Passengers Shocked To Find They Have To Step On A Scale Before Boarding Air New Zealand This Week

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.

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?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. That’s interesting. It seems to have been a fairly common practice in the very early days of aviation, and I read of one airline that had secret scales in the floor where passengers checked in. In general aviation where I fly it certainly is important. How to do a “weight and balance” is part of basic pilot training as there have been quite a few accidents due to overloading or having the weight totally misdistributed, making the aircraft unmanageable. Look up “weight and balance” for more information; in aircraft how thin the air is–due to the temperature, elevation and humidity–also matter with how much they can carry.

    Anyway, calculating new weights is certainly important. In 2004 a tour boat carrying the number of people it was certified for sank in Baltimore Harbor, killing several. Upon investigation it was found that the Coast Guard standard for an average adult American’s weight was 140 pounds, a number set in 1942. Today it should have been 168, hence the boat was legal but grossly overloaded.

  2. Good thing they do not weigh me before flying back to my Fresno home airport: FAT.

  3. I remember sitting in the jump seat of a DC-9 and you could feel the A/C pitch up in front when a large person used the aft bathroom.

  4. A survey of passenger weights was ordered by the FAA in the US following the crash of a US Air commuter flight in North Carolina in 2003 to re-calibrate assumptions.

  5. Cape Air asks for your weight, and assigns seats based on weight distribution. Small planes, of course.

  6. Occasionally fly ERJ-145 or 190s from Upington, Kalahari desert to JNB Tambo. They almost always weigh pax and baggage, even though the flight can be 90% empty. We were told it’s due to the complex air patterns rising off the desert sands mixing with coal smog winds from the north and cooler winds elsewhere; have flown through a couple of sudden whirlwind sandstorms. Not a lot of fun.

  7. A couple of the smaller Japanese airlines that we used on a visit in 2017 strictly enforced their carry-on bag weight limit by weighing every bag. I believe JetStar was one of them.

  8. Last night on a 6 hour flight the obese passenger behind me demanded that I not incline my seat while her husband banged my seat. Airlines should have a weight limit for passengers in coach. Those that need more room should buy business class, rather than ruin other passengers experience.

  9. 10 overweight passengers board a flight. They are made to pay extra for the extra kilos, which they do. Is the plane safe-r now after the payment?

  10. My brother is a big man, not fat, but muscular, 6’4″ and 290 lbs. So if the weight limit is set at 250 lbs he will be charged for 40 lbs. But since his wife who usually flies with him weighs 125 can he use her underweight to balance his overweight?

    In fact, if they charge for being over a certain weight, light weight passengers should get a discount for being below the max.

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