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Fat People Should Pay More to Fly on Airplanes and to Use Mass Transit

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/21/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,033 times Debate No: 34963
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (12)
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I will make an argument that fat people should be charged more for when flying on airplanes and using all public mass transit like buses and subways.


In the first round Con will simply just accept the debate and then in the second round I will make my argument.

There will be 3 debating rounds. 3 days to respond.

When I say "fat" it will be defined as a person who has a BMI of over 27.5. Being overweight is usually defined as having a BMI of 25-30* so I picked 27.5 because it is right in the middle.

Explantion of BMI:

Body Mass Index (BMI) is calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by the square of their height in meters.


I am 6 feet tall and 150 pounds. In meters my height is 1.8288 meters tall and in Kgs my weight is 68. So 1.8288 squared is 3.34450944. Therefore 68/3.34450944 equals a BMI of 20. So my BMI is 20, considered about average.

So to qualify as "fat" under my definition, a 6 foot tall person would have to weigh 205 pounds (92.9) Kgs. (92.9/3.344 = BMI of 27.7)

A 5 foot tall person would have to weigh 142 pounds to qualify as fat.

Con will have to accept these rules and definitions of fat in round 1 and then I will present my argument in round 2.

Source:Obesity: preventing and managing the global epidemic. Report of a WHO convention, Geneva: World Health Organization, 1999,


Per Philophile's instructions, I'm just accepting the debate in this round.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you daev for accepting this debate. I hope this proves entertaining for everyone.

Fat people should have to pay more to fly on airplanes and to use mass transit. Why? Quite simply because they’re heavier, and take up more space. Heavier people require that more energy is needed to move them, and when space is a premium, such as on airplanes and crowded buses/trains, someone who is fat may take up as much space as two (or more) average/skinny sized people who each paid the same amount of fare.

Now I’m not going to be politically correct here, so please excuse my language at times. Have you ever gotten to your seat on an airplane and noticed that there was a person sitting next to you who was so fat that their body was protruding onto your seat? Have you even gotten onto a bus or train, tired and in desperate need of a seat and noticed that there was a fat person occupying two seats? Well you’re not alone. This has happened to me many times.

Why should I have to surrender 25% of my airplane seat to a fat person when I paid for 100% of it? Why should I have to stand when there technically is a seat available but it’s being occupied by a fat person’s single butt-cheek? In these situations, average weight people like me are penalized, while the fat people are not. That is not right and that is why fat people should pay more to fly and ride on mass transit.

How will it Work?

Here’s how it will work. At the airport since we each have to be individually body scanned, that same scanning machine can be used to weigh a person. Since you are forced to take your shoes and outer clothes off, this will accurately weigh you very close to your naked body weight. The scanner can also use a laser to accurately measure your height. Once this is done, your BMI is instantly calculated and as you exit the scanner a ticket is printed out with a bar code and ID number. This ticket has your BMI digitally encoded on it. Before you are allowed to board the plan, you simply just scan the ticket into a machine after scanning your plane ticket and your BMI calculation is added to your ticket price. For every pound over the BMI limit (27.5) you are charged an extra dollar over your ticket price. So if you are 50 pounds over your BMI limitation, you pay an extra 50 dollars on your ticket. This system is efficient and uses existing protocols to make sure there is very little delay time added to the check in process. And since everyone is scanned equally, fat people are not singled out and humiliated in any way.

When it comes to buses/subways when you buy your ticket you will be asked to step into an enclosed area that will weigh you and a laser will scan you for your height. For every pound over your BMI you will be charged an extra penny. So if a train ticket cost $1.50, and you are 50 pounds over your BMI, you will be charged an extra 50 cents for a total of $2. A penny per pound may not seem like much, but for people who use mass transit twice a day it will add up. To ensure honor in calculating BMI, the area will be under camera surveillance and your credit card info will be noted when you purchase the tickets in case you try to cheat the system. A computer software system can also be employed to make sure you cannot lean on something to off-balance your weight through the camera. The logistics of all this need not be completely practical for my argument but we have the technology to do this, and any kinks could always be worked out, what matters is the principle that fat people should pay more.

