Ryanair is considering introducing a “fat tax” on overweight passengers after the proposal was backed heavily by its customers in an online poll say the Times Online.
The survey was a publicity stunt launched by Michael O’Leary, the chief executive, last month. It asked people to suggest new discretionary charges that the airline could apply.
More than 40 per cent of the 100,000 online votes have supported charging overweight passengers extra and Ryanair has said that it will consider introducing such a scheme.
However, in an unusual display of discretion for the notoriously aggressive airline, Ryanair said that it would not do so to make money but to make passengers more comfortable.
The “fat tax” – Ryanair’s phrase – would charge overweight passengers more based on their body mass index. For logistical and legal reasons, it is unlikely that the airline could introduce such a charge.
Weighing every passenger would add unnecessary complexity to the boarding procedure and it might also run foul of discrimination laws.
Human rights advocates believe that it may result in an absurd situation where the airline was unable to charge its fattest passengers because that would classify as discrimination against the disabled but would be able to charge the mildly overweight.
Ryanair has hinted that a more likely levy would be a scheme whereby obese passengers would be asked to buy an extra seat.
Similar policies operate in the United States where Southwest, which pioneered the low-cost model used by Ryanair, asks overweight passengers to buy an extra seat voluntarily. If the aircraft takes off with empty seats, they are given a refund.
Second on Ryanair’s poll, supported by 20 per cent of respondents, was a €3 (£2.60) charge to use a “smoking” cubicle.