back to article Airline puts international passengers on the scales pre-flight

Airline travellers are long familiar with having their luggage weighed before boarding a flight – but beginning this week until July 2, Air New Zealand will also be weighing passengers. To be specific, 10,000 international passengers on international flights. Air New Zealand called the effort a "survey" and explained it is …

  1. wolfetone Silver badge

    Good.

    I'm glad they're doing this, and to be quite honest I'd feel much safer on a plane knowing everyone's been weighed so they know exactly how heavy the plane is.

    Just look at Air Midwest flight 5481. The plane was overloaded, and they were using average passenger weight from the 60's which was wildly out of date at the time the plane went down.

    1. blackcat Silver badge

      Re: Good.

      Agreed! Many a tragedy has started by assuming customers weights based on wildly outdated averages. Tourist boats are one of the main culprits here. Stability calculations based on long out of date numbers.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: Good.

        I watched a video about a tourist boat that capsized and it turned out that it went through a lot of modifications without being retested. Originally tested it could accomodate 45 passengers, with the massive canopy it had it was only rated for about 14.

        Assumptions cost lives.

    2. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Good.

      Do they use the same standard weights if the plane is full of children on a school trip vs men going to a stag weekend?

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: Good.

        I think so yes, as the manifest will only tell the captain and first officer the number of people on board, not their genders or ages.

        1. the spectacularly refined chap

          Re: Good.

          A passenger manifest wouldn't be a lot of use if it didn't actually identify the passenger on board.

      2. ZaphodHarkonnen

        Re: Good.

        Nope. There are different standard weights used for adults and children.

        Now there is no difference in weight for male vs female.

    3. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Good.

      The FAA has updated their 'average' human weight too, and I recall Thompson Airways (or was that Thomas Cook or Tui) who made a significant mistake in their calculations a while back that had an effect on their plane.

      That ANZ is doing this is good, particularly given that their flights are primarily over the Pacific, and knowing you have sufficient fuel on board is pretty imperative. :-)

      1. ZaphodHarkonnen

        Re: Good.

        Air NZ are doing it because the NZ CAA is updating its numbers. As the largest NZ airline they're the obvious ones to gather the data.

    4. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Good.

      Air Midwest flight 5481 was a much smaller aircraft where heavier than anticipated passenger girth can lead to very big problems. Some, maybe even many, commercial aircraft have load sensors to weigh the aircraft and others will use accel/deccel measurements but it would mean having to return to the stand if the plane appears overweight for the conditions.

      It's not a bad idea to do a random weigh-in of people that are flying on a particular aircraft do keep up with estimates. I can see how a Samoan airline might not be able to stack as many seats in an aircraft as the passengers can be larger than those in someplace such as Scandinavia. On an international route the cross section of people on an A380 is more likely to average out on every flight.

    5. pirxhh
      Alert

      Re: Good.

      A few years back, I took a flight from Perth to Learmonth, Australia. At the check-in counter, I was weighed, as was my carry-on - this was for the connecting helicopter flight to a drilling rig. Usullay it's done at the heliport, as they need to assign seats so that the aircraft is well balanced.

    6. adam 40 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Good.

      All the passengers on our charter flight in British Guyana were weighed.

      There was an enormous Dutch photographer coming, and he would have been bumped if one of our party hadn't turned up.

      This is basic aeronautics.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have some sympathy with the idea of charging by weight: The Stoltman brothers are gonna cost a lot more than a couple of super-models!

    But it has to be handled in a sensitive manner. The Stoltman brothers are probably less concerned about people knowing their weight than, say, someone with an eating disorder or body dysmorphic.

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      The only airline on the planet effectively charging by weight is Samoa Airways, and ultimately it's no-one else's business but the airline's what you weigh. Given this information is for ANZ's internal use (with no staff being able to see what an individual's weight is), the whole 'handled in a sensitive manner' argument is void :-)

      There are *some* airlines (like Austrian) who will weigh your cabin baggage (and tag it as heavy if it's over their limit), but even that is not consistently done.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "and ultimately it's no-one else's business but the airline's what you weigh."

        It can be a concern if you are getting on the plane with mostly full size Samoan guys. The maximum take-off and landing weights vary with weather conditions so you don't want to be on a plane that's close to maximums for a multi-segment trip and find out at a stop that the plane will be too heavy due to density altitude at that airport at the moment. Not only do airlines need up to date average figures, they need local figures too for the passengers they are most likely to have. Smaller aircraft should be weighing everything going onboard and passengers should expect that some seat swapping might be needed for balance.

