Desperate times call for desperate measures; that’s the phrase in the air within the Airline Industry today. The reality of escalating fuel prices means that Airlines are busy analyzing and literally weighing up all the options to balance costs. Airlines are looking at a number of ways to streamline flight costs thereby reducing onboard weight, considering the weight and fuel cost ratio. Everything and everyone is being brought into question.

As travellers we thought it was unfair when airlines stated charging for overweight baggage and then by moving the goalposts downwards. Ryan Air was likely the worst offender when it came to baggage control charges, however at least they kept their promise with low cost passenger tickets. This can’t be said for the Big Boys (National Airline carriers) who jumped on the bandwagon by not only charging high ticket prices, but also nailing unsuspecting passengers for elevated excess luggage too!

Now for the SHOCK; think about this. How would you feel if you were to be personally weighed at check-in? Controversial it may seem to some, but it could come sooner than we think if airlines start charging people according to their body weight?

If cost is not enough; what about the comfort and legal issues of overweight flyers? Virgin Atlantic recently paid a female passenger £13,000 (US$20,289) compensation, after she was squashed by an obese person who sat next to her on a transatlantic flight. Barbara Hewson, from Swansea, south Wales, suffered injuries including a blood clot in her chest, torn leg muscles and acute sciatica and remains in pain two years on.

The obese passenger was only been able to fit into her seat by raising the arm rest, which meant her remaining excess body parts weighed down on poor Mrs Hewson. The injured woman had to be admitted to hospital in Los Angeles when the flight touched down and was sadly bedridden for a month.

Two years later, and after pressure on the airline to take her complaint seriously, Virgin agreed to pay her compensation. Before taking off, the freelance writer had complained in the first instance to the cabin crew about sitting next to the overweight woman, who actually booked two seats on her outward bound flight to London, but failed to do so on the return leg.

Attendants instructed Mrs Hewson that the flight was full, with not a single remaining seat available. She commented that her experience of the 11-hour flight in economy class was simply “horrific”. Mrs Hewson added that she was now forced to walk with a stick and still suffered resulting pain.

It is reported Virgin officials initially offered “a small basket of goods” worth £15 as compensation, but Mrs Hewson took forward her complaint. Then after 18 months of pursuing her claim and undergoing struct medical examinations by Virgin’s own doctors to prove the extent of her injuries, the airline agreed to a proper settlement.

A statement by Virgin said Mrs Hewson’s injuries arose from “an unprecedented set of extremely unfortunate circumstances”. “We have apologized to Mrs Hewson and have offered her compensation, which she has accepted, and we are pleased that this has now reached a conclusion.”

For your interest in the United States, budget US carrier Southwest Airlines now charge larger passengers for two seats, so is this the start of the trend?

Fat concern

But the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance has taken on airlines over discrimination against overweight people.

The level of obesity in the US is now of major concern, but also in the UK, National Audit Office figures show one in five people are clinically obese. Vale of Glamorgan MP John Smith fought a campaign against cramped economy class conditions, following a series of deaths from deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which have been linked to long haul flights. Source BBC News

For now most airlines are looking once again at re-packaging meals, using lighter trolleys, eliminating “In flight Magazines” (Digital copy will be available), Duty free booklets and the list goes on …..

So can we expect to see people standing on weighing scales at airports in the future instead? Its certainly a possibility and most embarrassing!