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FAA requests that airlines weigh passengers to keep planes safe

It may sound like a weird thing to ask, but it’s already being done in other countries

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Photo (c) Lu ShaoJi - Getty Images
U.S. airlines may begin weighing passengers as a way to comply with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules. A report from ViewFromTheWing says that as Americans have gained weight, the FAA never adjusted its weight and balance calculations for aircraft, especially smaller planes.

While “Can you step on the scale, please?” isn’t likely to become a standard procedure at the airport, travelers will likely encounter it at some point in their flying life. The FAA says the weigh-ins should be done at airports that represent a minimum of 15% of an airline’s daily departures, and it should be done once every three years so that officials have a better chance of calculating weight assumptions.

The agency suggests that the screenings be done randomly and take place outside of the regular TSA screening place and in a secure area of the airport where travelers catching a connecting flight can be included. To avoid embarrassment, the agency will make sure that the readout of a person’s weight will remain hidden from public view.

Potential problems

To avoid any potential problems, the FAA is making the procedure completely voluntary. That means travelers who don’t want to step on a scale don’t need to. However, airlines have the option of weighing everyone or asking a passenger how much they weigh. 

Of course, asking someone their weight doesn’t always produce an accurate answer. For situations like that, the FAA advises airlines to add 10 pounds to account for clothing -- especially in winter. If the person doing the screening thinks the passenger understated their weight, the screen “should make a reasonable estimate of the passenger’s actual weight and add 10 pounds.”

Another issue that might come out of this is that airlines might have to remove some seats in order to meet government weight rules if the average passenger weight goes up significantly. That might make it harder for consumers to get a seat on a flight, and it would cut into airlines’ revenue stream.

Already happening in other countries

Airlines in other parts of the world already have weight checks in place. In Samoa, where a study showed that 22% of Soman women were overweight and 58% were obese, Somoa Airlines tried its hand at fares based on weight. 

Similar to what the FAA is proposing, New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority recently mandated that airlines conduct weight surveys at least once every five years.

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