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There is a video story out today about fat air passengers. The story was sparked by publication of the photo here, and it is a story that most of us can relate to, as most of us have had the experience of having to sit next to an obese neighbor who spills over into your seat-space.

While there is no industry standard, individual airlines do have some policies for dealing with the problem, like requiring big people to buy two seats. The problem is, how do you set a standard that is really practical and enforceable? Just leaving it to the judgement of a salesperson invites accusations of discrimination and prejudice.

Of course, there is economics involved here as well. One problem is that airlines are furnishing planes with ever smaller seat sizes, maximizing the carrying capacity of each plane. One reason that happens is that passengers typically buy the cheapest ticket they can find, regardless of other variables. That probably also explains the poor quality of food in the air.

I have flown a number of airlines, and can only think of two–maybe two–that practice non-price competition. That would seem to be the real solution to the problem, convince customers that their comfort and health–and a decent meal–are worth a slightly higher ticket price. Airlines will no doubt follow the customers’ lead.

If we could only reconfigure the seat sizes for different passengers, you could simply charge by the kilo (pound).

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