Beth Dolinar

Column Beth Dolinar

Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries for public television, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

Getting their pounds of flesh

April 4, 2013

As if we weren’t all mad enough at the airlines, we get the news that an airline will start charging by the pound. Samoa Air announced this week that they will charge passengers based on how much they and their luggage weigh.

This is all related to fuel costs; the heavier the plane, the more fuel it needs to keep it in the air. While some industry analysts are calling it a logical move that will introduce a sane, pay-what-you-should element into the often capricious pricing of airline tickets, I think it’s just not right.

When are most of us getting onto airplanes? When we’re headed to vacation. And where will most of us be going? Somewhere with a beach. And what will most of us be fretting about as we get ready for the trip?

What we will look like in a swimsuit. For weeks before the vacation we will have been trying to lose an insanely optimistic number of pounds. Typically, we will fall short of that goal. Isn’t it bad enough that we will have to take the tummy-control tank suit instead of the bikini (which was always out of the question anyway, but a girl can hope)? We shouldn’t have to worry about what those extra 10 pounds will cost the airline in jet fuel.

Since we all tend to lie a bit about our weight, how will this work, anyway? Most of us book flights online, and pay in advance. If the pay-per-pound pricing comes to airlines here in the U.S. (and is there any doubt about that?), how will that work? Maybe the airlines will know this is a crappy way to do customer service and put us all on the honor system. Or maybe they will replace all the ticket counter workers with those carnival people who can guess a person’s weight just by looking at them.

More likely, there will be scales at the airport ticket counters. What fun it will be to step aboard a bathroom scale with all the members of your son’s Latin club looking over your shoulder as you all embark on their trip to Italy. Just a thought, but if we think people fussed when they had to go through full-body security screening booths, just wait until women are asked to step onto a scale there.

And speaking of trips to Italy, don’t most of us weigh a little bit more on flights back home from vacation? I’m thinking about the people who fly to ports, get on cruise ships where they are encouraged to eat 18 meals and 42 snacks a day, and then have to fly back home. Does their return ticket price change?

I don’t think Samoa Air thought this through very well. Do we really want airline passengers to be reduced to bags of gummy bears at a pick-and-weigh-your-own candy store? And speaking of gummy bears, they’ll be the first thing to go if I plan to fly anywhere.

According to Samoa Air’s prices, an average woman is 5-foot-3 and 166 pounds (their measurements, not mine), and would pay about $75 for a one-way trip. Still, if that woman would lose the 25 pounds the Body Mass Index chart says she should, she could do a round trip for an unheard of hundred bucks.

And, probably, fit into her bikini. But who really cares about that?

Beth Dolinar can be reached at



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