Charging people more for flying/using mass transit that are fat will penalize them for unduly making the experiences of other travelers worse. This will also greatly encourage those who are fat to lose weight because every pound they gain will be costing them more money whenever they fly or use mass transit.

Economic Justifications

Besides the personal costs to average weight individuals who have to deal with the circumferences of those who are fat, there are good economic reasons to justify surcharging them. It doesn’t take a genius to know that it takes more energy to move something 300 pounds than something 100 pounds.

According to Tony Webber, former chief economist for Qantas airlines, since 2000 the average weight of a passenger has increased by 2 kilos. “For a large, modern aircraft like the Airbus A380, that means that an extra $472 of fuel has to be burned on a flight from Sydney to London. If the airline flies that route in both directions three times a day, over a year it will spend an additional $1 million for fuel, or, on current margins, about 13% of the airline’s profit from operating that route.”[i]

The logic behind charging fat passengers more is the same behind charging for luggage over 50 pounds. It amounts to covering the airline’s extra fuel costs for their passenger’s extra pounds while at the same time providing them with a healthy incentive to lose weight. This same principle also applies to mass transit. This will also potentially trickle down to lower transportation costs to all of us.

Is This Reasonable?

There might be complaints over my definition of “fat.” The line over what is fat has to be drawn somewhere, and drawing it at a BMI of 27.5 allows people who are “chubby” to escape being penalized while only those who are truly overweight are. This is a reasonable standard because people with “a few extra pounds” are not harming anyone to the degree that the obese are and we all know that some people are just naturally chubby and can’t help it. But as I said in the rules, Con had to agree with my definition of fat before accepting this debate so that should not be an issue. He has to make a counter argument based from some other angle.

I think that surcharging fat people to ride on airplanes and mass transit can be ethical depending on how it’s done. The method I proposed above provides us with a non-invasive and non-humiliating way that this can be done efficiently and with as little disruption to service as possible. It will encourage weight lose, giving those who are fat an incentive to get healthier, this will also lower healthcare costs for all people, and it will lead to less incidents of weight related discomforts to those who stay within regular weight limits.

We penalize smokers and gamblers for their lifestyle habits, there is no reason not to also do so to those who chose to live unhealthy lifestyles who burden those around them with conditions due to their excessive size and increased amount of energy costs. It’s bad for business, bad for customers and bad for the environment and a “fat tax” will help stop this.



Thank you, Philophile, for the opportunity to debate this issue.

Individual Responsibility

I’d like to start by identifying a key point in Philophile’s argument, mainly that individuals must bear the responsibility for being obese, and that a weight-based pricing policy would “encourage [them] to lose weight.”

The idea that obesity results from poor lifestyles choices, a common public consensus, is quite simply wrong.

As Dr. Richard Atkinson, editor of the International Journal of Obesity phrased it, “The previous belief of many…health professionals that obesity is simply the result of a lack of willpower and an inability to discipline eating habits is no longer defensible.” [1] For example, there are numerous studies to show that environmental factors are a significant cause for the increase in average body weight. Consider a meta-analysis conducted by David Allison, a biostatistician at the University of Alabama, that shows that many animal species living in close proximity to humans, as well as humans, have been experiencing dramatic increases in weight [2]. These aren't just pampered pets being affected; the trend also applied to primates and lab animals, whose diets are carefully controlled. For example, Allison reports that the average body weight for chimps kept in human proximity has been increasing, on average, by about 35% per decade [5]. Presumably, these other species aren’t suffering from a lack of discipline in food habits, nor does it make sense that so many species are spontaneously lacking exercise. This clearly shows that environmental factors beyond simple lifestyle choices are primarily affecting weight gain in multiple species – not just in humans.

