Weighing In for Airfare

Here’s a first for the travel industry: An airline carrier that charges passengers by their weight rather than by their seat. That’s right; the lighter the passenger, the lighter the fare.

Samoa Air introduced the “fare-weight” system in November, claiming it to be the fairest way of travel for an industry heavily dependent on weight. Airfare is based on the passenger’s weight, the weight of their luggage and the length of the flight.

For travel within Samoa, passengers pay about 1.32 tala per kilogram ($0.58 per 2.2 pounds) and 2.40 tala per kilogram ($1.03) for its only international flight to America Samoa. Those ashamed of their weight will be forced to get over that fear pretty quickly. Passengers declare how heavy they are when booking and then physically weigh in at the check-in counter. It’s OK if you’ve gained a kilo or two. The airlines says it will let a few slide. However, if you roll up with lighter baggage, there will be no refund.

Is this the concept of the future for travel? The head of Samoa Air says it will quickly catch on with travelers and force the industry to conform to their needs. Indeed, there may be some truth to this – especially for families flying with children. Their overall fare will be much cheaper than if they had paid the industry’s standard price.

Is it discriminatory? Not necessarily. While heavier passengers pay heavier prices, the airline carrier says it does its best to accommodate that person. They provide comfier seats and extra leg room. As for the skinny minis? They get comfortable seats to begin with, just not as much space around them, which makes sense because they paid less. In following the “you get what you pay for” mantra, I’d say that’s a fair way to determine fare for flying.

It also makes sense for an airlines like Samoa Air to embrace such a concept. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some of the world’s most prevalent countries for obesity lie within the Pacific. Samoa is ranked number four, with about 60-percent of its population considered obese. Hence, the concept is not only simple but also healthy. It makes travelers native to the area more aware of their weight and therefore, their health. The fare-weight system also makes those over-packers think twice before throwing in that extra outfit.

Posted by: Bruce Fisher