weight of the plane make up a substantial portion of the overall fuel requirement? Hence the cost is directly related to the number of passengers sharing the cost, and therefore, the number of seats..

Airlines charging for excess baggage is like bank charges and speed camera fines. Just another component of the bottom line.

I suspect that compared to the cost of flying an empty plane from A->B. the cost of flying a fully laden plane is relatively similar.


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