  3. MrBanana

    I agree that it is a good safety measure. But making it voluntary is going to skew the results. Maybe it would be possible to add a weighing function to the security scan where you stand still in the round booth, while the scanner spins it should be enough time to get a half decent weight measure. No need to tell anyone, just collect the average over a day.

    1. yoganmahew

      I've only ever seen the full body scanners in the US. The rest of the world makes do with walk through metal detectors.

      1. Coastal cutie

        Southampton Airport (Hampshire UK) has one - that's a small regional airport so I'd imagine some of the bigger ones have them too.

      2. blackcat Silver badge

        Those backscatter scanners are pretty useless. I had to go through one in Dallas and it was summer and I was doing what most brits do in that sort of heat and sweating like a power shower. It could not see through my t-shirt due to it being a bit damp so they had to pat me down.

        1. AMBxx Silver badge

          What a horrible image - those poor security bods

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          "Those backscatter scanners are pretty useless."

          I don't fly anymore but when they brought in the new scanners, I opted out. Funny how they wouldn't allow any government or independent agency run any tests on them to see if they'd be a health issue over time. The manufacturers self-certified them as being "perfectly safe". I wonder if Douglas Adams got the story line from that to use in "Young Zaphod".

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Backscatter scanners operate using mm wavelength light, so I wouldn't worry about it, unless you're the sort of person who never goes out in the sun, you'll be being subjected to a bigger dose when you pop outside...

      3. storner

        CPH uses full body scans.

      4. MrBanana

        Maybe you don't get out much. Sophisticated body scanners have been a thing in Europe for years. My local airport is Schiphol, where you don't have to faff about with taking your laptop out, or even bother about taking a water bottle through. Usually not queued for more than 5 minutes.

        1. blackcat Silver badge

          The UK is slow introducing them.

          1. GruntyMcPugh

            Well, the UK IPS system was hosted by IBM, so yeah, of course it was slow and lumbering, when they charge by the hour for project manglement.

            1. David 132 Silver badge

              > Well, the UK IPS system was hosted by IBM

              Well yes, but OTOH that would mean that they’d automatically get rid of any equipment over a certain age, surely?

      5. spireite Silver badge

        Full body scanners? I've been thropugh them in a few UK airports - they do only randomly pick people it seems generally. Once when i set the main one off, and the hand wand was beeping for no obvious reason I got checked through the big body one.

        I was waiting for the sound of a Marigold - just in case,

      6. anothercynic Silver badge

        You've clearly not been to several European and UK airports recently. LHR has had full body scanners for *years* (even pre-COVID), ditto for Amsterdam, Frankfurt (in some zones), Hamburg and Munich.

      7. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Australian international airports have them.

      8. The other JJ

        I went through one at LHR T4 just two weeks ago.

      9. pirxhh

        Nah, I see them a lot. Not at really small airports like Puerto Williams, Chile (where the "building" is one container next to a gravel runway), though.

    2. Natalie Gritpants Jr

      You could just weigh the person with all their baggage, no need to display it to anyone, just use it to update the aircraft load.

    3. Stu J

      Rather than using the security scanner (where you don't have your hand luggage on you) it would make more sense to do it at automated barriers into the security area.

      You scan your boarding pass (which contains flight number and seat allocation) then go through the barrier - just stick scales under the pad you're standing on when you're scanning your boarding pass.

      Capture the total weight of passenger and their hand luggage (which is typically going in the overhead bin above their seat, or under the seat in front) and that gives you more accurate figures for the actual weight in the cabin, and makes it less "personal".

      Then if you want to further anonymise it, depending on the aircraft type you just aggregate the data over blocks of seats - a couple of rows and delineated by the aisles - and you end up with a series of point weights that would still give a much more accurate weight and balance sheet than the current assumption-based model, without explicitly identifying people.

  4. Whitter
    Holmes

    You can estimate weight very accurately from the security scanner image.

    Is it ethical to do so? would be the question there.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Since you only need "Person 1 weighs x" and no other details I can't see a problem, except possibly in the minds of some shitheads and a bent lawyer trying to make a killing.

