Consistency, aviation and discrimination

The average woman weighs less than the average man, as does the average child. This is undeniably true.

By far the most important cost for the average aeroplane flight is fuel, which is directly dependent on total take-off weight. This is undeniably true.

The average woman joining a passenger aeroplane flight carries more luggage than the average man, and families with kids carry more luggage still. This is also undeniably true, as is is the fact that women are still far more likely to be primary carers.

So the current model under which fuel costs for passenger aeroplanes are based on the total weight of passengers, but excess charges for luggage are based solely on luggage weight irrespective of passenger weight, is grossly sexist on aggregate. Small people with luggage (overwhelmingly women) are subsidising big people without luggage (overwhelmingly men).

Now, you could argue that this is an unavoidable consequence of micro-level decisions and not deliberate discrimination, but if you did you’d be an oaf.

Laws in western countries agree, rightly, that an establishment that makes decisions that end up with men being overwhelmingly privileged and women being overwhelmingly shafted, despite those decisions not being expressly gender-based, is a discriminatory establishment.

I can’t see how this could possibly fail to apply to airlines. The sooner everyone joins up with Samoan Airlines and the weight scheme kicks in, the better…

4 thoughts on “Consistency, aviation and discrimination”

  1. Ah but! The EU ruling on annuity rates has deemed that a physical difference between the sexes is not grounds for offering different pricing, ie just because men die younger does not mean you can offer them higher annuity rates. So it could be argued that pricing via weight is also indirect sex discrimination, as men weigh more than women on the whole (with some notable exceptions!) and thus would pay more. And the concept of 'discrimination' is predicated on the idea that prices should be equal for the sexes, not unequal because of physical differences. After all, are you arguing that if a male bricklayer can lay more bricks per hour than a female one that he should be paid more?

    Personally I agree with the 'Price on weight' concept, I just think that there would have to be a base price of X for up to Y kilos of person +luggage, then Z extra per extra kilo of person or luggage.

    1. are you arguing that if a male bricklayer can lay more bricks per hour than a female one that he should be paid more?

      I don't think you pay brickies by the brick, but if a male bricklayer can lay more bricks per hour than a female one then you should certainly give him the job instead of her, and that wouldn't be discriminatory at all because he'd be better at his job than her. And that goes regardless of whether greater strength makes men, on average, better brickies.

      1. It is not wholly unknown for bricklayers to be on piecework, but it's pretty rare these days, because it has a predictable effect on quality and safety.

  2. I have been saying this for years, but usually when I say it people look shocked and offended (when I said it to a travel agent they acted as though I’d gone on a Nazi rant or something). I suspect this is because most women and many men dislike the idea of being weighed. To be convinced, I think people would need a firm sense of how much money they’d save. On the plus side, though, this would have a further benefit that overweight people would find out how much they weighed and would be incentivized to lose weight, probably making them healthier.

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