The debate between airlines and overweight individuals has been a long-standing issue, causing ongoing conflict in the travel industry. With concerns ranging from safety and comfort to operational efficiency, airlines have grappled with addressing the challenges of heavier passengers.
Recently, a Finnish airline, Finnair, initiated a program to weigh passengers and their carry-on baggage to more accurately determine the aircraft’s total weight before departure. This initiative, which began in Helsinki, has sparked considerable discussion regarding fat-shaming and privacy issues. Finnair has stated that the weigh-ins are optional, and so far, more than 500 individuals have participated.
The Finnish airline company has stressed the importance of weight calculation to ensure flight balance and safety. Traditionally, airlines rely on average weight estimates provided by aviation authorities, typically around 88kg per passenger, or opt to gather their data. Because of this, most airlines carry more fuel, which makes them less efficient.
These weigh-ins are scheduled for February, April, and May, with no weigh-ins in March. They will include recording the passenger’s age, gender, and travel class, all on a voluntary basis. Finnair claims that any data collected through this process will be strictly anonymous.
Finnair is not the first airline to have weigh-ins. Previously, Korean Air implemented a similar strategy, weighing passengers on certain routes to optimize fuel usage and enhance weight estimation accuracy. Similarly, easyJet once had to ask passengers to disembark due to weight restrictions, offering compensation for the inconvenience.
In 2019, Fuel Matrix, a British startup, suggested using weighing pads at airports to determine the weight of all passengers boarding a plane. This would lead to a more accurate approximation of the fuel needed for each flight, resulting in less waste and less pollution. While they didn’t suggest having overweight people pay more for their flights, it was widely assumed that airlines would do so once they had the actual figures for each passenger’s weight.
According to surveys, many people support higher fares or the introduction of ‘plus-sized zones’ on aircraft for overweight passengers. However, being asked to step on a scale at an airport feels a little bit like fat-shaming and an invasion of privacy.