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Samoa Air Suffers PR Turbulence After Charging Customers by the Pound

Everyone is created equally and everyone should be treated equally. We all know this. These very ideas are the foundation for our deep beliefs in justice and equality.

So what about Samoa Air‘s decision to charge passengers by the pound — yes, the sum total of the weight of their bags and bodies — to fly? Nothing could be more fair than that, right?

At the local store we all pay the same amount for a pound of hamburger meat, or a box of tissues or a pair of jeans. Fair is fair. So why is Samoa Air’s decision to charge the public the same rate per pound to fly so controversial? Answer: because this is the worst public relations decision a brand can make. It may sound good in theory, but in practice it’s a PR disaster because it’s discriminatory, cruel and ignorant.

The policy not only unfairly charges people for being different, but for being different in a way associated with negative stereotypes and innuendos that for many are emotionally and socially crippling. It’s another version of the school bus bully, except in this case the school bus is a plane and the bully owns it. The public is well aware that we are in the middle of a deadly obesity epidemic and that as adults we are all in charge of our own health.

Yet we also know that being in control of our lives doesn’t mean we are in control of the universe. People have accidents. People get diseases. People are imperfect. And, yes, some people are overweight. But their struggle is personal; we are all vulnerable and have our weaknesses, but that doesn’t mean we should have to pay extra money to visit our grandmothers. Only someone who has been incredibly fortunate in life would think like that (and they’d probably attribute their luck to some special place they occupy in the universe).

Well good for them.

The rest of us have to live in the real world, where we know life is tough but well worth it because of humanity’s ability to show compassion and understanding while offering a helping hand. The act of exploiting overweight people demonstrates none of those values. The public knows this — which is why Samoa Air just failed Peter Shankman‘s “niceness” test in epic fashion.

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