The Washington Times - April 23, 2013, 10:48AM

The debate over chubby plane passengers is still aloft. Should they pay more to fly, or will airlines risk a discrimination lawsuit over the matter? The average weight of an American has increased 24 pounds since 1960,” note Forbes contributor Emily Stewart, who ran the numbers on the implications:

Airlines flew 735 million passengers in 2012. Multiply that by 24 pounds and airlines are flying 17.6 billion pounds of extra weight - requiring 176.4 million gallons of fuel, at a cost of, oh, $538 million.

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Should the plump passenger pay more, pay by the pound or buy another seat? One small airlines already charges a “fat tax” for heavier folks. But some say they could easily strike back. Rebecca Puhl, director of research at Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, says there’s discrimination at work here. Weight should be a protected category, like race or gender.

“Some people can diet, exercise, do everything right, and still have a tough time losing and keeping weight off,” she told Newsweek.

AirCanada, meanwhile, is investigating a new policy for heavier flyers. The airlines considers obesity a medical condition, and will offer chubby passengers a free extra seat if they produce a doctor’s note on their health status.

It’s complicated. Maybe New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, famed for his weight-conscious “soda tax,” will weigh in on the matter. Maybe.

Here’s what Americans think so far:

63 percent say heavyweight airline passengers should be required buy a second seat if they can’t fit in a standard seat.seat.

59 percent do not support passengers being charged and ticketed according to their personal weight and luggage combined; 25 percent say it’s a good idea.

42 percent would feel “humiliated” if they had to be weighed publicly in an airport; 40 percent would not mind.

25 percent of “small”-sized people would not mind being weighed publicly; 19 percent would mind.

23 percent of “large”-sized people would feel humiliated by a weigh-in; 15 percent would not.

Source: A YouGov Omnibus poll of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted April 12 to 14.