More airline mishegas

From the underutilized livejournal community Fatshionism comes further evidence that the people responsible for promoting fat bias on airplanes don’t understand fat, bias, or airplanes:

August 5 (News.com.au) – AIRASIA X is considering charging passengers depending on their weight in a bid to fight rising fuel prices and to “help Aussies lose weight”.

The airline is allegedly considering weighing passengers to calculate the overall weight of the aircraft, said AirAsia X general manager Darren Wright.

After Australia’s airlines vowed never to weigh passengers, Mr Wright told travel trade magazine Travel Today that AirAsia X is considering more extreme measures to increase revenue if fuel continues its march to $US200 a barrel.

Although admitting the move would be difficult to implement, Mr Wright said charging larger passengers “could help Aussies lose weight”.

Mr Wright said the new weighing system would enable the airline to calculate the remaining weight allowance to be taken up with additional cargo.

Now, I suspect that the story here is less “AirAsia X is truly considering weighing passengers” and more “AirAsia X general manager is an ugly-minded little man.” “Considering” is a nice vague term that you can use to air your personal biases and stir up publicity and controversy without actually having to rethink your policies. But Mr. Wright doesn’t seem to have thought about the fact that “considering” discrimination as a cost-saving measure can also brand you as a bigot without actually saving you any money.

Listen, nobody disputes the fact that the weight of an aircraft matters. But something like nine percent — NINE PERCENT — of that weight is attributable to passengers, you dumb fuck. More than half the weight is just the weight of the craft itself, and then there are things like FUEL. Basically, airplanes are heavy, empty or full. The average Australian weighs about 167 pounds; if you limited your clientele to cut that average by, say, 20 pounds, you’d save about 1 percent of the weight of the aircraft. That’s like kicking a five-year-old out of your SUV and expecting it to improve your gas mileage.

And don’t even get me started about the wrongheaded and egotistical idea that denying people travel on your precious airline will make them lose weight. Hey everybody, apparently in Australia, all you have to do to lose weight is realize that some people want you to! It’s crazy upside-down world, where you CAN hate people for their own good! Because everyone knows that if fat people had ever thought “hey, maybe I should go on a diet,” there wouldn’t be any fat people. And of course, it’s fat people’s responsibility to change themselves to avoid discrimination, not Mr. Wright’s responsibility not to discriminate.

Still, I wish Wright luck. Seeing as how Australia just outpaced the U.S. in terms of obesity, this should be a real money-making proposition for his airline.

ETA: I’m late! Fatadelic already covered this, and apparently they’re trying to pass it off as a joke. Doesn’t change what I said above — I just wanted to use it as a jumping-off point to talk about the “fat people on planes ruin fuel efficiency” fallacy and the “discrimination makes people lose weight” fallacy — but it also makes Michelle’s recent entry on humorless fat people (about which more later) very relevant.

ETA 2: Paul also beat me to it!  Interestingly, we covered different things, so read both!  And I will try to be a little more plugged in.

61 thoughts on “More airline mishegas

  1. Even by troll logic, the act of weighing people doesn’t make them lose weight. “Oh, I weigh 235 lbs at home. But when I get weighed at the airport I weigh 200 lbs. Thank you Mr. Airline Smarty Pants, you have saved my life!”

    Barf.

  2. Ah, another one. Somehow it always seems to come down to the damn airline seats, doesn’t it? It’s like nothing can make people more Righteously Angry than thinking of a fat! ugly! monster*! edging into their airline seat.

    I mean yeah, nobody likes to be crowded in a public space (well, I don’t really mind it, but I know I’m pretty weird), but as we’ve discussed here endlessly–everybody is uncomfortable on airlines. Everybody. Even (especially!) the fat people themselves. You’d think we’d realize as consumers that we are all in this together, and we can make a change in how airlines work (although, as has also been discussed here before, they may just end up going under regardless).

    Instead, we’ve been fed the idea that weight loss is some magic bullet that will not only make us a nation of skinny immortals, but will solve the energy crisis and global warming, and yes, even make airplanes more comfortable. And as long as we’re fighting each other like dogs about these non-issues, it keeps our minds off the more important struggles going on in the world.

