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How to deal with a 'weighty' issue




My attention was drawn yesterday to the fact that Air New Zealand are going to start to weigh passengers in the near future - see the BBC article here. Apparently, the data provided will help the airline to improve fuel efficiency.


My immediate thought when I read the headline was whether heavier passengers were going to be charged more to fly than their slimmer fellow passengers. Whilst I know people have grumbled for years about seats, space and elbow room on flights, it doesn’t appear that this is going to happen – yet.


To people who are a little more voluptuous (which may be for a variety of different reasons), this action of course might appear to be unfair.


There are of course, lots of times in life when we consider things that have happened to us and things that might happen to us, seem really unfair. A client told me last week how their own client expectations in the current business climate were highly unrealistic in terms of fees, deadlines and scope etc. In a negotiating sense, we do need to structure expectations realistically as early in our conversations as possible. If we don’t, the danger is that the other side then ‘gets on a roll’ – they make wildly over-optimistic and ill-advised proposals which, now they’ve gone public with them, become incredibly difficult to back down from as it causes a ‘face’ issue. This can result in a long and protracted argument where the costs of deadlock spiral out of control with their entrenched positions maintained.


When we are faced with an unrealistic demand, rather than saying ‘No’ we can put a price on it. In the above example where I spoke to the client, the unrealistic expectations revolved around delivery times. When presented with this type of commercial challenge, there are ways to manage expectations. If the client wants the work completed in two days where it will take five days (after we’ve structured expectations) we could propose increasing our fees at a pro rata rate to cover the extra work required, or alternatively ask the other party to prioritise what’s most important to include in the two days at the originally agreed rate.


Back to Air New Zealand, if it ever becomes the case where airlines are tempted to charge for more weight, I hope they might look at the problem a little differently. It may be tempting for them to say anybody over a specific weight should pay $$$ extra. A counter proposal to this might be that anybody under a specific weight should pay $$$ less of course – again a price on a demand.


However, being mindful that there are reasons as to why people are the weight they are, maybe it would be better to deliver a small reward for people of a ‘reasonable’ weight whilst the rest of us pay a standard amount (carrot, rather stick approach). I must admit to feeling a little smug at the moment having lost 20kg recently, and I would be up for this! However, I’m also very conscious of the fact that factors (including weight) can positively or negatively change across the course of our commercial conflicts!


Sam Macbeth, 1st June



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