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Fliers’ girth expands airlines’ fuel costs

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ATLANTA — Americans' expanding waistlines are adding to the airlines' already rising fuel bills.

A report by physicians at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the average American gained 10 pounds during the 1990s. The extra weight translated to 350 million extra gallons of fuel used by airlines.

The cost? About $275 million in 2000 alone, the report says — and that was when jet fuel cost less than half today's price. The higher fuel consumption also resulted in an extra 3.8 million tons of carbon dioxide and smaller amounts of other pollutants, it adds.

The report, published in this month's American Journal of Preventive Medicine, focuses on overlooked economic and health consequences of obesity, said Dr. Andrew Dannenberg, who studies how the man-made world affects health.

No one has yet suggested weight-based fares — at least not seriously — but Doug Wills, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, said the study is "timely" given recent record fuel prices.

"At a time when airlines are taking off metal spoons and changing seat components to save weight, every little bit counts."