Air New Zealand is weighing all of its passengers this week, much to their surprise at the airport.
An airline needs to know how much an aircraft weighs for takeoff and fuel burn purposes, and estimates work but those estimates need to be reliable.
New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority requires the carrier to validate its average weight estimates for passengers using real data, and so they go through this exercise at least every 5 years – rather than being required to weigh everyone on a flight every day. The airline says they are collecting the data anonymously and not keeping passengers’ weight on file. They won’t even tell a passenger what the scale shows.
“Although participating is not compulsory, we do really appreciate our customers helping out.”
…In 2003, a survey of 15,000 people by the Civil Aviation Authority [CAA] found the average weight of New Zealand passengers and their carry-on baggage was 85.4kg. Based on this survey, a “standard weight” of 86kg per passenger over the age of 13 was set by the CAA to calculate how many passengers a large plane can carry.
I asked what weight I was. But the staff can’t see it. Phew
— Shamubeel Eaqub (@SEaqub) April 14, 2021
Weighing passengers isn’t at all unheard of in aviation. Samoa Air reportedly charged passengers based on their weight, like the unmemorable chain restaurant I went to as a kid which ran a promotion charging children by their weight for meals. And in 2015 Uzbekistan Airways announced they would require all passengers to weigh in prior to boarding for safety even though airlines the world over maintain excellent safety records without the practice.
I’ve even had to get on the scale myself. When I first flew Maldivian from Male on my first visit to the Maldives in 2012 I had to get on the scale at check-in. So did my wife, and – it appeared – every other foreigner. Maldivians did not seem to be asked to weigh in.
On subsequent trips each year since the practice appeared to be abandoned. I was never asked to weigh in again, although Maldivian’s website says that the policy is still in place.
Q – Why do I get weighed at Check-in?
Ans – All passengers are weighed at check-in for safety requirements of our Dash-8 200 aircrafts.
I’m used to some airlines weighing carry on bags at check-in. I made the mistake of not checking in online for an Air France flight and going to get my business class boarding pass at the counter — and being made to check my carry on as a result. Virgin Australia has always insisted on weighing by carry ons.
Bear in mind that scales aren’t always properly calibrated, and on several occasions airlines have been found overcharging customers for checked bags as a result. Will Air New Zealand even get proper readings?