Which airport is weighing passengers?

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It may come as no surprise when you arrive at the airport to check in only to be asked to present your luggage for weighing, but what about if it was you they wanted to weigh?

This is exactly the policy that one airport has implemented according to the New York Post. Earlier in October, Pago Pago International Airport in American Samoa put in place the policy that prohibits customers flying on Hawaiian Airlines from pre-selecting their seats.

Seemingly a backwards step, the reasoning behind such a policy is so staff at check-in counters can help to meet airplane weight and balance requirements by, wait for it, ‘eyeballing’ passengers’ weights. The policy also goes so far as to state if they are concerned, in certain circumstances, the agents may also ask a passenger to be weighed before he or she is seated.

Unsurprisingly, the controversial policy has already sparked outrage with two men filing formal complaints to the US Transport Department. They are questioning how the policy could simply be a matter of safety if that in turn means that we have been flying unsafely for all these years?

overweight tourists

With obesity on the rise and plane conditions getting more and more cramped there has been speculation for many years that airlines may target overweight passengers when it comes to purchasing seats and how they impact those around them. Pago Pago have taken the leap and been the first to tackle the issue. It will be interesting to see how their new policy paves the way for other airlines and airports around the world.

Read more about this controversial new policy at the New York Post and weigh in with your opinion on this issue in the comments below. How do you think the aviation industry should handle this delicate subject?

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Written by SJ


Total Comments: 63
  1. 0

    A number of years ago, I went up in a helicopter to the top of Fox Glacier. Before we left the check in room, we were all weighed, and our seating arrangements defined. I guess this is a little more important in a larger one than that small one in Vanuatu where you aren’t

    • 0

      Thanks so much Sue for bringing this issue to light.
      From an aerodynamics point of view determining mass (ie ‘weight’) and how it is distributed on an aircraft is the difference between lifting off or crashing. The centre of gravity for the particular aircraft has strict limits and I have not ever understood why passengers have not been placed on the scales before other than the egos of fat folk demanding otherwise.
      Quite apart from the above my wife had a particularly tough time a couple of years ago with our flight from Denver to Athens. She was placed next to an extremely overweight man who radiated heat like a furnace and whose bits hung over the seat. The guy was very apologetic but clearly people of this mass need to not be placed in average seats when special seats for these folk are filled.
      I cannot understand why regulators are not more stringent with weighing passengers as well as luggage and why airlines do not charge extra for extremely overweight people. It sort of gets up my nose if I am 2 kg over in my bag weight but am myself under 70 kg mass. Pretty unfair.

    • 0

      Mick – agree totally. Recently on a flight, I was pinned because my hand luggage was 2kgs over weight. Yet the guy sitting(?) next to me was at least twice my size and nothing said. I know what your mean when you say ‘bits hung over the seat’. He commandeered all the arm rest, and every time he crossed his arms, his elbow protruded across my chest. But nothing said – I had to pay extra. Agree is totally unfair and instead of people saying it is discriminatory to charge heavy people more, I say it is discriminatory against light(er) people when you add the person’s weight and their luggage together. That should be the determiner.

  2. 0

    I think its totally fair. My 20 kg grandchild has the same baggage allowance as the 100 kg man. The 150 kg person is taking up more than their economy sized seat.
    Weight = flying cost on an aircraft so lets make it fair. However since men are usually heavier than women and this is a male orientated world its unlikely to happen.
    On those smaller aircraft weight is everything and your weight does count.
    I think you will find we are ” average” weighed for the seating. They know our age and sex and that gives the software program a good idea of how to even out the load. They also know our average full plane load by the fuel consumed over multiple flights. They know human average weights have increased and have adjusted the fuel load to accommodate the change.

    • 0

      It’s a tricky job Rosret. Most people have no understanding of the mathematics involved and the fact that it is not just about weight but also how that weight is distributed on the aircraft which is important. It wouldn’t be the first time a plane was badly loaded and unable to lift off.
      Weighing people as well as luggage should always have been the case.

  3. 0

    At Savusavu Airport in Fiji and for those flying to Savusavu from Nadi, all passengers are weighed. The plane is small [an Otter], it needs to be balanced during flight, and passengers are allocated seats to achieve this. There is a total weight limit for passengers and baggage. If the weight of passengers is not too high, that allows for heavier bags to be loaded – passengers come first, so if the weight limit is exceeded a bag may have to be left for the next flight. I don’t see a problem with this, not sure what the article is on about! I’m sure that small airport in American Samoa also uses Otters, so all the above would apply there too.

