Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Nadie Queiran Volar con la Gorda

I'm no shrinking violet. Yet at 5'11" and tipping the scales somewhere in the neighborhood of 225#, I'm the runt of the EE litter. Our spouses? That's another matter. Mrs. Spivonomist claims doughty Lithuanian yeoman heritage, but even with that pedigree, she wouldn't even qualify for a super featherweight fight. Emma resembles nobody so much as a lithe Audrey Hepburn, and the LMM would struggle to balance the scales against a drinking straw. We're a trio of lumberjacks with dainty little wives, though we do manage to ever so slightly buck the trope of dumb fat guy-with-smart skinny wife by dint of some academic competence.

We've posted before on the topic of Large Folk on Airplanes. Today's big news is Air Samoa, who is raising hackles by a proposal to have a variable airfare schedule based on passenger-plus-luggage weight. Now, depending on the sort of price discrimination algorithm used, the average per-person price for the Euvoluntary Exchange blog crowd might very well be the same before and after. My chubby thunder-tuchus might have to pay a bit more, but my diminutive bride could make up for the difference. Is this euvoluntary? What about if it's not mean-neutral? What's the appropriate cluster? Is it important when you partition median body weight by real income category?

A few days ago, I spilled some pixels defending the notion of equal treatment in the eyes of the law. Do these same arguments extend to equal treatment in the eyes of an industry with high fixed costs or other barriers to entry? Is my BATNA of being unable to fly (to Samoa, for now) sufficiently unattractive that agents of the state should step in and restore... well, "fairness" isn't the right word, since airlines already deploy quite a bit of price discrimination based on whether or not you're a business or a pleasure flyer... "justice", perhaps? Is price discrimination unjust? Is it morally just to hold a passenger accountable for his girth? Most folks seem fine with some price discrimination based on income, on gender (oh yes it's Ladies' Night and I'm feeling right), on age. Not so much on race, on sexual orientation, on political party affiliation (and please note that attitudes, strangely, seem to vary widely based on whether or not the price discrimination is forwarded as either a premium or a discount), so what's the rule? When is it okay to price-discriminate?

More interestingly, why didn't Samoa Air announce a policy where they give discounts to svelte passengers while stealthily hiking base rates under the radar? Airline marketing departments can't still be that obtuse, can they?

Curious stuff.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?