Samoa Air, a tiny regional airline in the South Pacific, is doing the unthinkable. Yes, they are charging their passengers by weight, body mass and baggage. If you’re planning to fly Samoa Air today, your fare will be based on your weight, along with that of your luggage. The cost is 93 cents to $1.06 for each kilogram, or 2.2 pounds.
Samoa Air is a small organization and flies just three aircraft, two nine-to-ten-seat Britten-Norman BN2A aircraft and an even tinier four-seater Cessna 172 . “We’re pretty small, but the concept is very big,” said Samoa Air Chief Executive Chris Langton. “Planes are run by weight and not by seat. The plane can only carry a certain amount of weight and that weight needs to be paid for.”
Langton sees this as the inevitable next step of aviation pricing (Air‘fair’) and believes other airlines should adopt the same. “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,” he said. Families have apparently been pleased with the pricing model as it’s comparatively cheaper to fly with children using the pay-by-weight model.
To book online, travelers enter their approximate weight and that of their luggage and prepay based on that “guesstimate.” Passengers and their luggage are weighed again at the airport. And if they don’t match? The airline has a “fiddle factor” of about 2%. So Samoa Air will let a few kilos slide, but the airline is unlikely to provide a refund if passengers roll up to the tarmac with a lighter load.
While Samoa Air claims that customer feedback has mainly been “amazingly positive”, no other airline has reacted positively. A number of major airlines have, in fact, condemned the move. The company is planning to purchase a much larger Airbus A320-200 this year for service to international destinations in the region, including Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. “I’m determined to carry this principle through to whatever type of aircraft we operate,” Langton said.
Could such pricing provide a much-needed incentive for excess poundage or is it merely dehumanizing and degrading “fat-bashing body facism”? Let us know your views in the comment section.