More than likely, there are a number of factors beyond an individual’s control responsible for this trend, including genetics and chemical influences. For example, an organic compound called bisphenol-A (BPA) has been shown to affect an animal's ability to regulate fat; and its exposure in our environment is almost unavoidable [5]. A study conducted by the NYU Medical Center supports its effects on weight - it found that American children with the highest levels of BPA in their urine were five times more likely to be obese [10].

Whatever the reason, the conclusion is the same; our weight gain as a society is beyond the control of any one individual’s choices. How then can we encourage a system that penalizes individuals for something that isn’t their fault? Implementing such a pricing policy as Philophile suggests would just unfairly disadvantage the obese – it certainly wouldn’t lead to their becoming “healthier”, nor help in lowering “healthcare costs for all people” – it simply isn’t in their control.


Let's also look at the demographics affected most by this pricing policy.

In the U.S., obesity disproportionately affects the poor [3, 4]. While the causes of this aren't fully understood, the consequences remain; this incentive structure would disproportionately affect the economic mobility of the poor – those who could least afford to be impacted by such a policy since they often rely on public transportation to get to work. Instead of supporting those who lack financial security, we'd effectively be punishing this already-disadvantaged group as a society.

Passenger Comfort

Philophile mentions how obese people “unduly” make the experience of their fellow travellers worse, despite their obesity not being fully in their control. Yet let's look at how airlines, for example, have responded to this general trend of the increase of our 'stature'. In the same profit-motivated thought process that has led numerous domestic carriers to charge for checked-in baggage, snacks, etc. on flights, airlines have also been reducing the average seat size to the point where the seats are now 8 inches too narrow, according to Kathleen Robinette, an anthropometrics expert who has done studies on this topic for the U.S. Air Force [6]. Surely, this isn't the fault of any one out-sized individual – the lack of comfort or the inability to find space that Philophile describes is a direct result of airlines intentionally trying to cram more people into the same space. And there's no reason to assume airlines won't continue this trend if given the opportunity.

Holding obese individuals responsible is certainly the socially-easier choice. They’re physically more obvious targets for discrimination, through policies such as the one Philophile suggests. However, such thinking fails to hold the right entities accountable – if comfort is our primary concern, we should be directing our attention to the airlines that are forcing us into this situation in the first place.

Economic Impact

Philophile also cites statements made by Tony Webber, a former economist for Qantas Airlines, that imply that Qantas Airlines’ profit margins are being significantly impacted as a result of the airline carrying more obese passengers. However, the “extra $472” of fuel per flight is insignificant when compared to the total fuel costs of a Sydney-to-London flight. Assuming the Sydney-to-London route is a 20-hour flight for an Airbus A380, the plane would have to carry about $9 million worth of fuel [7], of which $472 is less than 0.01% of the total fuel cost. It’s hard to imagine, then, that this could cause a significant impact to its profit margin.

To further put the economic argument in perspective, let’s consider Southwest Airline’s ‘customer of size’ policy. Southwest Airlines encourages obese passengers to buy a second seat, yet in over 90% of cases often refunds the second seat purchased [9]. If there were any economic reasons for the policy (i.e. to offset the additional fuel costs needed to transport obese passengers) it wouldn’t make sense for Southwest Airlines to issue any refunds at all. It’s clear then, that economically speaking obese passengers have a negligible impact on fuel costs. This is also supported by the fact that, as an industry, airlines have yet to implement weight-based fares for passengers (outside of a few airline monopolies who can afford to implement policies that aren’t economically justified). The same concepts apply for other forms of mass transportation - economically speaking, obese passengers have an insignificant effect on their margins, as well.

Philophile is correct when he says we do penalize smokers for what is clearly their lifestyle choice. However, we implement policies that encourage good decisions in the correct situations; for example, we make cigarettes more expensive to discourage smokers from buying them, and not during an unrelated process in an effort to shame them. Furthermore, any such pricing policy simply misses the point – obesity is not under an individual's control, and such policy wouldn’t make a difference for either the comfort of other passengers (in the long-run), or for the economic viability of transportation companies. As best, such a policy would unfairly disadvantage already-disenfranchised socioeconomic groups; therefore, we should not enforce price-based discrimination against the obese in public transportation systems.