    • 0

      It is common sense. The trouble with anybody who objects is that they see the process as an insult to them rather than the necessity is is. The smaller the plane the more important this becomes also.

  4. 0

    All airports should do this

  5. 0

    This proposal does not seem unreasonable to me. When I travelled on Air Force planes they always checked passengers weight so they could calculate a proper ‘weight and balance’. Standing on a weighing platform, with my carry-on, to have my total weight checked is a minimal inconvenience. Any person with a BMI over 30 has the choice of reducing their weight, if they choose not to then they must suffer the consequence, in both health risks and airline seat allocation.
    Have we been flying unsafely for years due to passenger weight, probably not since aircraft are usually only fuelled to the minimum required for the next stage and it is this minimal fuel weight which saves the day
    There was a tragedy when a plane load of soldiers crashed on take-off, it was a long haul flight with maximum fuel. The investigators checked all the soldiers medical records to calculate the actual total weight and found that the aircraft was several thousand kg overweight. The charter airline had used the industry standard of 75kg per passenger to calculate passenger weight and it was totally inadequate.

  6. 0

    Yes I do understand about weight distribution, however, this is where it starts next it will be diabetics or heart problems sorry we can’t have you on our flight because you might have an episode
    I think it is time the airlines changed their averages and thought about the people a little more

    • 0

      If by this you mean install larger seats to accommodate the obese passenger, fine, but we will all pay more as fewer seats will be available and the costs therefore distributed among fewer customers.

      There are already protocols in place for those for whom the extended safety belt is not enough – they won’t be taken by some airlines, and other airlines insist that the seriously obese buy two seats to accommodate the ‘spillage’.

      Given that even those of healthy weight can be subjected to health issues due to flying e.g. DVT, I do wonder whether the commonplace cramped space, in cattle-class particularly, contributes to triggering or exacerbating other health issues in the seriously obese.

    • 0

      Rocky – one hopes the individual is responsible enough to understand the issues associated with diabetes and heart conditions. However there is a date before a pregnant woman can no longer fly, if you are vomiting or have flu like systems, infectious, drunk etc. you will not be allowed to board the aircraft.
      There are huge responsibilities when travelling and no one takes medical conditions lightly.
      Glad to hear about the obese ruling – it wasn’t in place when I was immobilised from being crushed by an over sized human. Believe me – it was painful.

    • 0

      There is no inconsistency in my mind between a real, or supposed, rules regarding morbidly obese passengers, passengers exhibiting signs of illness, the intoxicated and women who are in late stage of pregnancy. These rules are for the convenience and/or safety of all on board. As for diabetics or those suffering cardiac problems all I can say is I have never been asked questions about whether I suffer these conditions (although they may be in the ‘fine print’ of conditions of travel which I don’t read).
      I do suppose however, that the sub-space flights “soon” to be offered by Virgin Galactic may have more stringent health conditions.

  7. 0

    Pago Pago is in Samoa. (Yes, I know it’s the American bit.) Imagine trying to fly a 30 seater with the Samoan rugby team all sitting on one side of the plane.

    Yep. makes sense to weigh passengers.

  8. 0

    All airlines should have total weight limits for passenger+ carry-on luggage. Any total weight over 120 Kg should either pay for 2 seats, fly business or first class, or be left off the plane. If you can afford to fly, you can afford to buy a set of scales and weigh yourself and your hand luggage before booking a flight. Enforcing those rules may well bring the air ticket prices down. At the same time, it would allow a light weight person to either check-in, or carry on more luggage. Anything sent by air freight is always invoiced by weight. Parcel freight and people freight should be treated the same.

    • 0

      I have flown quite a lot, mass has never been a problem for me as I am quite a small person. On at least one of the airlines that I have used has a policy of requiring large,”overweight” persons to book two seats. They may feel that they are being discriminated against but for my money, a little discrimination of that kind is better than having “normal” passengers seated in probably greater discomfort than they normally are (especially economy class) and having a risk of aircraft overload because of oversized passengers.

  9. 0

    I watched a Airplane Disaster show on TV. The plane was full. Then the captain was asked to take on some urgent luggage. (Oxygen masks from another plane) The captain give the OK as he believed, according to his rule book, they would still be under weight capacity. The plane crashed. Overweight! They finally realised the rule book had been written when passengers were much slimmer. People are much heavier today.

  10. 0

    The two people depicted as overweight, are nothing to some I’ve seen.

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