A Norwegian economist recently suggested that airlines should charge obese passengers more, arguing that “pay as you weigh” pricing would bring health, financial and environmental dividends. Now, Samoa Air, which opened in 2012, asks passengers to declare their personal weight during booking, which is then charged per kilogram (2.2 lb) at a rate dependent on flight length. The customers will also be weighed at the check-in counter.
Bharat Bhatta, an associate professor at Sogn og Fjordane University College, Norway had said that airlines should follow 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,” Bhatta wrote in the Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management.
“As a plane of a given make and model can accommodate more lightweight passengers, it may also reward airlines” and reduce the use of environmentally costly fuel.
The Samoan airline says it is the world’s first carrier to charge passengers by their weight rather than per seat, defending the plan as the fairest way to fly, which in some cases actually ends up cheaper than conventional tickets.
“The industry has this concept that all people throughout the world are the same size,” Samoa Air CEO Chris Langton told Reuters. “Aeroplanes always run on weight, irrespective of seats.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that this is the concept of the future. This is the fairest way of you travelling with your family, or yourself.”
The airline instituted the plan last November, but it caught attention last week when the carrier began international flights to neighbouring American Samoa and coincided with the publication of a report by Bhatta, a Norwegian economist, suggesting that airlines should charge obese passengers more.
According to Samoa Air’s latest schedule, the airline charges up to WS$1.32 (N90.12) per kg for domestic flights and WS$2.40 (N162) per kg for its only international flight to American Samoa, around 250 miles. A 150 kg person flying one-way internationally would be charged $154.50 (N24,426).
Children under 12 are charged 75 percent of the adult rate, with fares also based on weight. Any overweight baggage is calculated at the same rate as the passenger’s personal weight.
The Pacific Islands contain some of the world’s most prevalent countries for obesity, many ranking in the top 10, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Samoa with population of 183,874, according to a 2011 estimate is ranked number four, with 59.6 percent of the population considered obese, said the most recent 2008 WHO report.