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We love to eat and it shows

November 11, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

Finally, the true story can be told. The reasons that airlines nationwide are losing money isn't because of poor service, lengthy delays, lost baggage, balky unions, security nightmares, cramped seating, six-hour layovers in Houston or meals that consist largely of cardboard and carrots.

No, the reason airlines are struggling financially is because we're too fat.

According to the Associated Press, "A new government study reveals that airlines increasingly have to worry more about the weight of their passengers."

"America's growing waistlines are hurting the bottom lines of airline companies as the extra pounds on passengers are causing a drag on planes. Heavier fliers have created heftier fuel costs, according to the government study," the AP reported.

Come to think of it, maybe this explains the bad food. It's not that the sky caterers can't make a good crab imperial, it's just that they want you to be so repulsed that you'll drop a couple of pounds in midflight.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the average American gained 10 pounds in the 1990s, and all this extra lard forced the airlines to burn an additional 350 million gallons of fuel in 2000.

The report also conclusively proves that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has way too much time on its hands. If the government is truly looking for ways to cut the fat, this might be a good place to start.

"The obesity epidemic has unexpected consequences beyond direct health effects," said Dr. Deron Burton of the CDC. "Our goal was to highlight one area that had not been looked at before."

Oh but please, doctor, why stop there? Why not spend another chunk of tax jack on calculating the effects of obesity on automobile gas mileage? Then the EPA could post the information on the windows of new automobiles:

City: 23 mpg.

Highway: 28 mpg.

Fat Highway: 26 mpg.

Fat City: 19 mpg.

All right, I suppose you can make the argument that heavier people eat up more fuel. But if you are going to demand that a man lose 10 pounds from his frame, I think you can also demand that his wife lose 10 pounds from her luggage. It's not that hard. Tell her to pack two curling irons instead of three. And I know that, technically, there is a chance you will need that parka in Orlando, but there is such a thing as being over-prepared.

As long as the jet can carry the load, I don't see what the big deal is. Airborne obesity will become in issue in my mind when it endangers the flight. No one wants to crash into the runway as a result of flab shear.

And of course it had to come to this, but some people are talking about charging beefy individuals more to fly.

So you'll call up the travel agent and say "How much for a flight to San Francisco?" and she'll say, "$1.29 a pound."

Gives new meaning to the slogan "Up, up and a weigh."

You know those boxes they have at the gate to see if your bag is small enough to fit as a carry-on? Pretty soon they're going to have them for your tuchus. You sit in it, and if when you stand up it's still wedged to your hindquarters you get slapped with a surcharge.

Either that or you have to fly with one less bag.

"Good afternoon, sir, will you be checking any luggage today?"

"No, but I would like to carry on my thighs."

Let me say right up front that I do not think there is anything fair about charging people of ample carriage more money to fly on a plane. And let me say in the next breath that I am all for it - as will be anyone who has ever been assigned a middle seat, while the window and aisle are populated with dudes running 325.

I don't like touching people under the best of circumstances. And I certainly don't want to fly to Tokyo with someone else's obliques in my lap.

Now to remedy this problem, we could either do as the fascists at Disease Control would have us do, and go on a national diet until we all obtained that attractive, mummy-with-eyeballs look of Ally McBeal. Or the airlines could do something totally nuts, like ending their practice of cramming every square centimeter of the plane with flesh.

I would happily pay an extra $50 per flight for some space. The way things are now, the only person who isn't complaining about legroom is Lieutenant Dan from "Forrest Gump." No, fat is not the problem, too many people are the problem. But meanwhile, I'll make the airlines this deal: I promise to eat less if they promise to always leave the gate on time.

Don't look for me to be giving up my ice cream spoon anytime soon.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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