Would you lose weight for a cheaper airfare?

Given that airplanes always run on weight – not seats – what if airlines started charging passengers by the kilo?

What if we all had to get on the scales at airports… Would you?

Samoa Air started charging passengers by weight in January – the first system of its kind in the world –  and today report that the system has so far been a success, especially for families.


Meanwhile a Norwegian economist who backs a “pay as you weigh” system and believes obese passengers should be charged more has highlighted the health benefits of such an incentive.

At Samoa Air, the pay-by-weight booking system requires passengers to type in their weight on the airline’s online reservation system, where their fare is calculated.

Chief Executive Chris Langton told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat that families have benefited the most.

“People who have been most pleasantly surprised are families, because we don’t charge on the seat requirement even though a child is required to have a seat, we just weigh them,” he said.

“So a family of maybe two adults and a couple of mid sized kids and younger children can travel at considerably less than what they were being charged before.”


Meanwhile, according to Reuters, Norwegian economist Bharat Bhatta says
that airlines should follow the lead of other transport sectors and charge by space and weight.

“To the degree that passengers lose weight and therefore reduce fares, the savings that result are net benefits to the passengers,” he said.

Bhatta put together three models for what he called “pay as you weigh airline pricing”:

  • The first would charge passengers according to how much they and their baggage weighed. It would set a rate for pounds (kg) per passenger so that someone weighing 130 pounds (59 kg) would pay half the fare of 260-pound (118-kg) person.
  • A second model would use a fixed base rate, with an extra charge for heavier passengers to cover the extra costs. Under this option, every passenger would have a different fare.
  • Bhatta’s preferred option was the third, where the same fare would be charged if a passenger was of average weight. A discount or extra charge would be used if the passenger was above or below a certain limit.

Some airlines are already implementing strategies to handle this issue: United Airlines requires passengers who cannot fit comfortably into a single seat to buy another one.

According to Reuters, a 2010 online survey for travel website Skyscanner revealed that 76 per cent of travelers said airlines should charge overweight passengers more if they needed an extra seat.


What do you think?

What’s the fairest way to charge for plane tickets?

Would you happily pay for your airfare based on your weight?



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  • Reply April 2, 2013


    Not real fair on people who are large for reasons other than obesity. Say the Australian Football teams or very tall people with larger builds for example. I personally wouldn’t fly with a company that wanted to weigh me before I got on their plane. I would make other arrangements.

  • Reply April 2, 2013

    Nel Matheson

    First of all, Samoans are a well- built people, so they would be disadvantaged to start with. Secondly, there is enough real negativity towards people who are overweight, and this extra poke at them is not ever going to be an incentive to lose weight! That’s just plain silly. Most overweight folk have one hell of a time trying to avoid discrimination, in so many areas. My third point is that the weight of people on a plane is a minute amount compared to freight, fuel, luggage, and other factors. I have a feeling that this may be a marketing strategy, designed to attract attention. It has surely done that, but in my mind, for all the wrong reasons. By the way, I’m not obese, about 5 kegs above average and perfectly happy with my weight.

    • Reply April 3, 2013

      Carmen Neutral

      My cousin has married into a Samoan family. They are all svelte, slim and trim. They make me (a 71 kilo baby elephant) feel like one of their poor, fat relatives. Having said that, I’d love the idea of being weighed to get a cheaper priced ticket. Currently, there is nothing else that is as good an incentive to quickly losing my surplus 10 kilos. Seriously. I say bring it on. Cheers.

  • […] Samoan Airlines has introduced such a system and other airlines are looking into it. […]

  • Reply April 2, 2013

    Valerie Parv

    This would be fine as long as the airline provided more seating space to passengers who were paying more. Charging extra to squeeze bigger passengers into the same mini seats would be just another rip-off.

  • Reply April 3, 2013


    Weighing people is an invasion of privacy. The seating configuration should be able to seat all sizes. One row set aside with wider seats for larger people would keep all the travelling public happy. Air Canada have the right idea. It considers obesity to be a medical condition, which of course it is, and provides the extra seat free to anyone who provides a note from their doctor. If one airline can do it then so can other airlines.

