Friday, December 2, 2016

Predictable But Still Unexpected

In February 2013 when I wrote, “Will airlines charge based on the total weight of the luggage and the passenger?” some people thought I must have been joking.  Here is a reliable news source reporting another step in that direction.  “Two American Samoan businessmen have filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Transportation alledging [sic] they may have been the target of discrimination after being weighed while boarding a recent flight from Honolulu.

“In the complaints, the men also say they were assigned new seats on the aircraft that they did not originally select, to ensure that the weight on the flight was evenly distributed.”

I don’t claim any supernatural powers.  In most cases, any semblance of clairvoyance is merely a matter of looking at behavior and predicting the logical consequences.  Airlines already weigh baggage.  They also must estimate the weight of passengers to calculate the amount of fuel needed to safely make the flight.  In this case, after finding that the fuel burn on certain flights was consistently higher than expected, they ran a survey to find how far off their estimates had been and to make the appropriate adjustments.

The businessmen were not barred from the flight or apparently inconvenienced in any way except to be assigned new seats to better balance the plane.  It seems reasonable that passengers, even though they were customers of the airline, would be interested in cooperating to make sure the airplane they were riding in for many hours over open water was properly balanced and had enough fuel.  But as I noted last week, some people are so spoiled that they look for ways to be offended.

This was just a weight distribution issue, but the trend continues.  “In 2013, Samoa Air became the world's first airline to charge passengers according to size.”  Ticket prices are based on combined weight of passenger and baggage.  With an adult obesity rate estimated around 95 percent, it’s not surprising that American Samoans became the first to face this new fare scheme.  But as the issues of fuel and balance are real for every airline, will they be the last?   In what other unexpected areas will the consequences of our problems with discipline affect our lives and wallets?

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