Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Climbing on scales at airport

Air travelers have learned to submit to random searches. They obediently arrive early, stand in endless lines and leave their nail clippers at home.

They understand that they will not be served a meal or a free drink. They know seating for people not traveling first class is something like the seating for calves intended as veal. They fasten their seat belts and put their seats in the upright position when they take off and land.

As Erma Bombeck once wrote, "The things that airlines concern themselves with are the things that never really happen. How many headlines do you see: `Glass Not Collected by Attendant Before Takeoff Responsible for First-Class Drowning'?"

Add to that "Middle-Aged Woman Who Refuses to Step on Scales Arrested" or "Newlywed Lies About Weight, Takeoff Aborted."

Global biggie size

The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered 24 airlines that operate small planes to collect weight information from passengers. Even the FAA noticed that we have biggie-sized ourselves. The standard they've used for 10 years, allows 180 pounds for adults, including clothing, shoes and carryons. For some reason, they assume we weigh five pounds less in the summer. Kids 12 and under are supposed to weigh 80 pounds all year.

The last time I flew, the kid next to me heaved a bag the size of a Volkswagen into the overhead compartment. And the kid was a little chunky, too. This is not unusual, as you may have observed on a hot day at Kings Island. Or even strictly American.

The World Health Organization's International Obesity Task Force estimates that 300 million kids and adults worldwide are obese and 750 million more are overweight.

So, it would not be unusual for some of them to travel by air. And I suppose it will be illegal or just not nice to profile fat people. (At least, that's what I'm hoping.) Right now, the plan is for airlines flying planes with fewer than 20 seats to weigh passengers and bags over the next month.

This is in response to a crash of a small plane when excess weight may have been a factor.

Here, only Midwest Express flies small enough planes to be monitored. But that doesn't mean we won't find ourselves in some other airport some day, trying to make connections and facing a public weigh-in.

This could be the rule that makes us snap. We will talk about our sex lives to Dr. Phil. We will tell Oprah about our addictions and Judge Judy about our finances. We don't tell anybody our weight. At least not honestly.

But this is serious. The FAA is saying that it matters if we fib. What if we weigh in, then eat a couple of Big Macs and stuff a magnum of "duty free" alcohol in our carry-on bag?

And pity the poor ticket agents. Kids probably won't mind, but wait until adults are ordered aboard a scale. This will not be pretty. Or polite.

There is a solution.

Airline personnel can simply collect every passenger's driver's license, total the weight they admit to, then add 25 percent.

E-mail lpulfer@enquirer.com or phone 768-8393.

Chief supports officer in shooting
'Survivor' hopefuls go to extremes
Employers boost call-up benefits for reservists
Callups thin police, fire departments
Educators, parents protest school funding cuts
Walking man's goal: Great Wall

RADEL: Mistakes weren't repeated after fatal shooting
PULFER: Climbing on scales at airport

Dog rescued from icy pond
Jogging in the snow
Soldier of snow

Library circulation falls
Audits would precede levies
Recreation chief chided over lobbying
Children respond to terrier

Tristate A.M. Report
Access social services: Call 211
Regulators give green light to doctor-pay comparisons
Good News: Bluegrass, gospel come to East End
Obituary: William Love led church in hymns

Fairfield city manager gets 13.6% raise
More testing expected for lead
Teen's dilemma: Take new car or $20K?
Labor activists target Miami
Fairfield 2-mill school levy on May 6 ballot
HUD to monitor Butler Co. housing agency

Clermont bus notices called false

Ohio Moments: Edison's bright ideas hatched at home

Ludlow halts classes to plea for school funding
Uzbekistan aliens held in N.Ky.
Justin appeal nears 1 year
Florence police focus on growth of Hispanics
Patton: No plans to resign