    2. wolfetone Silver badge

      Better yet, put the scale in the scanner so you can be weighed while you're checked for bombs/guns/drugs.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Put some load cells in the landing gear, weigh the plane before and after boarding to calculate the average passenger weight.

        It's not like they can adjust the fuel load while boarding so getting an accurate weight for each passenger is unnecessary for any given flight.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Would work if the aircraft didn't have huge horizontal surfaces that generated lift if any wind was blowing

          1. DJO Silver badge

            Not too much of a problem if you are looking at the difference between the laden and unladen weights.

            Otherwise the tower will know exactly what the windspeed and direction is at any time and the lift generated by the wings is also a known quantity, so again, not a problem.

            Failing that the control surfaces can be adjusted to reduce lift when parked in windy conditions.

            1. wolfetone Silver badge

              But then you would need the plane full of people and their luggage to know the weight of the plane, which you would then need to have that fuel loaded on to the plane. So you're then fueling the plane with people on board. Then what if the plane is overweight and people need to get off. It would cause a massive delay.

            2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              The wind over the wings, at take-off speed, is enough to lift a 500ton plane so a 1knot wind might provide 5tons of lift

              I suppose with a windspeed measurement with 0.01knot resolution, and a perfect CFD model of the plane and all it's surroundings, and assuming perfectly laminar non-turbulent flow you could estimate the lift to the mass of a person

        2. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

          It's not uncommon to have refuelling or luggage loading happening at the same time as boarding, so that wouldn't work all the time.

          1. DJO Silver badge

            That's actually better - it gives you an average passenger + luggage weight. Fuel's not a problem as it's loaded by mass rather than volume so the weight of the added fuel is known.

            1. Anonymous Cowpilot

              Fuel is loaded in whatever units the airport you are at charges in and then converted to mass using the specific gravity of the fuel. It's a calculation we either do manually or using the flight computer. The units vary through the world from lbs, US gallons, kgs to litres.

              1. blackcat Silver badge

                And that mix of units has NEVER caused an issue ;)

                1. DJO Silver badge

                  I'd have thought loading fuel by volume is crazy as the volume varies with the temperature. By mass is the only consistent measure.

                2. pirxhh

                  Ask Bob Pearson (captain of the "Gimli Glider" :-)

            2. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

              Still, you'd need to know the exact conditions when you take your first measurement: have all passengers disembarked and luggage been unloaded? Are there any cabin/cleaning crew aboard? Any luggage handlers in the cargo hold? Has refuelling/loading started?

        3. DJO Silver badge

          Looks like they already thought of this:

          The Boeing 707-300 freight aircraft has them already. Other aircraft that had a similar (optional) system include the L1011 and Boeing 747.

    3. Old Tom

      It would slow security down as they'd need need to know who they were scanning. Plus reconciling a currently anonymous scan with a personal record would introduce all kinds of privacy issues.

      1. Whitter

        Not if they didn't care where any specific person was going: if they were only trying to measure the current distribution of passenger weights, then no-personal-info is ideal.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        The weighings are for updating statistics so they can be anonymous.

    4. TheMeerkat Silver badge

      What is the problem with just weighing and others seen the weight?

      If you are fat, everyone can see that you are fat with or without knowing your weight.

      1. ArrZarr Silver badge

        Height plays a big part in weight. If somebody is at the upper end of a healthy weight while being 6'6'', they'll weigh the same as somebody who is obese at 5'6''.

        Beyond that, muscle is considerably heavier than fat by volume, so somebody who looks particularly svelte might be considerably heavier than they appear if they have a lot of muscle while not showing it.

  5. jmch Silver badge

    optional?

    ""I think making weighing voluntary is the ethical thing to do here. As with anything related to the human body, consent is important," Boston-based therapist specializing in eating disorders, Molly Robson LCSW, told The Reg."

    Firstly, it should be perfectly possible to weigh every passenger and still do it completely ethically. Have a scale just at the point the boarding passes are checked, so each passenger is weighed exactly once. All the machine needs to keep are a list of weights, there is no need (and indeed there should be no way) of associating a weight with a person or any other identifier. There is even no need for the machine to display the measured weight, just an LED that blinks to say that the machine is done with the measurement, next please. If it's completely voluntary, the people opting out wil be those more sensitive about their weight, which completely invalidates the results.

