These Are The Airlines Who Charge Passengers By Their Body Weight

Thanks to Godfrey who asked us to revisit this topic on Twitter.

If ever there was a touchy subject to debate it would be the ongoing question of whether or not airlines should charge passengers by their body weight. Some commercial airlines already are.

Let’s take stock of the airlines who have so far given the green light to this controversial course of action.

For the purpose of this brief analysis we have focused on commercial carriers operating scheduled services only. Charter services and “lodge hoppers” have been left out.

Uzbekistan Airways

In 2015 Uzbekistan Airways announced that all passengers will have to stand on weighing machines with their personal luggage after they have checked in.

In August 2015 Uzbekistan Airways, the flag carrier of Uzbekistan, announced they would join an exclusive club of airlines who charge passengers according to how much their person weighs. The airline says their passengers will be weighed on scales in airport departure zones.

The airline says: “The weighing record will only contain the corresponding passenger category (i.e. male/female/children). As for the rest, the full confidentiality of results is guaranteed.”

Samoa Air

In 2013 Samoa Air gained global press coverage by becoming the first airline in the world to charge customers by body weight plus luggage.

In 2012, Samoa Air famously introduced a pay-as-you-weigh fare structure – they are largely credited as the airline who opened the weight debate and if a message on their website is anything to go by, they’re proud of their policy.

Samoa Air's pay-by-weight policy.

However, when you take a look at Samoa Air’s fleet which is comprised of lightweight Cessna’s and Britten-Norman Islander aircraft and couple that with a nation with one of the highest obesity rates in the world, their so-called “fat tax” begins to make more sense.

Insensitivity aside, there are some valid for and against arguments here.

In the “for” corner is Samoa Air who say, “By knowing your weight we can make arrangements for the best seat for you and your ease of travel and if we can get you more leg room and a more spacious seating then we will. We weigh everything. We don’t use “standard weights” we use real weights. Real weights are for real people. Aircraft can only provide a certain amount of weight on each and every sector for us to sell, so our commodity is weight!”

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) response to the matter is neither for nor against saying, “All airlines have policies in place for load calculations, weight and balance of their aircraft. These policies in turn are subject to the rules and regulations of their national aviation regulator.”

Those with Schadenfreude tendencies simply say, “It takes more fuel—more energy—to get more weight from point A to point B. So why should I pay the same as the guy twice my weight sitting next to me with much of his body hanging over into my seat?”

Some airlines have chosen a more subtle approach to the subject. Southwest Airlines has a “customers of size” policy whereby physically larger passengers are required to purchase a second seat if they don’t fit between the armrests of a single seat.

Are there any other airlines charging passengers based on how much they weigh? Let us know in the comments or Tweet us @Travelstart.

Weigh in on the debate …

Our Readers Comments

  1. I wish all airlines would adopt this method of payment. I am tired of losing half my seat to someone three times my size. I have been shoved against an armrest on the other side and got bruises because of the overweight person next to me. Oh please, please all airlines bring this in.

  2. Why do airlines not have arm rests that can be tucked away and then very large people can purchase both seats. I am sure that it can’t be fun for the large people to know that no body wants to sit next to them. I have sat next to a woman who could hardly fit into the seat and then try to make herself even smaller so that she did not encroach too much onto my side. Uncomfortable for everyone.

    • Hi Patricia,

      Thanks for posing an interesting question and the feedback. Airlines do have the arm rests that go up but not all the way.

      Maybe this is something they should look into. As purchasing a business class seat is usually more expensive then purchasing 2 economy class seats.

  3. Hi there, very controversial issue as some people cannot loose weight, however as an example KLM shoved an extra seat during their refurbishment in the body width of their planes and when that happens as per Margie’s message then you know that your flight is gonna be hell from the start. Luckily I had an empty seat next to me on my last flight with my daughter and she moved next to me, but otherwise my daughter would have lived the same fate as Margie for 11 hours. I understand airlines are trying to survive, but is there no way of getting a reasonable in between business and economy class at a price that can accommodate this issue. I apologise to those that are overweight and cannot help their situation , but at the same time ask for understanding that we are seriously inconvenienced by this problem.

  4. A compromise would be to allow lighter passengers a heavier baggage allowance. This would be fair, even if it doesn’t solve the problem of seat size.

    • Hi Helen,

      Thanks for the interesting feedback 🙂

  5. If people are offended by having their weight noted, airlines could sell their tickets based on the width of the seat required per person. Like small clothes are always cheaper than large clothes, Airline tickets (seat space) should be costed the same.

    • Hi Terry,

      Thanks for the interesting feedback 🙂

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