    *–certainly not “person”

  3. Totally cool with me…

    I’ll just avoid drinking water for a few days and then do three hours of exercise in the sauna right before flying. As I stumble onto the plane near collapse from dehydration and they realize I don’t have $6 to buy any water, the flaws in their plan will start to become evident to them…

  4. I confess: had to google “mishegas.” Even though I grew up in a neighborhood that was so Jewish it was the target of all those “You know it’s springtime in [name of suburb] because there’s a Rosenblum on every corner.”

    Maybe they could adapt airlines to run on mishegas? Get it? misheGAS? Because the airlines have plenty of that! Ha! *sigh* Annnnyway.

  5. In my defense, I didn’t laugh at the Rosenblum one. I just pictured my ex standing on a corner and was puzzled. I got it eventually.

  6. I’m saving up to check my baggage on American when I fly down to Disney World. My sister and I are going to see if we can fit all our crap in one bag.

  7. I will never ever never never NERVER fly AIrAsiaX. (That was for you FJ, and did you hear that Bob and Dave are making a new scripted comedy?)

  8. Mikey T, or just consume a bunch of illegal substances for a day or two before the flight. Coming down from a three day binge should make someone very enjoyable to fly with, but hey,at least they aren’t fat.

  9. I just pictured my ex standing on a corner and was puzzled.

    Okay, THAT made me SNORT out loud. So there. (Unfortunately I’m sitting in a pastry shop.)

  10. Coincidently, it also looks as though my monster is wearing high heels. Ok, I’m done, back to airlines.

  11. It’s called David’s Situation and it is going to be freakin sweet. Here’sthe IMDB link, and here is a link to The Bob and Davider, the best blog ever (after this one of course.)

  12. FJ – “don’t even get me started about the wrongheaded and egotistical idea that denying people travel on your precious airline will make them lose weight” – sounds like a novel diet plan to me and very eco-friendly – you telling me no one has written the book, yet? Just phoning the Green Party publishing house…

  13. Sweet Machine, I can not believe that story. So it is not just fat people that are being mistreated it anyone who is different. This is getting bad. Did you read the one on Fatshionista?

  14. Holy effing shit about that story Sweet Machine posted. Holy shit. That’s all I can muster to say. I think I just went to plaid, skipping entirely over ludicrous. I… am just floored.

  15. Re SM posted link – it’s happening all over. Heard a man on the radio yesterday, telling similar story, only he had to carry his wife on/off plane. The staff had made them check her wheelchair, but then, if they had waited for promised airport one, would have missed plane…. nobody’s job…. nobody insured… blah, blah… The upshot – he had to carry herself up the stairs to the plane and down the stairs, and to the toilet while en route….
    Just can’t think of any expletives exhaustive or explosive enough to meet the case.

  16. Maybe it’s an American thing (the people, not the airlines), but I can’t see very many women, fat *or* thin letting themselves be weighed and then judged on it in public. Maybe men too, but certainly women hold that magic number close to the vest and would rather die than to have to give it to a fucking airline.

    What a good way to make people fly with other companies.

  17. And I forgot to mention that I LOVE how you did the math for us. The comparison to the 5 year old in the SUV was great. I never stopped to actually think about the cold hard numbers before. I mean, it never made much sense to me that some fat bodies were throwing off the airplanes so much, but it never prompted me to go find out exactly how much. Thank you. Now I have some ammunition next time someone brings it up.

  18. Can I be a total nerd and ask a question? I know you’re Jewish, but where did your ancestors emigrate from. I’m asking because the way you transliterated “mishegas/meshugas” is a Yiddish pronunciation from a certain region of Old Europe, and I wanted to know if I guessed right…

  19. Meg, I’m from Austria on one side (back when there were Jews there) and “RusPoland” on the other, more Yiddish-speaking side. My great-grandparents’ shtetl was in a border area that changed affiliations rather often.

  20. What a good way to make people fly with other companies.

    Right? I’m trying to imagine them trying to weigh my mother or mother-in-law. I think that would be enough to send either of them over the edge.