    Secondly, while it's nice to include the point of view of a " therapist specializing in eating disorders", the number of people who are overweight, or indeed obese, because of eating disorders are a very small %age of overweight/obese people. In the vast majority of cases it is a choice* to prioritise food over exercise, junk food over healthy food etc. If someone has an eating disorder, my commiserations, and exceptions can be made. Otherwise, if a passenger doesn't fit in their allocated seat, why do they think it's OK to overflow into the next seat rather than pay for a second seat or pay extra for a wider seat?

    *or a habit, which has become a habit because of the accumulation of many hundreds of small and innocuous-seeming choices

    1. blackcat Silver badge

      Re: optional?

      I'm convinced that the seats are narrower than they used to be. Certainly leg room has been reduced in cattle class over the last couple of decades.

      I've not grown in height in the last 20 years but when I flew in the late 90's/early 00's I could fit in an economy seat without crushing my knees against the seat in front. A few years ago I had to fly again and I could barely sit down in an economy seat and I had to ask the person in front not to recline their seat. Thankfully it was a relatively short flight.

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: optional?

        Not sure they've gotten any narrower (not much to gain for the airlines), but they certainly have gotten shorter as airlines squeeze extra rows in the same space.

        1. Korev Silver badge
          Gimp

          Re: optional?

          I think that some airlines have worked out they can get another seat in each row in some widebody aircraft...

          1. jmch Silver badge

            Re: optional?

            All the widebody flights I've taken had 2-4-2 seating, I believe the more standard configuration is now 3-3-3. In some cases even 3-4-3. Pretty much all narrowbody planes are 3-3 at most

      2. spireite Silver badge

        Re: optional?

        Pretty sure some seats are narrower...

      3. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: optional?

        Legroom has changed for the worse in cattle class, absolutely.

        But if anything, the seat width has generally been 17" - 18" for decades (although the armrests have slimmed down a lot). The 707 (and later the 737) was designed for 6-abreast, the DC-8 for 5-abreast configuration. The 747 was designed for 10 abreast and wider seats. The 777, with a wider fuselage than the 747, was designed for 10 abreast. The 787 has a narrower fuselage than the 777 and makes it 9 abreast. The 787 is, despite the wider seats compared to the 777, one of the most uncomfortable planes (despite the lower cabin altitude) on the planet.

        The A380 sits square on either side of the 777 with its two decks. The main deck was designed for 10 abreast, the upper for 8. At least on the A380 you should have wider seats; that was its primary selling point! It's certainly a lot more comfortable in economy than either the 787 or the 777. The A350 is narrower than the 777 but wider than the 787.

        In my opinion, the legroom (the seat pitch) is a much bigger indicator of comfort than width, but for those adults who have slightly gone to seed, having the arm rest dig into your waist certainly does irritate.

      4. TheMeerkat Silver badge

        Re: optional?

        “ I'm convinced that the seats are narrower”

        And the flying is cheaper than it used to be compared to other expenses.

        Many people who can buy a ticket today would not be able to afford it in 1990s.

    2. Michael Hoffmann Silver badge

      Re: optional?

      The possible issue here is that you, strictly speaking, do have to track where each person sits. Having all the obese one in the back and the heroin chic models in the front can wreak havoc with the centre of gravity. That means you track by seat number, which allows identification (has to actually, it's mandatory). Fully anonymous won't be possible then.

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: optional?

        If the stated aim of the exercise is to benchmark an average for all passengers on all flights to get some sort of average, tracking by seat number isn't needed (although on further thought, if the benchmarks are for male, female, child passengers you would have to mark into which category the weighed person fits).

        If the airline is doing it for weight distribution, then they would need to know the (approximate) weight before they allocate a seat.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: optional?

          "If the airline is doing it for weight distribution, then they would need to know the (approximate) weight before they allocate a seat."

          About 40+ years ago , I was on a school trip to France. On the flight to London, the relatively small (BA Trident?) must have been weight sensitive. As we all boarded and went to the ticketed seats, the cabin staff came around and started moving us around. There was 30 or so of us kids, aged 12 to 18. I don't recall any issues with seating arrangements on the larger Tristar hop from London to Paris.

      2. Little Mouse

        Re: optional?

        I remember seeing a particularly large individual being asked whether they'd "like to move to first class, sir?" when boarding a small plane (15-20 seats or so) for a short hop across the Cook Strait.

      3. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: optional?