[7] ,



Debate Round No. 2


Thank you for responding daev, I was getting worried that you wouldn’t.

Con is trying to make 4 primary objections to my argument:

  1. Obesity is caused by environmental and genetic factors and therefore obese people are not responsible for their obesity.
  2. Surcharging customers according to their weight will disproportionately affect the poor.
  3. Passenger discomfort is mainly due to the choice of airlines to use smaller seats; and
  4. The economic impact of overweight passengers is minimal

For number 1, a close look at the evidence surrounding obesity rates and causes will show you that they are not caused primarily by genetic factors. If genetic factors were the primary cause of obesity, we’d see a more or less even distribution of obesity rates around the world, but we don’t. We see it concentrated in first world countries like the US, in countries in Europe and in Australia. This is because people in these countries consume the most calories.

According to the World Health Organization, between 1997-99 average calorie consumption in industrialized countries was about 3,380 calories per day compared to just 2,195 per day in sub-Saharan Africa, and 2,403 in South Asia.[i] The additional 1000 calories per day consumed by first world citizens shows that obesity is caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, where people choose to eat foods that are high in fat.

Also, if genetic factors were primarily to blame, that wouldn’t fit into the rapid rise in obesity rates in the past 30 years. One Canadian study found that there was a ten percentage point increase in the rate of obesity from 13.8 in 1978, to 23.1 in 2004[ii]. The study also concluded that the primary cause of this increase in obesity rates was an increase in calorie consumption in the diets of Canadians during those years and that obese people consumed on average, more calories per day. The same results have been found in other industrialized countries like in the US where there has been a sixfold increase in the obesity rate since 1960[iii] and in developing countries like China, where increased food availability in recent times is contributing to growing obesity rates.[iv]

All of these statistics show that it is the availability of food and a person’s lifestyle choice of what foods to eat that are the primary causes of obesity. Diet and exercise are available options for most if not all the people affected by obesity, therefore it is certainly possible for people to control their weight and we cannot lay the blame on “genetics and chemical influences.”

For number 2
, I agree that obesity primarily affects the poor in industrialized countries. However, the poor who are obese are already affecting healthcare premiums for all Americans by adding $190 billion to the annual healthcare price tag.[v] That affects those who are of average weight and who are poor. So why is it OK to tolerate obese people who lack the will power to eat healthy and exercise costing us all more in many areas of our lives like in health insurance, while it is not OK to single them out and surcharge them more for their unhealthy lifestyle?

For number 3, Con shows evidence that airlines are squeezing customers into smaller seats. Certainly this practice is going to exacerbate the problem I am pointing to and I would support something like a federal regulation preventing airlines from making seats too small or below a certain size. But even in the absence of shrinking plane seats, the expanding waistlines of the world will guarantee that the problem I outlined will still occur.

Are the airlines supposed to “size up” to the heaviest passengers? Should there be seating just for the obese at a higher price? My definition of “fat” at a BMI of 27.5 or higher allows those who are reasonably overweight not to be penalized, it is only those who are very overweight and obese who are negatively affecting the experiences of other passengers that should rightly be affected. Like this guy:

The additional revenue that airlines and mass transit systems will generate from implementing my plan could off-set the desire to shrink plane seats to make more money.

For number 4, Con says that the economic impact at least on airlines is minimal. I’m not sure how he calculated that $9 million dollar figure for the fuel costs of a 20 hour airbus flight, but if fuel cost $9 million, no airline would ever make any money. It is not that expensive to fuel an airplane. According to an Airbus A340 can carry 54,023 gallons of fuel with a maximum range of 7,900 nautical miles[vi]. That adds up to 6.84 gallons per mile and .017 gallons per passenger per mile. With an average gallon of gas now at $3.528[vii], the highest possible price for a fully loaded Airbus A340 is $190,593, far lower than Con’s estimate. And also, studies show that airlines get discounts for fuel and pay on average about $1 less per gallon than the public because they consume fuel at bulk prices[viii].

