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Legal ruling could allow airline fat tax

By Katerina Nikolas     Feb 8, 2012 in Travel
A Court of Appeals victory for two British airlines paves the way for airlines to introduce a fat tax on obese passengers.
The British Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of British Airways and Thomas Cook that the Montreal Convention which governs air carriers' liability and provides a framework of international rules for air travel, takes precedence over English law. The Telegraph reported "Judges decided that key elements of Britain’s disability and discrimination laws do not apply once passengers have boarded an aircraft."
The ruling paves the way for airlines to introduce a fat tax, charging obese passengers more for their flights. They would no longer be able to claim discrimination if taxed for their excess weight. Currently some airlines do insist that the obese purchase two seats on a flight as seats are inadequately sized to take the additional bulk of those whose girth spreads into adjoining seats, thus discomforting their adjacent passenger.
The ruling in Britain follows last month's call by former Qantas chief economist Tony Webber for a fat tax to be introduced. Writing in Business Day Webber argued
"People who weigh more should pay more to fly on planes - in the same way that people who exceed their baggage allowance must fork out extra. The rationale is simple. The fuel burnt by planes depends on many things but the most important is the weight of the aircraft. The more a plane weighs, the more fuel it must burn."
A poll attached to Webber's article shows 67 percent in favour of a weight tax, whilst the Telegraph cites a Ryannair poll showing only around one third of passengers supported such an increase. Polls can hardly be unbiased over such an issue though, as the answers would be largely dependent on the weight of the person polled.
Certainly the overwhelming majority of the almost 700 comments the Telegraph article attracted are in favour of a fat tax, as the politically incorrect readership tends to consider obesity to be lifestyle choice which should be paid for.
Other arguments put forth supporting the tax are the safety issues involved if an obese passenger obstructed the exit path in the case of an airline emergency; the personal discomfort of those forced to endure another persons body invading their space; and the argument that slimline passengers are being discriminated against by bearing the additional costs of the weighty. Many commenter's remark that it is unfair to pay excess luggage fees whilst the total weight of the passenger, complete with their luggage is not taken into account.
In addition to the new ruling allowing for a fat tax to be introduced, passengers will no longer be able to sue an airline if they consider that their feelings have been hurt.
More about airline fat tax, montreal convention, air carriers liability, obese passengers, disabled fliers
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