Why Charging Passengers by Weight Will Never Work

Lately there has been trending news about an airline based out of the Samoan Islands who plan to charge passengers according to their individual weight. Sure, this sounds completely wrong on so many levels, or does it? Samoan Airlines operates a fleet of small turbo prop aircraft which have weight restrictions. In laymen terms, the airplane can’t get off of the runway if it’s too heavy, not to mention, the heavier an airplane is, the more fuel it burns.


gty_overweight_airplane_passenger_thg_130325_wg For years, European low-cost carrier, Ryanair had been throwing the idea around. Here in the U.S, Southwest Airline created controversy when they began requiring heavy customers to purchase an addition seat in order to not make the person next to them uncomfortable. Southwest claimed it was a safety related policy. Either way, the idea of charging a passenger based of their size is looked on as offensive and cast a shadow showing an airline’s insensitivity towards their customers.


The society we live in today is a much more sensitive one. People get offended a lot easier and when it comes from a large corporation that provides a service, it eventually finds its way to the media. It then becomes a PR nightmare for the airlines as they attempt to justify their actions, which to them it might make complete sense. For consumers, it shows disrespect.  Fortunately for the consumer, they still have choices on which airline they choose to fly.


Obesity is an epidemic in America; those with weight problems are insecure and most likely embarrassed about their situation. An airline looking to capitalize on that epidemic would show the world where they really stand when it comes to loyalty in a business that is constantly struggling to retain loyalty.


The social media obsession is also another risk the airlines would take. Nothing spreads faster than wild fire like a controversial complaint that finds its way into the “trending” topic arena. Airlines utilize social media to show the public they care by diffusing situations in real time, out in the open, for the public to witness. A decision to charge a passenger by weight, followed by a swift complaint, would surely be a hard one to back pedal out of for the airline via Twitter. The airlines don’t want to make their Twitter accounts a forum loaded with PR activity.


Charging a passenger by weight isn’t something that will fly anytime soon. The negative impact the airlines would have to endure isn’t worth the cost. Perhaps, the development of a wider seat might be a better option. I would be confident a passenger of size would be willing to pay an addition cost to have that comfort.