Friday Rant: When 2% of the Flying Public Diminish Value for All &c

I was on two fully booked domestic flights this week. Not unusual as Fall biz travel is in full bloom. But something new stood out in the pre-flight SOP: a "please do not remove items from the overhead compartments that do not belong to you" admonishment. Wow -- the narcissists among us have found new ways to pierce the thin veil of civilization.

That flyers continue to push the envelope with oversized carry-ons is disruptive enough -- now we have a contingent of self important, self obsessed fellow passengers who attempt to have someone's else bag checked on-board rather than their own. This got me to thinking about how the public, in general, is mostly not "a ferocious beast" (as Voltaire claimed). Take, for example, how most passengers when exiting, exercise patience and courtesy as forward passengers collect their items from the overheads and will often even pass a bag forward that has been stowed a few isles back.

So while we all, for the most part, do our bit to assuage the personal space violations of air travel, there will always exist a small number of people who need to leverage scarcity to their own advantage. Which brings me to the airline's abdicating creative responsibility to improve passenger comfort and failure to do more to level the playing field.

In the spirit of ranting, why do airlines ignore diversity of physical size among their customers? I refer to the common problem of very large passengers overflowing their coach seats. What could possibly be more uncomfortable, humiliating and personally violating than occupying a middle seat with the girth of two large passengers on either side in one's lap? It's absurd and can be equitably resolved.

Airline variable cost per mile of flight is determined by a simple algorithm of fuel consumption per pound of payload. Why not establish passenger fee's based upon a height/weight ratio similar to checked baggage fees. A base fee for a passenger under say 150 lbs / up to 5'8" and an adjunct fee for every additional 50 lbs -- and a height/weight ratio established -- over the base weight. Some passengers will fib but they can only stretch the truth so far, as with an oversized carry-on. I might add that I'm not being self-serving from a cost perspective. I'm 6'2", 230 lbs and willing to pay my cost/mile fair share, but I'm not willing to share the seat I occupy with strangers.

More details would need to be worked out of course, but I'll bet that the airline with the brass to establish such a fee structure would be our first choice carrier and quickly emulated by competitors. Meanwhile, keep up the common courtesies most of you routinely extend to your fellow flyers....Thanks.

- William Busch

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