On Con’s $9 million fuel price tag, each passenger would have to be paying about $36,000 on a plane of 250 passengers for the airline to break even just for that flight. Clearly Con’s math is wrong. The extra $1 million in annual fuel costs for a long distance airline route due to fat passengers is something an airline company will take notice of. According to a 2010 report by the Brookings Institute, the annual jet fuel costs attributed to obesity is a staggering $742 million dollars.[ix] And as obesity rates increase into the future, the problem will only become worse not just for airliners, but for mass transit as well.

Implementing a surcharge will encourage weight loss and healthier lifestyles for all people affected, and will encourage a culture in which people take personal responsibility for their lifestyle choices. This will help mitigate the discomfort regular sized passengers experience on planes, busses and trains who are being unfairly chastised.


So the evidence suggests that the rampant increase of obesity is a modern phenomenon, primarily caused by the easy access to unhealthy foods combined with a sedentary lifestyle. Fat people simply lack the will power to resist eating more calories than average weight people, and their inability to control their desires results in more costs for all of us both in economic terms and in the sheer space they take up. I take care of myself by eating healthy and exercising regularly. There is no reason any able-bodied person shouldn’t be able to do the same. As such, my proposed surcharge only impacts those who are towards the obese end of the scale, not those who are mildly overweight.

The hundreds of millions of dollars in additional airline fuel costs, the billions added in health insurance related costs[x] and the impact dealing with the sheer size of overweight people in our personal lives means that it is perfectly reasonable to consider penalizing those whose lifestyles negatively impact all of us, both physically and economically.



Firstly, I'd like to reframe this argument in the context of the debate topic; I'll then take each of Pro's arguments one by one.

Pro is proposing that obese people should be charged more for flying airplanes and using public transportation. Many of Pro's arguments attempt to demonstrate that obese people are completely responsible for their own obesity, hence this form of economic punishment is justified.

Number 1
Firstly, in his refutation of a genetic link to obesity, Pro claims “If genetic factors were the primary cause of obesity, we'd see a more or less even distribution of obesity around the world”. This doesn't make sense – genes vary from country, and are responsible for things as diverse as skin colour or race (which certainly differ primarily country to country). We don't all share the same set of genes globally, and the fact that specific regions are experiencing higher rates of obesity doesn't rule out genetic factors increasing susceptibility to obesity.

Furthermore, the fact that obesity rates are increasing in several industrialized regions, which share many environmental factors, simultaneously could imply environmental factors are at play. If this an issue of individual self-control, then how is it possible that so many people globally are being affected? That environmental factors are at play is also supported by the evidence I provided that many species are increasing in body weight – this isn't just an issue about individual humans lacking self-control, but is instead a more systemic problem that isn't any one individual's fault.

For Pro's other comments in this section, I'm limited in the length of my response, so I'll focus on clarifying the World Health Organization's position on obesity, since the WHO is the most credible source that Pro uses in his response. The WHO acknowledges that “genes are important in determining a person's susceptible to weight gain,”[1] and that other environmental factors play a significant role, including, “economic growth, modernization, urbanization, globalization of food marketings”. The WHO report that Pro references simply suggests that industrialized nations are consuming a larger number of calories than sub-Saharan countries – it makes no claim that industrialized nations are partaking in the “unhealthy lifestyle”, nor makes any attempt to link that to obesity. In fact, the report acknowledges that “poor countries continue to face food shortages and nutrient inadequacies,”[2] making them an unsuitable benchmark despite Pro's use of them as such.

The same WHO report from Pro claims that the amount of fat consumed (grams per capita/day) in China has increased by 55% between 1967 and 1999 – the highest change experienced in any region, yet their obesity levels haven't increased anywhere near the rate of some other nations (their current obesity rate is under 5% according to the WHO [3]). Clearly, other than caloric intake is affecting obesity.

