QANTAS weighs in on obesity debate

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A former QANTAS chief executive suggests Australian airlines should implement a surcharge for passengers carrying a bit of extra “baggage.” Alice Orszulok reports.


REPORTER: A former QANTAS chief executive says overweight passengers should be paying a surcharge to fly with Australian airlines. Tony Webber says that overweight people should be covering extra fuel costs incurred by airlines.

TONY WEBBER: When people way more, that means their more weight on the plane which in turn means they burn more fuel when they travel, burning more fuel obviously costs more, and in the environment where the cost of oil is relatively high compared to historical standards, the cost increase of having people on the plane that weigh more, and having a total load on the aircraft that weigh more is significant, and they need to recover that cost.

REPORTER: According to Webber, Australian’s, particularly the baby boomer generation, have increased in weight by about 2kg on average over a 10 year period.

TONY WEBBER: Whether it’s the weight of the baggage or the weight of the person, it’s irrelevant. What matters in terms of fuel burn that the airline consumes is the total weight on the plane including the empty aircraft and whatever’s loaded onto the aircraft

REPORTER: However, some people are unhappy with the proposal, stating that the surcharge falls under discrimination.

TONY WEBBER: It is discrimination, it’s price discrimination. But price discrimination is in many industry sectors, for example it’s practice in terms of how you pay for things, merchants charge consumers for the goods they’re purchasing with a credit card more so than when they pay  with debit card or cash. Or when you go to the cinemas, if you’re younger or if you’re a senior citizen you’re often given a discount, or if you go on a Tuesday rather than other days of the week you pay less, so there’s price discrimantion across society for a lot of different reasons, this is just another form of it.

REPORTER: Webber acknowledges that the implementation of this proposal anytime in the near future is unlikely.

TONY WEBBER: No. I don’t think they’ll do it. I think they’re worried about brand damage, they’re not even sure if price discrimination on this basis will earn them more revenue, it will lead to a more equitable pricing, but there’s some chance that it wont make more revenue for them.


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