        Trim-sensitive aircraft are more sensitive than I realised. One time I was on a short-haul internal flight which was far from full and I was asked to move seats by a few rows. Not a problem (and the cabin crew kindly gave me a complimentary bottle of wine for my trouble) but I was surprised that they picked on me because I'm only about 9.5 stone / low 60-odd kg

        1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

          Re: optional?

          It's easier to relocate a single passenger than a couple or family. I don't think the adjustment needs to be accurate to the kg.

      4. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: optional?

        "Fully anonymous won't be possible then."

        It would be ethical for the airlines to not couple passenger information with weight, but it doesn't matter. Weight would include any carry on baggage so it's not just the person's weight. They could just match weight and seat number for a calculation and keep that data separate and only include it with other flight data that doesn't include passenger information.

      5. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: optional?

        On large jets this is generally not an issue. ANZ doesn't fly to hot and high airports, so they're fine. It's those who fly to places like Bogota, Johannesburg, Addis Ababa, etc that would need to make sure that the CoG is roughly correct.

        1. Orv Silver badge

          Re: optional?

          Some of ANZ's long-haul flights are sensitive to weight because of the fuel load required. I recall hearing about one New York to Auckland flight where they had to send some of the luggage on a different plane to make it under the takeoff weight limit.

        2. mtp
          Mushroom

          Re: optional?

          There is a quote "a front heavy plane flies poorly but a tail heavy plane flies once"

          1. Orv Silver badge

            Re: optional?

            As Aaliyah found out, sadly.

        3. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: optional?

          "ANZ doesn't fly to hot and high airports,"

          I think it would be more accurate to say they don't 'schedule' flights to hot and high airports. The destination could change mid-flight due to issue with the aircraft or something like 9/11 happening again and a country's airspace closing and any aircraft that can divert will be directed to divert.

      6. Stu J

        Re: optional?

        You don't have to track every single seat - anonymising to blocks of 9 or 10 seats would be more than sufficient, and would definitely still prevent issues like this one:

        https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/03/qantas-flight-struggles-to-take-off-as-child-passengers-tip-balance

    3. Orv Silver badge

      Re: optional?

      The problem with booking a second seat is the airline will shove a standby passenger into it.

    4. ZaphodHarkonnen

      Re: optional?

      Yes it's voluntary. But passengers will also have it explained that no one will see the number in a way that can be tied to a person. To the point that when weighing the person the number will not be displayed to anyone present.

      Between that and the context that this is for passenger safety. I would expect for most that will ally their fears.

  6. storner

    Happened to me in the 1990's

    Before boarding a flight from Boston to Marthas Vineyard, I was asked how much I weighed. That was in my younger days when I was quite fit and normal weight.

    The reason was that they needed to distribute tthe weight evenly. The Marthas Vineyard airport had such a short runway that the flight was operated with a 1950's DC-3, so balancing the weight was important. Rumor has it that the local oligarks refused to extend the runway, because it worked very well with their private jets, and they preferred not to have too many tourists.

    It is the oldest plane I have ever flown.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Happened to me in the 1990's

      Discretely used to happen on Concord.

      The baggage was then loaded accordingly to trim the plane.

      A 1986 Epson EHT-10 (a touchscreen handheld) was used by the baggage handlers. (Bet you didn't know that such things were around then!)

      Anon, as I'm not sure how discretely the measurement was taken, and I don't want to get anyone in trouble if it was not announced.

  7. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Won't someone please think of the fatties!

    "I think making weighing voluntary is the ethical thing to do here."

    No, it is not. You'll get just the light people weighing themselves, so they won't have an accurate idea of the plane's weight & balance.

    As an Official Fat American Bastard[1], I think aviation safety trumps snowflake feelings.

    Besides, they don't give a crap who is fat and who is thin, they're mostly interested in the lump (heh) sum.

    1 (255lbs as I have only an 8-bit scale...)

    1. Simon Harris

      Re: Won't someone please think of the fatties!

      If you used metric you could be twice as heavy (and a bit) before you had to worry about overflow!

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        Re: Won't someone please think of the fatties!

        Or 'proper' British stones and pounds, you could be the size of 10!

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. GlenP Silver badge

    Not Weighed but...

    I was on an internal flight to Rhode Island, it was relatively empty but they'd filled the seats from the front.

