Aerolíneas Argentinas, the country’s perennially troubled flagship airline, has decided to give obese people a free extra seat on regional flights.
The company, which announced the policy Tuesday, has already been offering an extra seat to exceptionally fat people in some cases on flights within the country.
The airline teamed up with Inadi, the national anti-discrimination institute, to develop the policy.
“This way people will be given a more comfortable seat and they will avoid being charged differently for suffering from the disease,” the government, which owns the airline, said in a statement.
The government did not add details to clarify exactly what “the disease” is and the new policy will likely fuel debate about the causes of obesity.As the above video shows, Aerolíneas is not the first airline to tackle the issue.
Aerolíneas has been offering extra seats for obese people on some flights since May 2009, the company said.
As a state-run company, Aerolíneas has to abide by the so-called 1998 Obesity Law, which prevents the government from discriminating against people using public services.
To get the extra seat, passengers must meet two requirements: 1) Reserve the two seats at least 48 hours in advance and 2) show a doctor’s certificate (which presumably certifies that the passenger is obese).
Most airlines follow an international guideline that requires obese passengers to purchase two seats, the government said in its statement.
Reliable obesity statistics are hard to come by for Argentina, where most people – well, women, at least – seem very thin. But such data are widely available in the U.S., where obesity has almost become the norm.
The free extra seat policy might be harder to implement – and much more costly for airlines – in the U.S., where about 27% of the population is obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC defines a person as obese if he or she has a body mass index of 30 or higher. To calculate your own BMI, click here.
Though obesity is a massive and rapidly growing problem in the U.S., it is also becoming a serious global epidemic. The World Health Organization estimates that by 2015 around 2.3 billion people will be overweight and more than 700 million will be obese.
Oddly enough, at least one set of WHO data indicate that the U.S. is the most obese nation in the world, followed by Argentina. You can see the data in map form here. According to it, about 44% of the U.S. population is obese while 37% of Argentines are obese. But it’s hard to believe this data, which clash with everyday experience in Argentina. I’ll be contacting the WHO for an explanation and will update this post if I get one.
Meanwhile, for a stunning look at how the U.S. has gained weight in recent years, check out this graphic from the CDC. It charts the rise in obesity year by year and state by state. The thinnest state in the U.S., by far, is Colorado.