After discovering that the average passenger and carry-on luggage is heavier than expected, Hawaiian Airlines will no longer allow the pre-booking of seats but will weigh its passengers before boarding, reports The Economist.
This will be effective for the airline’s almost 4 200km route between Honolulu and the American Samoa. Passengers will be weighed in an effort to evenly distribute the weight around the main cabin of the plane, they will only be assigned seats when they check in. The airline has also explained that it will leave at least one seat open in each row or alternatively place children under 13 years old in those seats.
The carrier says it discovered that it was burning more fuel than expected on the route between Honolulu and the American Samoa and therefore decided to conduct a voluntary survey among its passengers when it ruled out strong wind as a possible explanation for the excessive burning of fuel. The survey results, according to the airline, showed that passengers were heavier than expected and this impacted the fuel usage of the aircraft.
This new policy has come under fire from the public, with people describing it as discriminatory because of the route that it will be implemented in. It’s said to be discriminatory because most of the people flying that route are of Samoan descent and Samoans have some of the highest rates of obesity in the world.
Since September 29, there have been a total of six complaints that have been filed with the United States Department of Transportation, even though the department has ruled in favour of the airline’s new policy. Airline officials have argued that even distribution was one of the most effective ways of preventing a crash landing.
The airline has said that it chose this specific route because, following surveys it conducted, other flight routes, like those in Japan and Korea, for example, didn’t indicate any excess weight on the planes.
This is not the first time an airline has made a move like this. Samoa Air started weighing passengers in 2013 and Uzbekistan Airways also began doing this in 2015.