    Shortly before departure there was a request from the flight deck, "Can some passengers please move to the rear of the plane?"

    If they're weighing solely for a study of average weights it can be truly anonymous, if they're weighing to check the individual plane loading it needs to use seat number and therefore data is identifiable.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've seen quite a few articles recently where (very)plus-size folk (mostly from the "influencer community...whatever that is) have been very vocal about how airlines treat them unfairly - seats too small, not enough room, aisles too narrow, that sort of thing. The message seems to be that being plus-size they shouldn't be discriminated against, and in fact being that size should be normalised by society.

    If that's the aim, then I can't see why they anyone should object to being weighed like this because (a) apparently weight is nothing to be ashamed about, (b) it will help airlines to understand that plus-size passengers are part of their customer base.

    1. blackcat Silver badge

      "(very)plus-size folk"

      That is being kind. Now I'll admit that I'm a bit of a heaftychonk (my main issue with airline seats being that I'm also 6ft4) but I can still lower the tray table to horizontal and use the bog. One of those 'influencers' I saw moaning about seat sizes was so huge that her belly was touching the seat in front. (and she needed a nasal canula for supplementary oxygen.....)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Height is a struggle. I was 6'2" before a spinal injury robbed me of an inch. However, my legs are long (mostly in the thighs) and body short, so if I was totally in proportion to my thighs I would be around 6'7". Even in the Premium Economy I have to sit diagonally.

        I have been moved twice - once when the person next to me complained on a trans-Atlantic flight that I was impinging on their space (as I was sitting diagonally).

        And once when I was in the middle of 3 seats with a very plus size either side (in fact there was only a few inches between them that I had to squeeze into). I was the last on the plane in my suit and the stewardess escorted me to my seat saying that she would move me as soon as we were in the air. I received all sorts of abuse from the ladies as I zig-zagged into my seat and shoved the rolls of fat towards their own seats.

        Both times I was moved to the bulkhead row, just behind First Class where there was plenty of room. Both times I was flying Economy due to company rules!

        Anon as the world is now so woke that I could be in trouble for the above!

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "my main issue with airline seats being that I'm also 6ft4"

        For some time now, my shoulders have been 50-75mm wider than average seat widths. I haven't flown in years as it's a horrible way to travel and I expect after seeing what they call airline seats these days that I really won't fit being 6'1" and a full size male.

    2. jmch Silver badge

      "airlines treat them unfairly - seats too small, not enough room, aisles too narrow, that sort of thing."

      Nothing to do with fairness. I would love it if all the seats and row spacing were big enough for very plus-size folk, it would feel extremely comfortable for me. But if airlines were to make all the rows and all the seats to those specifications, they would need to take 1 row out and put the seats in 2+2, or 2+3 with an off-center aisle, or 2+3 with a central aisle and different-size seats on each side (rather than the current usual 3+3 for most short-haul flights). Any 2+3 configuration has issues with balance, and all options reduce capacity by 17%. Probably would need to reduce number of rows as well from around 30 to 26-27, reducing capacity by a further 10-13%. Approx 25% less passengers means at least 25% more costly tickets.

      A better solution might be for airlines to have just a few rows with wider seats rather than the entire plane, and only charge higher prices for those rows. Oh wait, they do already!!

      "(a) apparently weight is nothing to be ashamed about, (b) it will help airlines to understand that plus-size passengers are part of their customer base."

      (a) Weight is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. Equally, it should not be treated as a disability that requires special treatment, unless it really is a disability (ie there is a medical root cause). (b) Air New Zealand were weighing passengers exactly to better understand their customers. I'm sure any airline would want to find a way of appealing to plus-size passengers without losing profitability

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge
        Boffin

        Approx 25% less passengers means at least 25% more costly tickets.

        No, it'd be worse than that.

        For the sake of keeping the maths easy, let's say 100 seats at £100 each, meaning a full plane is worth £10,000 to the airline, Remove 25% capacity and you need to raise that £10,000 from just 75 seats, which would mean £133.33 per ticket - that's 33.3% more cost per ticket

      2. Orv Silver badge

        Or, you know, they could allow people to buy a second seat for more room without seeing it as a no-show to shove another standby passenger into.

  10. simonb_london

    Perfect excuse

    "I'm a bumble bee. I defy the laws of physics. I can still fly!"