I'm not claiming that lifestyle choices aren't a factor; rather, I'm saying the evidence I provided in Round I indicates lifestyle choices don't explain everything, and that both environmental and genetic factors play a role in increasing obesity in our society. Therefore, before implementing such a pricing policy, we should recognize that there are significant factors at play in developing obesity that are of an individual's control. Implementing such a policy would simply be punishing many people for being born in the wrong region, or being born with the wrong set of genes – both factors out of their control.

Number 2
Since obesity is not completely in control of individuals, such a pricing policy would amount to price discrimination. Pro suggests we should punish them because they cost our healthcare system so much. I'm not sure what transportation has to do with healthcare, and that's probably out of scope for any policy or regulation; regardless, such a policy would be analogous to charging cancer patients or end-of-life senior citizens higher prices when providing public services – both groups also incur larges costs to our healthcare system, yet we certainly don't target them.

Furthermore, obesity doesn't just affect the poor disproportionately. Across many nations, the incidence for obese women was larger than that for men[4]. Obesity is also affects a large number of children[5], and will probably continue to do so in the future. Such a pricing policy would then disproportionately punish a) the poor, b) women, and c) children – as a society, would we really be comfortable with such a policy? Unless we start charging different ticket prices for different races and sexual orientations, I honestly couldn't think of a policy that would send a worse message about our society.

Number 3
Pro supports regulation that would make airlines 'right-size' seating. We're both in agreement that our society is increasing in size, so in response to Pro's argument, it does make sense that airlines should respond appropriately to accommodate passengers comfort. If as a society our shoulders were getting wider, would we try to hold those wider people accountable, or would we find fault with airlines for not responding to a changing demographic? Holding airlines is the sensible solution, and we have every right to expect they dynamically adjust, both now and in the future. Instead, airlines have a history of implementing policies and forcing customers to adjust (for example, charging for checked bags), so they can pad their bottom line.

Number 4
There are several reasons why Pro's estimate for total fuel costs are too low. Firstly, Webber was referring to an Airbus A380, which carries 50% more fuel than an A340[6]; so it's not logical for Pro to use an A340 as reference point. Secondly, the cost of aviation-grade kerosene is significantly more than standard automobile fuel; this is even acknowledged in the source Pro uses[7]. The rest of the credibility of this report is suspect; for example, it doesn't have a valid link to the Bureau of Transportation for some of its figures.

Nevertheless, even $470 out of the $190,600 figure that Pro calculates is still only about 2%. Again, my main point is that economically, the costs of transporting the obese are not significant for the airline industry, and probably even less so for other forms of public transportation. As an industry, airlines have not embraced such a pricing policy (despite being quick to impose other fees that anger customers, such as charging for checked bags or snacks). This is backed up directly by the most reliable source for this topic – the airlines themselves. For three major U.S. Airlines (Delta, United, American), no where in any of their recent 10-K filings[8] do they talk about obesity affecting their cost structure, though they freely discuss other insights and risks for their operations in these filings.

I agree with Pro that this is a modern phenomenon, but the causes are certainly not limited to lifestyle choices. Given that, punishing individuals for a consequence that's out of their control, is both unfair (for individuals and certain marginalized demographic groups) and economically unjustified for transportation companies, and so shouldn't supported by charging the obese higher prices.


Debate Round No. 3


For number 1, Con’s counter to the evidence I cited on the causes of obesity misinterpreted some of my words. When I said that we’d “see a more or less even distribution of obesity around the world” if obesity was due to genes, I was saying that in populations that have the same genes, you don’t see obesity evenly distributed. For example, African-Americans have much higher rates of obesity, than Africans[i][ii]. Same genes, different rates of obesity. Why? Because the former live in America where they have more access to food, particularly unhealthy high-calorie food, and the latter do not. If African-Americans consumed the same amount of calories as their African counterparts, they’d be just about as thin as them.