  • Reply April 3, 2013


    Instead of charging more, why not have a sliding scale on the amount of hand luggage permitted? The heavier you are, the less you are permitted. As airpanes run on weight, it seems unfair that someone who weighs 120kg should be permitted the same amount as someone who weighs 75kg

  • Reply April 3, 2013

    Gail Olfur

    I agree wholeheartedly that we should pay by weight not only on airplanes where weight/load is critical but everywhere. eg theatre tickets. I recently went to a concert after having paid $200plus for a ticket to be squashed in between 2 overweight people who either paid the same $ as me or possibly less and they took up part of my seat/space. This happens to me every day eg buses, trains,cinema _ i feel like a 2nd class citizen( a squashed one at that) Perhaps this would be an incentive because hitting the hip pocket works in all other instances

  • Reply April 3, 2013


    If I pay extra for my weight do I get extra leg room for my height? I can guarantee I will not be flying with any airline that discriminates against people who are of larger body type!!! Do we get compensated for putting up with screeming children or loud, smelly adults?

  • Reply April 3, 2013


    I can’t see how charging (for example) a lean 6″7 man who weighs a healthy (for his height) 120kg twice as much as a a 5″1 woman who weighs 60kg is possibly fair.

    I get that having an obese person taking up half your seat is annoying but this is not the solution.

    I far prefer the ‘premium economy’ options that some airlines now offer. At least it gives people an affordable(ish) choice.

  • Reply April 3, 2013


    I would be happy to pay extra for my size as long as I get a bigger seat and don’t spend the whole trip rubbing against the passenger next to me. Or like the large man who sat next to me from London to Singapore with his legs wide apart. Perhaps they could pay extra for that!

  • Reply April 3, 2013


    I think this sounds great! You could just give every passenger an allowance – say, 200kgs – and people could determine how much of that was them, and how much was their luggage. If you’re big, you can take less luggage, or you pay more.

    I don’t think it’s punishing people who are naturally bigger than usual (for instance, well built Aussie Rules players, or Samoans), surely they would be more comfortable if they were allocated more space? I am thinking that is the logical next step – aeroplanes which provide wider seats. The plane would seat less passengers, but I’m sure there would be people out there who would pay more for the comfort level!

  • Reply April 3, 2013


    I would love the option of combined body weight and luggage weight. Have the base fare set at average male/female weight and current luggage allowance, then have the fares priced to be less expensive if the combined weight is less and more expensive if the total weight is more.Sounds totally logical given the cost to the airline is impacted by the weight of the flight.

  • Reply April 3, 2013


    Good idea. Flying is stressful. How often do you sit for many hours wedged up against a total stranger- often with bits of them hanging into or onto you? How about suffering a drunken or overweight person or a poor mum with tiny kids with sore ears or a sleeping tablet taking snorer who drools? Not fun. I hate the people who bang down the aisle hauling big suitcases which they stuff into overhead lockers. Are these weighed? Add to all the carry on stuff the fact we are bigger than the last generation and we may worry the plane won’t be able to take off.
    If a person weighs twice average weight that costs the airline and the other passengers. People and their baggage should be weighed together with payment if you are above a set limit. There is no such thing as a free lunch, or flight, someone pays.

  • Reply April 3, 2013

    Helen g

    I flew to Adelaide on a plane with banks of three seats down each side. The window seat was occupied, and I was in the middle seat . A passenger sat in the aisle seat next to me, couldn’t fit in without raising the arm between us, took up half my seat, and sweated profusely. Please understand, it is not a matter of discrimination against obese people, rather in my case, discrimination against me. The plane was full, and a flight attendant looked at the situation, absolutely horrified, but could do nothing at all. I arrived in Adelaide soaking wet. Lucky me!

    • Reply April 6, 2013


      Helen g: the passenger who couldn’t fit in their own seat was probably just as uncomfortable as you were, if not more so. Since the problem is that aeroplane seats are too small, it is discrimination against the large passenger, not you. You just suffered as a side-effect.

  • Reply April 5, 2013


    Gross invasion of privacy and discrimination by another name. I would not fly with that airline.

  • Reply April 6, 2013


    Bigger seats! Might make ALL passengers more comfortable! As if that’s going to happen.
    Virgin apparently make their middle seats a few cm smaller. I had to swap seats from aisle ino the middle and could not believe the difference.

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