Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Should Airline Employees' Wages Reflect Weight?

TPS friend professor Pavel Yakovlev sends along this little ditty:
India's state-owned airline Air India has terminated the services of nine hostesses for being "overweight", a spokesman says.

The air hostesses were taken off flying duty two to three years ago and put on ground duty.

They say they have now been told by the airline that it no longer has positions for them in ground jobs.
Dr. Y adds the following commentary:
In the presence of flexible wages, I would argue that a better solution would be to pay the overweight flight attendants a wage inversely related to body weight. If consumers pay extra fees for baggage, why not apply the same principle to flight attendants?
The article says the airline claims there was an issue of safety in the event of an emergency (i.e. their marginal product was nonpositive OR wages are not flexible at Air India), but Pavel's point reminds me of this post that is similar in thought from Daniel Hamermesh, which is to charge heavier customers more (or equivalently thinner people less):
...the heavier people cost more to ship; and at a time when fuel prices are so high, this seems especially important and a good way of letting price reflect marginal cost. Also, heavier people spill over onto their neighbors’ seats, generating negative externalities for the other passengers.

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