Hawaiian Airlines’ new policy – a response to an increase in average passenger weight – means those flying to or from Pago Pago, capital of American Samoa, can no longer choose their own seats online and may be asked to step on the scales before boarding.
It’s been nearly a year since Samoa Air made headlines around the world as the first carrier to charge passengers by their weight, rather than a flat fare for the seat. Now, the tiny South Pacific carrier’s chief executive is back in the news reporting that the experiment was a big fat success.
In fact, CEO Chris Langton told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Wednesday that the trial was so successful that the company will upgrade its fleet to accommodate the pay-as-you-weigh system.
The Pacific national airline is creating a wider row on its aircraft for passengers who weigh more than 286 pounds (130 kilograms). Samoa has one of the world’s highest rates of obesity.
The airline’s head, Chris Langton, said the XL row would be extended by 12 to 14 inches and the changes would be introduced by the end of the week.
“Once you’re up around that sort of [weight] … a traditional seat on any airline is going to be uncomfortable,” he told ABC News.
“Quite often the access is difficult, and even the space between the seats is enough that even when you’ve squeezed into the seats there’s no room for your legs. That’s where the XL has come in – we do it with shirts and clothing and other things where we have different standard sizes.”
Passengers on Samoa Air do not pay for a seat but pay a fixed price per kilogram, which varies according to the length of the route. The passengers nominate their weight and are then measured, along with their baggage, on scales at the airport. The rates range from about $1 (64p) a kilogram on the airline’s shortest domestic route to about $4.16 per kilogram for travel from Samoa to the neighboring nation of American Samoa.