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Airline Fat Tax? How About One For Morons

Commentary by Christopher Lochhead, a former technology executive who now works as a strategy advisor.

United Airlines has joined the chorus of airlines applying a "fat tax."

United says it created the new policy after receiving at least 700 complaints about overweight passengers. In the complaints it received, the company says that customers have complained about fat people who have "infringed on their seat." United says that it has simply "aligned" with other airlines for the "comfort and well-being of all customers" in charging the large for two seats.

How does the airline decide whether you're obese? Ask yourself the following questions: (If the answer is in the affirmative, then you're out of luck.)

  • Are you unable to fit into a single seat in the ticketed cabin?
  • Are you unable to properly buckle the seatbelt using a single
    seatbelt extender?
  • Are you unable to put the seat's armrests down when seated?

    Apparently, if no pair of empty seats exists, the overweight passenger would be forced to take a later flight.

    I don't care how skinny or fat you are, the seats are still way too small. I'm about 6 feet and 185 pounds, and after any more than 3 hours in coach, I need a chiropractor. And U.S. carrier seats in business class are not much better.

    Now, according to the US Center For Disease Control, 66 percent of Americans "are overweight or obese."

    This was only a matter of time. It turns out that the average American male gained 25 pounds between 1960 and 2002 while the average woman put on 24 more pounds.

    So this new policy could double the cost of travel for half the airline industries customers in this country.

    Agree with this tax or not, this much is clear: we need bigger -- or at least, more comfortable -- seats, not to mention a moron tax to stop people from stupid travel behavior. So if the carriers are eager to impose new taxes on passengers, I've got a few other suggestions they might want to consider:

  • Crying baby tax.
  • Luggage that doesn't fit in the overhead bin tax.
  • Flatulence tax.
  • Puking on, or near me, tax.
  • Snoring with grizzly bear breath tax.
  • Chatty Cathy tax (ever been trapped next to someone who won't shut up from one coast to the other?)
  • Deodorant-free traveler tax.
  • Falling asleep on me tax.
  • You're too sick to be flying and you're going to make us all sick tax.
  • Taking your shoes and wet socks off tax. (Think of John Candy in "Trains, Planes & Automobiles")

    Any or all of the above would make a big difference for the "comfort and well-being" of all of us.

    By Christopher Lochhead ©2009 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved

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