Airline Tackling a Weighty Subject: What Passengers Register on the Scale | Sports Destination Management

Airline Tackling a Weighty Subject: What Passengers Register on the Scale

Feb 15, 2024 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Some passengers might be finished with Finnair after officials announced they would start weighing passengers at the gate (with their carry-on bags).

According to CNN, the carrier has announced that the new project is underway (under weigh?) at Helsinki Airport and that it involves passengers stepping on a scale in order to calculate the airline to refine weight estimates for planes before takeoff.

The airline was quick to note that being weighed is a voluntary measure, and that passengers are not, at present, required to weigh in.

The trial started earlier this month. Surprisingly, within a week, more than 800 volunteers had already taken part, said  Päivyt Tallqvist, Finnair’s senior vice president communications, who added that the airline was “positively surprised by the number of volunteers.”

Two other aspects of the program are making the transition easier. One is the fact that all data is kept private, with the assurance that no passengers will be penalized for their weight. Another is the fact that the airline has communicated with passengers in advance, so that nobody is taken aback.

Airline Tackling a Weighty Subject: The Numbers Passengers Register on the Scale“We have communicated about this survey to Finnair customers via our social media channels and our mobile app, and the first volunteers were proactively asking to take part even before the equipment was set up,” Tallqvist said.

The move has not been without pushback, however, said Business Insider. Plus-size model Hayley Hasselhoff told British outlet GB News that the move is “triggering to people with eating disorders.”

Travel journalist Yvette Caster, also interviewed by GB News, called Finnair's move to weigh passengers "fatphobic."

Forbes came out in favor of the move, citing the science behind the calculations:

“According to aviation regulations, an aircraft cannot take off if its total mass exceeds the certified Maximum Takeoff Mass specified by the manufacturer. There are stringent safety margins for flight operations to avoid a crash. With public health data indicating a rising average weight across the general population, airlines need accurate measures for passengers and their luggage.”

But it is infeasible (at least for now) to weigh every passenger and their luggage. Airlines presently use standard weight tables to determine a flight’s total mass; however, these need to be updated on a regular basis:

“Finnair's voluntary survey ensures these tables accurately represent the current average weights of their customers. Airline weigh-in surveys are not new, and other airlines have done them. The data collected are essential for calculating fuel requirements, flight range, potential emergency landing sites and available cargo capacity.”

Finnair expects to update the figures it calculates every five years, and the data gathered during this survey will inform its mass calculations through 2030.

Finnair is not the first carrier to begin using passenger weigh-ins. Air New Zealand conducted a six-week voluntary weighing survey in 2023, and Korean Air and Hawaiian Airlines have made similar requests for passengers in the past year to understand average weights for safety better. Uzbekistan Airlines began weighing passengers for the same reason in 2015.

At the moment, it is only carry-on luggage that is under scrutiny, along with passenger weights. To date, airlines only measure carry-on luggage, rather than weighing it (as is required of checked baggage). However, many athletes carry on equipment they do not want to lose, meaning whatever they are packing can become a part of the amalgamated data.

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