Samoa Air’s idea wouldn’t get off the ground here

One of my colleagues at work spends a lot of time in Latin American countries. The other day he was telling me about a lot of those cultures don’t treat body image the way we do.

It would be quite common, he said, for someone you know but haven’t seen for awhile to greet you by telling you with a smile how fat you’ve gotten since the last time he saw you. No disrespect would be intended, and within that culture none is taken.

It sounds rather healthy to me, even if it would take a lot of getting used to. I imagine such a culture wouldn’t have many activists running around worrying about size-ism. They probably don’t experience a lot of discrimination based on weight, either.

They also probably wouldn’t have many hang-ups about an airline charging them by the pound.

Samoa Airlines does that. At check-in, you get on the scale with your luggage and pay anywhere from $1 to $4.16 per kilogram.

Airline officials say it’s the fairest way to fly. After all, airline expenses are based on weight. It costs more in fuel to fly a heavier plane. If you’re going to Disneyland with the little tikes, why should you have to pay as much for them to fly as you pay for yourself?

I suppose an airline may answer by wondering why it should get only a fraction of a normal fare to transport a child when it could fill that same seat with a larger person and charge more. The fairest thing for everyone is to simply charge the same amount to occupy a seat.

Except, of course, that airlines don’t charge everyone the same. If people on a flight had to pin the airfare they paid on their foreheads, the discrepancies would be clear.

Culture being what it is in the United States, Western Europe and other places, this scheme isn’t going to catch on any time soon. Americans will take off their shoes and stand in a machine that takes body scanning images of them before getting on a plane. But stand on a scale? Do you want to completely destroy the air industry as we know it?

It might be a good incentive to more healthy living. It might go a lot farther than Michael Bloomberg’s ban on soda drinks larger than 16 ounces in New York City, for example. But it will never happen here.

Of course, you could always convince yourself that you’re paying more because you  must have bought the heaviest suitcases in the store.

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About the Author

Jay Evensen

Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist for the Deseret News. He has 32 years of journalism experience covering politics and a variety of other assignments at news organizations ranging from United Press International in New York City to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News, where he has worked since 1986. During that time, he has won numerous local, regional and national awards. Most recently, he was given the Cameron Duncan Media Award, given annually in Washington, D.C., by the advocacy group RESULTS, to the journalist judged to have done the most to further the cause of the world's poorest people.

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