American airline employees fly for free

Airlines in the USA are supposed to weigh their passengers

How much does a passenger weigh? Airlines estimate the weight of their passengers using average values. But the values ​​currently used by the American FAA are no longer up-to-date and precise enough.

For good reason. The American population is getting heavier. Between 1960 and 2018, the proportion of men who are obese (body mass index of 30 and above) rose from 10 to over 40 percent. The same trend can be observed among women. The average American man weighs 90 kilograms today - four kilograms more than 20 years ago.

Participation should be voluntary

As early as the summer of 2019, the FAA presented a proposal on how airlines can collect their own values ​​for body weight and calculate them more precisely. The deadline for comments on the FAA's proposal has now expired and airlines are getting closer to implementation. "An operator who decides to weigh passengers as part of a survey should take care to protect the privacy of the passengers," said the authority. "The display of the scales should remain hidden from the public."

As an alternative to weighing before boarding, the airline can also ask travelers about their weight and then add around five kilos for their clothes. The FAA advises: If an airline employee thinks a weight is too low, an estimate should be made. The following applies to weighing and questioning: Participation is voluntary. If a passenger does not want to participate, the FAA recommends randomly selecting the next participant and foregoing an estimate.

Finnair was already weighing passengers

It wouldn't be the first time airlines weigh passengers. In 2017, for example, Finnair voluntarily asked travelers to weigh in to check whether the estimates used so far are realistic. In 2016, a complaint by passengers against Hawaiian Airlines, which weighed travelers on flights between Honolulu and Pago Pago in order to save kerosene, had failed. Uzbekistan Airways even introduced a general weighing system in 2015 and at Samoa Air the weight influenced the price of the flight ticket.

If an airline wants to record the weight of passengers, it does not have to be done with a scale, which most people probably find in the bathroom. In 2019, a British startup presented a more elegant solution: a plate with sensors built into the floor. It is installed in front of the touchscreen during self-check-in. The passenger must confirm on the monitor whether he is standing on the plate. If he agrees, his weight will be recorded.

Accurate weight is important

Correct weight information is important in order to be able to calculate the take-off weight of an aircraft and also the amount of fuel carried. If the average weight of the men and women on board is expected to be higher, in extreme cases either fewer people can fly with you or freight has to be unloaded. This can affect the income statement. According to the analysts at Air Insight, new average weights would therefore have a direct impact on the airlines.