    I used to LOVE flying when I was a kid. It was so much fun to go to the airport! and eat peanuts! and see clouds! Now, it’s a huge pain in the ass. What do you mean I have to pay $10.99 for a wilted sandwich wrap?! And I hate taking off my shoes because I have foot stink.

  21. All these airlines weighing people to reduce weight on the plane and save fuel doesn’t even make sense. I’m 5’2″ and considered “overweight-obese” but I weigh in absolute pounds/kg less than a “normal” 6’2″ man, no?

    So if we are talking about overall weight, who gets booted from the plane, me or him? According to their logic, the dude loses and I get to fly on my normal way, without the “encouragement” to lose the fatty-fatness.

    But people can’t help their height correct? If we apply the airlines reasoning, then I guess the 6’2″ man should have thought about that before he went through puberty, and not let himself get so tall! He’s raising the cost of fuel for us all! (sarcasm)

  22. Huh. Since airlines are tanking at the rate of about one per DAY lately, by my estimation, one would think the logical course of action would be for the survivors to think of ways to NOT annoy, anger, harass, and drive away their customer base.

    Obviously, logical thinking is not a requirement to run an airline, then. Because it’s as if all the airlines have screamed “To HELL with customer service! Charge the bastards for breathable air and toilet flushing too! WE ARE THE KINGS OF THE SKY! Bow to us, BOW!”

    It would be humorous if it wasn’t frightening.

  23. Thank you for this SO MUCH. I picked up a book at random in Powell’s a few weeks ago, some “rock babylon” type of title (yeah, I know), opened it to a random page, and there it was — Aaliyah’s plane crashed because her bodyguards were such GIANT FATTY FATASSES that it weighed down the plane! I guess if she’d picked 300-pound guards who were 7 feet tall and all muscled up instead of being 6 feet tall and having giant guts, she’d still be alive today, because muscle weighs less than fat and is easier to transport, it floats in the air just like fat does in water! And having them each be 50 pounds lighter would have…would have…yeah.

  24. I still think that they’ll never charge passengers by weight because that would end up disproprotionately affecting men, and we can’t have that.

  25. Slightly off topic:

    The other day I found myself yelling at my computer

    “News flash: Children need food to live”

    Because of a stupid article recommending cutting children’s fat and calories so low that it was below the levels needed to go through puberty. The title was something along the lines of “News flash children’s food contains too many calories” news flash my ass.

  26. It’s always amusing but also discouraging the extent to which this kind of commentary ignores that weight varies with height, something that surely, surely, people don’t believe could be fixed even by d
    ieting. Or are they hoping that tall people will go on the well-known height diets?

    That explains the seating problems that tall people and fat people have on aircraft then. So many people credit their weight loss and even height loss to a desire to avoid paying for Premium Economy/Business, if we can just extend these extra charges to all the people queuing up for that motivation, the whole population will soon come in an airline approved size.

    Seriously though, it’s terrible the extent to which airlines are allowed to dress up “we have a commercial imperative to get more fares on the plane, and it would help if everyone was tiny” as “some passengers come in the wrong size, and we’re doing this for them!”

  27. As an Aussie, I like the concept that a Malaysian based company I have never heard of (needed to Google them) who’s website says they will launch in July 2007, will have any sort of impact on Australians. They look like a joke in total to me. Their policies are unlikely to impact too many people…. :)

    Of course, the policy would massively reduce the cost of taking kids on flights…

  28. Moonlight0806: Really? I’ve gotten into some great arguments before over how cutting infants’ calories makes them mentally deficient (er, challenged) because the human brain needs fat to run properly, but I’ve never seen an actual article suggest cutting children’s food to starvation levels. Holy shit, that’s scary.

    As Rita Rudner once said: “Food is a necessary component of a healthy diet.”

  29. It’s always amusing but also discouraging the extent to which this kind of commentary ignores that weight varies with height, something that surely, surely, people don’t believe could be fixed even by dieting.

    It can if you start the malnutrition early enough!

  30. Meg, I’m from Austria on one side (back when there were Jews there) and “RusPoland” on the other, more Yiddish-speaking side. My great-grandparents’ shtetl was in a border area that changed affiliations rather often.

