Thu, Apr 04, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Samoan airline touts pay-by-weight

Reuters, SYDNEY

A Samoan airline that says it is the world’s first carrier to charge passengers by their weight rather than per seat defends the plan as the fairest way to fly, in some cases actually ending up cheaper than conventional tickets.

Samoa Air, which was launched last year, asks passengers to declare their personal weight during booking, which is then charged per kilogram at a rate dependent on flight length. The customers will also be weighed at the check-in counter.

“The industry has this concept that all people throughout the world are the same size,” Samoa Air chief executive Chris Langton said. “Aeroplanes always run on weight, irrespective of seats.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that this is the concept of the future. This is the fairest way of you traveling with your family, or yourself,” he said.

Though the airline instituted the plan in November last year, it caught attention last week, when the carrier began international flights to neighboring American Samoa and coincided with the publication of a report by a Norwegian economist suggesting that airlines should charge obese passengers more.

The Pacific Islands contain some of the world’s most prevalent countries for obesity, many ranking in the top 10, according to the WHO. Samoa is ranked No. 4, with 59.6 percent of the population considered obese, the most recent WHO report said, in 2008.

According to Samoa Air’s latest schedule, the airline charges up to WS$1.32 (US$0.57) per kilogram for domestic flights and WS$2.40 per kilogram for its only international flight to American Samoa, about 402km. A 150kg person flying one way internationally would be charged US$154.50.

Children under 12 are charged 75 percent of the adult rate, with fares also based on weight. Any overweight baggage is calculated at the same rate as the passenger’s personal weight.

The plan could actually prove cheaper in some cases, such as for families traveling with small children, and Langton said customer feedback has mainly been “amazingly positive.”

“When the initial shock has worn off, there’s been nothing but support,” Langton said. “People who are up around 200kg recognize … they’re paying [for] 200kg, so they deserve to get 200kg of comfort,” he added.

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