Back in 2012, a tiny airline by the name of Samoa Air did something radical: they stated, “A kilo is a kilo is a kilo.” That’s their slogan – what it meant may be slowly changing the airline industry.
Samoa Air was stating they would become the first airline in the world to charge passengers based on total weight on the plane – meaning the passenger’s weight plus any luggage. The model is scaled based on distance flown, so the longer a "heavy" person flies the more that person pays. Samoa had safety as a primary reason, as heavier aircrafts are more dangerous when flying propeller planes – the only planes in their fleet.
This naturally led to immediate criticism from all over the world. Some called it a “fat tax” while a small minority mentioned the practicality of the measure. With only three planes and situated on tiny islands between Australia and the United States, it is safe to assume this was the most international press Samoa Air had ever received.
Until this week that is, when Uzbekistan Airways announced a similar procedure for their flights (albeit different in crucial ways). The airline “expects” passengers to be weighed when going through security prior to departure, but the repercussions for opting out are not well known at this point. The airline also hasn’t clearly stated what happens if a passenger is too heavy. So this seems far less stringent of a requirement than Samoa Air.
Now I highly doubt many TFG readers are planning a trip to Samoa or Uzbekistan any time soon. But the larger issue at play here is fascinating for those staying up to date in the airline industry. Larger airlines have largely played it cautious on this issue, reluctant to pull the “never” card in terms of if they would ever follow suit.
And honestly, I don’t blame them. Few things diminish a flying experience more than being squished next to a larger person – and I say that being quite tall myself. Passengers already have to pay extraordinary fees for extra weight in their luggage, so this is no different in my eyes. With airlines reconsidering where to put kids and being commended for it, every major airline has at least considered the possibility of this measure.
Regardless of your position on the matter, Samoa Air may have started a trend that took three years for another airline to join the party. It will be intriguing to see where this goes in the future, especially in the United States.