    FJ, if you replace Austria with Romania, we’re the same! I never knew! Well, minus those other parts of me.

  31. This is off-topic but I just want to cry with rage.

    First C&L posts an offensive “it’s okay to make fun of these people because they’re so fat (and Nascar fans)” image and then Kos cites a bullshit NYT article that conflates food intake with food availability, which Sandy just debunked YET AGAIN yesterday.

    And this foul, pathetic airline CEO thinking if people have to worry about being weighed they’ll diet before they get their filthy, fat asses onto his airplanes.

    This is the last 5 minutes of my life.

    Sometimes I think about the depth to which the fat-hating, obesity-epidemic mindset has penetrated the industrialized world and my heart fails me. Even supposed liberals and progressives who would be on the front lines if people were advocating passing judgment based on skin color don’t see the disconnect in their own minds when it comes to making fun of fat people.

    Then I pick up my teaspoon. And finally suck it up and register at DK so I can comment on this horseshit the next time it happens.

    DRST

  32. Great post. And none of its relevancy is lost because of the ha-ha-can’t-you-take-a-joke bullshit.

    But something like nine percent — NINE PERCENT — of that weight is attributable to passengers, you dumb fuck. More than half the weight is just the weight of the craft itself, and then there are things like FUEL. Basically, airplanes are heavy, empty or full. The average Australian weighs about 167 pounds; if you limited your clientele to cut that average by, say, 20 pounds, you’d save about 1 percent of the weight of the aircraft. That’s like kicking a five-year-old out of your SUV and expecting it to improve your gas mileage.

    100% win.

  33. I love that people are the equivalent of ballast in this equation. *sigh*
    Maybe there should be a stupidity tax too. That’d really cut down on excess baggage ;)

  34. [Height can be fixed] can if you start the malnutrition early enough!</e,

    Why, silly me, good point. My children at least will be spared the full pain of economy class.

  35. I saw them talking about this on a morning show discussion panel. I had to hold down my twitching hand otherwise I would have hurled my remote into the TV. All the panelists were saying what a wonderful idea it was and how it wasn’t fair that they had to pay for extra baggage when the fatties were already carrying extra baggage!!!

  36. Actually, I don’t know if we are fatter in Oz than USians, but Junk Food Science did a post on that ‘study’ that purportedly showed us as the fattest in the world. It was a load of crap. The results were taken from ten or twenty thousand (Can’t remember exactly how many) people that came to free heart testing clinics and taken as an average to match the whole of Oz. But, who thinks they are going to have heart attacks due to all the scare tactics? Fat people. So who went most to the free clinic? Fat people. Hence the higher weight statistics of the research than you would find in the usual population. A really great study! The media loved it though, didn’t they?

    I think JFS said we were actually about 33rd fattest in the world, or something like that.

    And no, I haven’t heard of that airline either!

  37. I can envision airlines having signs like they do for amusement parks, you know the ones, ” you must be this tall to go on this ride.” Substitute with, ” you must not be wider than this to ride our planes.”

  38. Seeing as how Australia just outpaced the U.S. in terms of obesity…

    Um, not really, FJ. As Keechpeachy indicated, that was a ridiculously skewed study of mostly middle-aged, likely heavier, shopping mall patrons who have been frightened enough by the media’s YOU FATTEEZ IZ ALL GONNA DIE SOON!! scare campaign to take up the offer of a free health check. Not that any of hysterical Australia mass-media (government broadcasters included) bothered checking up on the methodology of the so-called study when reporting it (sigh).

  39. the whole population will soon come in an airline approved size

    Hey, that’s catchy. I smell a t-shirt!

    “Not an airline-approved size. And proud!”

    Or something more witty than I can come up with at 7:30 am.

  40. Christ on a cracker at that Consumerist story!

    I mean, she can’t get someone to buy her a fucking hamburger and get her to her flight, but whenever I am in an airport I see people on those cab things all the time that are perfectly abled being cruised around like it’s no problem.

    Also, this is publicity? UR DOIN IT RONG.

    Not to mention the fact that airplanes are tight and uncomfortable for skinny and average people too.

