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Subject:  Re: Poll: Pay-by-pound passenger airline travel? Date:  5/27/2008  3:06 AM
Author:  salaryguru Number:  12599 of 117583

I got curious about how much passenger weight really impacted airline costs and here's what I found:

“. . .Historically, fuel expenses have ranged between 10 and 15 percent of U.S. passenger airline operating costs and currently run somewhere between 25 percent and 40 percent. . .”

So if the cost of flying an aircraft were 100% determined by passenger + luggage weight, then 25% to 40% of the ticket price could be justified by passenger + luggage weight. But even the empty aircraft has weight, so this estimate needs to be reduced by the ratio of total passenger loaded aircraft weight-to-empty aircraft work.

According to Wikipedia, for a Boeing 737, the ratio of total payload weight to empty aircraft weight is 49% to 60% depending on the specific model of 737.

Assuming the worst case – that the entire difference between payload weight and empty weight is due to passengers and their luggage, the percentage of airline ticket cost that is related to passenger + luggage weight is about 12% to 24%.

Note that airlines typically fly some freight that is not directly tied to passengers so the assumption above is definitely a worst case estimate.

So how much difference in cost does various passenger weights have on a flight?

average weight US man: 190 lbs
average weight US woman: 155 lbs
average weight: 172.5 lbs

Weight impact difference on airline costs:

100 lb person + luggage – person is 42% under weight (compared to average) -- minimum ~5% of cost
300 lb person + luggage – 73% over weight (compare – maximum ~18% of cost

But none of this analysis increases airline revenue unless the average cost of tickets increase. So the question airlines have to answer is, "Does a ticket price increase that involves weights and measurements of every single passenger and their luggage seem more beneficial than a simple across-the-board increase in ticket cost?" A second, related question is, "Is the cost of enforcing a 5% to 18% cost difference implied by weight worth the cost of enforement:?"
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