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Perfect excuse

      Bees can fly a treat - When the "Bees can't fly" trope was first coined there was no slow motion photography so the assumption was that bees flew like birds with simple flapping and gliding.

      A bee can glide about as well as a hamster but that's not a problem because (except when landing) they never glide, what they do is feather* their wings a lot more than birds so there's no drag from the upstroke and lots of lift on the downstroke.

      * For that person - by "feather" I mean twist, not cover in fluffiness.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Perfect excuse

        I think resonance might also be involved.

      2. ChrisC Silver badge

        Re: Perfect excuse

        "A bee can glide about as well as a hamster"

        Could so easily be the opening line to an ig Nobel award speech...

        1. David 132 Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Perfect excuse

          We went through a lot of hamsters in the control group, yes.

      3. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Perfect excuse

        "A bee can glide about as well as a hamster"
        Citation required.

        Or at least a link to a proposed scientific study on this alleged phenomena.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Perfect excuse

          I tried, but Freddy Starr Ate My Hamsters!

      4. Spherical Cow Silver badge

        Re: Perfect excuse

        African or European hamster?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    as a lovably chubby guy myself

    a plane crashing due to incorrectly assumed weight would upset me a LOT more that the airline asking me my wieght

    1. MrBanana

      Re: as a lovably chubby guy myself

      Happy to have you on board in the case of a crash. In-flight meals only last for so long.

    2. YetAnotherXyzzy

      Re: as a lovably chubby guy myself

      Agreed. When I read "What would be great is some awareness from the airlines of how potentially traumatic flying while fat is", my first thought was that a crash due to weight miscalculation is also potentially traumatic.

  12. Edwin

    Finnair did this

    5 or so years ago - seems very sensible.

  13. spireite Silver badge
    Pirate

    As someone who isn't chubby, but have some acquaintances who were definitely not built for speed and flood over the arm rests, I have no problem with them being 'analysed'

    One of them could eat me for lunch, and normally books two seats so their 'average' is down.

    On my last flight, someone of that build literally had to go in 'crab-wise' to get down the aisle, and in the bog at the back.

    I was expecting them to need a shoehorn to assist.

    In that respect, they should use something other than a plane.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It would have thought the obvious thing to do...

    ... is place scales under the body scanner at security - everyone using it is going to fly, it is anonymous, and complete.

  15. Johnb89

    More weight = pay more = BIGGER SEAT

    For the cases where they are going to charge more by weight, do the big people get bigger seats? Because that would be fair and rather handy. As a tall person I already book (and pay extra for) the emergency row or extra leg room seats. In fact we already have that... business class... or first class.

    Bigger seats in just economy would be fun.... every plane has 3 sizes of economy seats, lovingly arranged in family groups or sets of 4 facing each other like trains.

    1. Anonymous Cowpilot

      Re: More weight = pay more = BIGGER SEAT

      Potentially, but it would require paying quite a bit more, as charging by weight is usually discussed in terms of fuel burn (heavier payload requires more fuel to lift it the same amount). Adding bigger seats reduces the aircraft capacity, so you would also need to pay for the fuel that the person would have paid for sat next to you if the seat was narrower. In larger aircraft we call that business class.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    weigh them all.

    makes sense to weigh person and luggage together. This is very fair, I've known a few petite humans that are capable of taking luggage that might weigh as much as they do. Of course that is one extreme case. I knew another small coworker that could pack for a week in a small carryon bag. Small shoes, small clothes, don't take up much volume. Me, I'm 6'2" and some planes just don't fit me.

  17. 43300 Silver badge

    Surely average weights, broken down by country / gender / age or whatever other categories, are already going to be available in medical data?

    1. Anonymous Cowpilot

      No, its an international standard defined by ICAO and incorporated by all signatory states in their relevant air law.

  18. Steve Kerr

    Weight limit flight to Albania

    Once flew to Albania for work and was on an airbus of some description.

    Only about 40-50 passengers, the plane was at its weight limit.

    The front few rows were filled and so were the rear few rows and only single window seats on the left hand side of the plane, someone wanted to move form the crowded front/back but was told this was not allowed because the plane was at its max carrying weight due to cargo and the seating arrangement was due to balance.