Laziness plays a large role too. Sedentary lifestyles are a leading contributor of obesity[iii]. If you eat unhealthy high-calorie food all day and never exercise or perform any physically demanding work, of course you’re more likely to become obese. The rise in obesity around the world, like in China is due primarily to these factors. China has just recently become an industrialized country, so of course their obesity rates will be lower, just like America’s were 50 years ago. As more and more Chinese embrace a high calorie western diet, it is only a matter of time before their obesity rates catch up to ours, and the rapid increase of obesity there in the report I cited is proof of that. Con cannot seem to understand this.

The primary environmental factors giving rise to obesity are access to unhealthy foods, combined with the lack of will power to refrain from eating more than you need. To say that obesity is genetic implies that obese people cannot help themselves, and could not lose weight if they tried. But that is simply not true. All obese people could lose weight, it is only a lack of will power that stops them, and that means it is a lifestyle choice for which they should be held responsible for when they negatively affect others. That’s why I’m proposing a transportation surcharge based on weight.

Con is trying to make a case that the obese are victims who have no control over their weight. I’m arguing that this is nonsense because if genes were the primary factor, fat people would never be able to lose weight, and the billions spent on weight loss every year is a testament to the fact that people can lose weight with proper diet and exercise. All that is required is will power. Therefore, it is perfectly legitimate to single out those who are negatively costing businesses and passengers.

For number 2, Con completely misunderstood what I was conveying. What I wrote was that fat people already contribute to billions of dollars more in healthcare costs, and these costs result in higher premiums for everyone, fat and skinny. I was drawing an analogy here. Why is it OK that a healthy person has to pay higher premiums for their healthcare to cover the costs of the unhealthy lifestyles of the obese? Since the same thing is happening with transportation costs, why is it not OK to tolerate personal responsibility by making fat people pay more on transportation?

The addition $742 million in annual fuel costs just to transport obese passengers in not insignificant. As these costs rise as obesity rates rise, airlines will simply pass that cost onto ticket prices, and we’ll all end up paying more for our tickets. So what’s better, that we allow fat passengers to raise airline costs for everyone due to higher fuel requirements and more space they take up, or that we single out those whose unhealthy lifestyles are costing the system more money? If we do not implement a policy of personal responsibility, we will end up with a system where we’ll all be paying for those who are obese.

For number 3, according to a WSJ report, for every 100 passengers, the airline’s profit from just a single seat[iv]. The largest expense of each flight, 29%, comes from fuel costs. So the profit margin for airlines is very small compared to their costs. Obese passengers are cutting into this profit margin not just by adding nearly three quarters of a billion dollars in fuel costs, but in the sheer size they take up. Many airline companies are charging their passengers for 2 tickets if they cannot fit into their seat[v]. A pay as you weigh policy that I’m proposing will help discourage unhealthy lifestyles and encourage better eating and exercising, something which nobody can deny is needed.

For number 4, Con has not been able to justify his wildly high price tag for fueling an Airbus A380 at $9 million dollars. As I’ve said, if that were the price of fueling a single 20 hour flight, no airline would ever make any money, and they’d have to charge passengers $36,000 per ticket just to break even on the fuel costs. Clearly Con’s math is absurd.

According to Indexmundi, the average price of jet fuel per gallon in May 2013 was $2.73,[vi] lower than the average gallon of gasoline for non-commercial vehicular use[vii] and is about a dollar less just as I mentioned. This means that a fully fueled Airbus A380, which holds about 85,000 gallons[viii] would need $232,050 worth of jet fuel, 38 times lower than Con’s $9 million calculation.

According to the reports I’ve cited before, the $742 million of additional fuel costs just to cover obese passengers is alarming and is not a small drop in the bucket. Considering that this price tag will only grow higher as more people become obese, we have 3 options: (1) Have the airline companies take a financial hit, making them more vulnerable to bankruptcy, (2) have the airline companies raise airline ticket prices for all of us to cover the additional fuel costs, or (3) implement a policy like the one I’m proposing that makes those customers who are obese and are causing this problem to take personal responsibility for their unhealthy lifestyle choices and pay a surcharge.

