(NaturalNews) Hammered by rising fuel costs, airlines around the world are implementing new cost-cutting measures and considering others - possibly including charging passengers by weight, similar to the way that air freight is priced.
"If you look at the air-freight business, that's the way they've always done it," said Robert Mann, head of the aviation consulting firm R.W. Mann & Co. "We're getting treated like air freight when we travel by airlines, anyway." Mann predicted that charging passengers by their weight is a reasonable step that may not be far in the future.
Jet fuel prices have nearly tripled in the past decade, and now make up an estimated 40 percent of the operating costs for an airline. Due in large part to these rising costs, nine U.S. airlines shut down in the first half of 2008. The U.S. airline industry reported first quarter losses of $1.7 billion, and yearly losses are projected to hit $6.1 billion.
While no company yet charges obese passengers more, Southwest Airlines has moved in that direction by charging passengers for two seats if they are so large that the armrest on their side cannot be fully lowered.
Southwest is also cutting costs by flying its planes more slowly. Other measures companies are using include washing jet engines more regularly, using lighter dishes and charging passengers for checked bags.
Tim Clark, president of the Persian Gulf's largest airline carrier, Emirates, said his company has no plans to start weighing its passengers.
"That is something that when I was a check-in agent in the early 70s I used to do, and it was the most horrific experience, trying to get people to stand on scales," he said. "It's not something that we would do."
But David Castelveter, spokesperson for the trade group Air Transport Association, said that nothing can be ruled out.
"You listen to the airline CEOs, and nothing is beyond their imagination," he said. "They have already begun to think exotically. Nothing is not under the microscope."