    From gatwick it took most of the runway to get off the ground, landing in albania where the runway was short came in so low was skimming the fields for a minute then literally smacked into the tarmac just after the dirt and braked so hard I headbutted the seat in front and had to use my hands to push myself off the faceplant. Plane done a 180 at the other end with the wing actually over the dirt at the other end of the runway, was like doing a 180 at 20mph in a very large reliant robin!

    As for passenger weight, I've seen a lot of videos from er....larger so called influencers bemoaning plane seat & aisle widths and saying that they should be given extra seats for free, to me, to be fair, should state your weight+baggage weight approx when booking tickets and pay the difference or refunded the difference at weigh ins at the airport - could be done discretely - only fair to charge per KG for travel, a bit like sending stuff via a parcel company!

  19. naive

    Would be a perfect idea in the Land of the Free<DEL><DEL><DEL><DEL> Fat

    Fun fact: The percentage of people fit to serve in the army in the Land of the Fat is less than 30% due to obesity, diabetes and other results from eating disorders.

    At least they won't be needing bullet proof vests when Biden decides to dump them into Ukrainian trenches.

  20. IGotOut Silver badge

    Height please.

    Then they can match height to DVT cases when your knees are shoved up against your chin for half the flight.

    Not me personally as I've "only" a 32" inside leg, but I've had an ex with a 36" leg, yet weighed bugger all. A eight hour flight with cramped and angry woman is not pleasant for anyone.

    1. blackcat Silver badge

      Re: Height please.

      I caught the end of something on the TV about plans to limit booze on flights to combat air-rage. Maybe give everyone an extra inch of legroom instead!

      1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

        Re: Height please.

        From what I've read, air-rage situations originate mostly at the start of the flights, for typical reasons such as armrest usage, crying baby or people not seating in their allocated seat. Pre-flight booze often plays a role, legroom less so.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If I can get classified as freight will they load me into the hold? I hear it has more leg room than economy where amputation below the knee is recommended "for your comfort".

    1. jmch Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      "If I can get classified as freight "

      In that case you might find yourself getting a bit chilly and out of breath, seeing that freight compartment is not warmed and unpressurised.

      Better get classified as a pet, you can have your own box which is big enough to lie down in, and travel in the pressurised part of the hold.

      1. Andre Carneiro

        Varies by type but it’s usually pressurised (but, as you correctly said, not warmed unless live critters are in cargo)

    2. druck Silver badge

      Above the knee surely if legroom is a problem.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    New policy

    If I ran an airline I would give every adult passenger a combined 80 kg body and luggage mass allowance. Every kg above this limit would be chargeable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: New policy

      I would preferentially book with an airline that charged extra for every kilo over 100 for combined human and baggage. However the cost per kilo would be an issue. One airline tried to charge me $20 for baggage 2kg over the limit (I discarded some of the contents instead). I was then seated next to someone much heavier than me whose excess flab overflowed the arm rest (and who had a personal hygiene issue).

      Why is it that tall people seem to be OK with paying a bit extra for more legroom while some entitled obese think it's a human rights issue and the airlines need to make free provision to accommodate them? Especially as individuals can manage their weight but not their height.

      I'd also welcome a policy seating those travelling with kids apart from those who appreciate less noise and interference.

      I used to weigh 90 kg, I was offered the opportunity to take a glider flight. Weighing was essential and before I could fly they had to remove several kg of lead weights from the nose of the glider. No problem but it did incentivise me to go on a diet. I found that the simple strategy of eating less but better food worked. My doctor had also started to say I was "pre diabetic" which seems to be a polite term for fat, he's happier now too.

      1. blackcat Silver badge

        Re: New policy

        "Why is it that tall people seem to be OK with paying a bit extra for more legroom while some entitled obese think it's a human rights issue and the airlines need to make free provision to accommodate them? Especially as individuals can manage their weight but not their height."

        Good question. Especially with the whole 'body positivity' and 'healthy at any weight' thing. Sadly I think it is the entitlement thing. "Its not my fault I stuff my face with lard!!!" Also having your knees crushed is seriously painful whereas inflicting your flab on others doesn't cause you much discomfort so from the individual perspective 'it isn't a problem'.

        My shoulders are wider than the standard economy seat including both arm rests.

        They offer free seatbelt extenders for fatties (I'm overweight but there is still significant slack in the normal seatbelt for me) but don't offer free extra leg room for tall people. Maybe they should charge extra if you can't get the normal seatbelt around your lard cos I have to pay 2-3x more for more leg room.

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