These airlines weigh customers before their flights. Could you be next?

by Alyssa Daniells
airlines weigh passengers woman in airport looking sad and tired with baggage

If you say “fat chance!” to an airline weighing you as well as your luggage, you may want to check this out.

Rumours have been flying about carriers weighing customers before boarding. But they seemed to vanish into thin air, until now.

Photo by Bambi Corro on Unsplash

Finnair announced it would begin putting its passengers on the scale for flights departing Helsinki Airport (HEL.) To those of us wary of the idea, the airport code almost describes the situation.

Fortunately, the weigh-ins at Finnair check-in are completely voluntary, not mandatory. The Finnish carrier will use the collected data for research purposes, to scale down fuel consumption and trim operating costs.

The practice came under recent scrutiny when Canadian charter airline Sunwing was found weighing its passengers on flights from Vancouver to Cancun. A Tweeted photo showed a man standing on a large scale with his backpack and carry-on a scale.

Asked to weigh-in on the Sunwing check-in process, a spokesperson said the weight assessments were a part of a company survey, conducted every five years, to determine how much weight its planes carry, as outlined by Transport Canada.

This regulatory body for Canada’s transportation policies and programs asks airlines to report weight averages of passengers and their loads, every few years.

Sunwing conducted a two-week trial at four Canadian airports during October.

One’s body weight is a sensitive topic, even when it is sanctioned by the individual for data collection.

So why is Finnair doing it?

We, along may other airlines, are currently using the EASA standard weights from year 2009 (88 kg for a male, 70 kg for a female, 35 kg for a child, all with carry-on luggage). In this study, we want to collect data from our own network – all airlines have their own routes which may differ greatly in terms of passenger profile.” Finnair spokesperson, in email to Canada’s CityTV.

In an email to CityTV, the Finnish airline explained the weigh-ins were to collect accurate information based on their passenger profiles, rather than the numbers from the European Aviation Safety Agency. The latest information from EASA is based on almost a decade’s old 2009 numbers and weight averages. The project will continue through the rest of 2017 into spring 2018.  This will account for different variables based on routes and seasonality.  For instance, they can factor in the weight of coats and winter gear (more common with Scandinavian climate, than say, travellers to the south of France or Spain.)

airlines weigh travel foodie hamburger chili sign in chicago

Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash

While there is a slim chance you as a traveller will encounter an airline weigh-in, please be advised participation is not mandatory and you can refuse. We hope this will be a weight off your mind!

Air Canada stated that they have never weighed their passengers nor do they plan to adopt this check-in procedure in future. Canada’s flag-carrier does not require “passengers of size” to purchase an adjacent seat, should they exceed the dimensions of a single seat. Indeed, some airlines enforce a policy where larger-than-average passengers must pay for an extra seat, at a 25% off discount, which many critics view as unjust and biased, especially if they are disabled by obesity.

Care to weigh in on this subject? We’d love to hear your thoughts.