I think option 3 is perfectly reasonable because otherwise, what is most likely going to happen is option 2, where we’ll all be paying more, and that is not fair.


The primary causes of obesity are (1) a high calorie diet, (2) lack of physical exercise, and (3) a lack of will power to eat better and exercise. Genetics plays a secondary role. The fact that people can lose weight if they try hard enough shows that it is lifestyle choice that is the most important factor in obesity[ix].

Why should we tolerate fat people raising healthcare costs for everyone, and airline and transportation costs for everyone, and not tolerate surcharging only those who are adding the system additional costs? To me this makes no sense. If I take care of myself health-wise and I have to pay more for an airline ticket because obese people are adding costs to the system & taking up space, why should I have to pay more for other people’s unhealthy lifestyles? I’m being victimized in the process. The surcharge will discourage obesity by penalizing those who are responsible for the costs they incur on everyone else.

Considering the small profit margin airlines make, the $742 million in fuel costs for the obese as reported in 2010 could be offset by the surcharge, allowing the airlines greater profit, and lowering ticket prices for those passengers within guidelines.

If I could sum up the argument in a sentence, it makes sense to surcharge those who cost others both financially and physically, by making them personally responsible for what the data shows is due to a lifestyle choice, and the method by which I proposed only targets those who at or near obesity.



daev forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Ragnar 3 years ago
@Daev: While it cannot give you credit on the voting, I would personally like a summery of what your conclusion would have been.
Posted by daev 3 years ago
Hi all - sorry I didn't post a response; I expected to have Internet access while travelling for 7/4, but their Internet turned out not to work. I'm happy to post a summary of my responses here if people ask.
Posted by Philophile 3 years ago

The object with this argument is mainly to encourage good health because all overweight people cost the system more money. So of course someone who's 6.5 feet tall, on average will weigh more than someone who is 5 feet tall. That's why the BMI takes into account height and weight. It makes you personally responsible for your particular weight.
Posted by prunesquallor 3 years ago
@Ragnar 1 and 2 were simply what the OP said, I made a single point.
Posted by Ragnar 3 years ago
@prunesquallor: I haven't read the debate yet, but I like your final point. If pros argument contains moral appeals (to help people lose weight), than it's not quite a flaw. However if his argument is based just on economics, than it's a pretty big flaw.
Posted by prunesquallor 3 years ago
I apologize if I look like a stalker but these topics are simply interesting.

1. Fat people should have to pay more to fly on airplanes and to use mass transit. Why? Quite simply because they"re heavier, and take up more space. Heavier people require that more energy is needed to move them, and when space is a premium, such as on airplanes and crowded buses/trains, someone who is fat may take up as much space as two (or more) average/skinny sized people who each paid the same amount of fare.

2. When I say "fat" it will be defined as a person who has a BMI of over 27.5. Being overweight is usually defined as having a BMI of 25-30* so I picked 27.5 because it is right in the middle.

BMI Overweight implies weighing more than you ought to relative to height. You argue that overweight people are "heavier" but this is simply not the case. Overweight people are just heavier than they ought to. A 5 feet person weighing 142 ponds, as you said, will be considered overweight. But you might have noticed your 6 feet self is actually 18 pounds heavier than said person. In fact, transporting you requires more energy, and you have quite unintentionally argued against your own case.
Posted by CornCob 3 years ago
The sexist thing would be easy to deal with debate wise
Posted by CornCob 3 years ago
I think you made a big mistake in how you defined fat...

looking forward to the debate
Posted by Philophile 3 years ago
This has been on my mind for about a year. Thought I'd debate it out here for fun.
Posted by Ragnar 3 years ago
Actually I've considered launching a similar debate focused just on airlines... Basically the combined weight of you and your baggage, should be a contributing price factor; the biggest flaw to this notion being that men would claim it's sexist since on average women weight less.
No votes have been placed for this debate.