  41. (also I remember seeing pictures of Britney Spears on one of those cab things long ago, before she went batshit crazy – maybe the qualifier isn’t abled-ness, it’s money?)

  42. but whenever I am in an airport I see people on those cab things all the time that are perfectly abled being cruised around like it’s no problem.

    Not all disabilities are immediately visible, just FYI. But I’m totally with you on the outrage over that story.

  43. I read the article Paul linked to in his post – the comments are not safe for those following Sanity Watchers (oh god, are they not safe – what is about flying that brings out the fat-hating jerk in so many people?), but I liked the woman who (snarkily) suggested that heavily pregnant women should be charged more as it was their *choice* to be pregnant and (horrors!) they had only paid for one seat and were using it for two people…

    I have to say, some industries and corporations have done a bang-up job of getting their customers to turn on each other and accuse each other of being the problem, instead of wondering why the industry is providing such a cruddy service to all its customers in the first place. The airline industry is clearly top of the pile when it comes to this kind of thing.

  44. FJ–OK, that makes sense. You were using the “Polish” pronunciation of the work. The Polish accent was prevalent in the former Austro-Hungarian empire. “Meshugas” is the more Lithuanian pronunciation.

  45. I figured out how it would make people lose weight! Stay with me. What if there are a couple of fat people in Australia who have to travel all the time, you know, for business or something, but they can barely afford it now, and if the airline starts charging more they have to go without food to afford their tickets? Then they could just starve themselves thin! It would be awesome!

    The preceding paragraph has been sarcasm. The Wolf wishes it to be understood that she does not think fat people in Australia, or anywhere else, should starve themselves, lose weight, or starve themselves to lose weight. This public service announcement brought to you by your friendly neighborhood Slytherin Wolf.

  46. I was intrigued by this idea myself, because I was simply too dull to think of it myself. So I googled all the weights and measures of various airplanes, and figured out how much of a difference loading the plane with the average American vs supermodels makes on the plane’s weight.

    My results came out to be something like about 4% on a Boeing 737-300 142 person plane (shorter and medium-length domestic flights and not a lot of fuel and cargo) and about 1% on an international Boeing 777-300 with 430 seats (with lots of cargo space and humongous fuel tanks).

    So, you’re absolutely right. I just had to geek out and test it first.

  47. Not all disabilities are immediately visible, just FYI.

    Uh, yeah. I know.

    Considering I have people in my life, past and present, with disabilities, I am in fact aware of these things as well. Like the cousin I have with developmental disabilities caused by a doctor’s negligence at his birth. Or the friend’s brother with Down’s syndrome and a host of other issues.

    But the fact is, many people who are perfectly 100% abled get driven around the airport because they can pay for it. And women like in that story get nothing.

  48. Liza, that may be; my point was that you can’t tell just by looking at someone from a distance whether they have a disability or not. Those people cruising around the airport might have mobility or other issues that are not immediately apparent to passersby.

  49. Sweet Machine, thank you for mentioning that! You can’t tell by looking if someone has arthritis or fibromyalgia or asthma a whole host of other health issues. It’s NONE of my business why someone takes the cart or not at the airport and I’m sure as hell not going to judge someone for doing it based on how they look. Thank goodness the carts are there available to anyone who wants to pay for them without having to provide a complete medical history to prove they are deserving of the privilege!

  50. I won’t deny that this proposed practice is highly discriminatory. However, the math people has been putting forward is a bit flawed…

    Airplanes are designed to a -much- lower margin of safety than anything except spacecraft. You can’t make an analogy to an SUV because you are not trying to propel an SUV at several hundred mph through the air without it disintegrating. Weight makes a much larger difference. How much? Every extra pound on a passenger craft costs the operators 1 million dollars over the course of it’s operational lifespan.

    Just a little mathematical aside from an anal-retentive engineer… =)

  51. Every extra pound on a passenger craft costs the operators 1 million dollars over the course of it’s operational lifespan.

    1) Um, says the fuck WHO?

    2) Extra pound on passenger craft != extra pound on passenger on craft. Passenger weight is still a tiny percentage of the aircraft weight which, oh, hey, was my point.

    I realize this is going on a year late but I wanted to finally correct an oversight.

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