We’ve All Gained Too Much Weight, And Now Planes Require More Fuel To Fly

Americans have gotten fatter, and that’s making a big difference for airline operations. Each aircraft has a maximum weight it can take off with, and the weight of passengers and cargo contributes to how much fuel a plane is going to burn on a trip.

  • The FAA is making airlines update their assumptions about how much passengers weigh.

  • For small planes they’ve even suggested weighing each passenger at the gate.

  • For the largest regional jets, as well as planes like Boeing 737s, Airbus A320s and larger, airlines are permitted to use average passenger weights based on CDC data.

American Airlines updated its passenger weight assumptions on Tuesday, June 8th. Basically they now assume everyone has gained weight. That’s going to mean they need more fuel for some trips. It even means that some aircraft will be ‘weight restricted’ and not allowed to carry a full load of passengers and cargo. And the change has operational consequences.

For instance, American is now sending Airbus A321neos into Miami to operate flights to Lima, Peru. By assuming fatter passengers, American can’t send their classic Airbus A321s out full – since they’d be in excess of 43,000 pounds.

Airline spokesperson Sarah Jantz, though, says “We’re not realizing any significant impacts to the system and are managing any issues that may occur in specific markets.”

We’ve seen American Airlines Boeing 777s go out weight restricted on flights like Los Angeles – Hong Kong during winter with strong winds. Assumptions of heavier passengers on board could make this a more common occurrence.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Seems strange they waited until now to do something about it. It isn’t a recent trend.
    “The average weight for men rose “dramatically,” in the CDC’s words, from 166.3 pounds in 1960 to 191 pounds in 2002. Women went from 140.2 pounds in 1960 to 164.3 pounds in 2002.”


  2. Finally the chance for Americans to fly with fewer passengers. Unfortunately the empty middle seat is “eaten” by their waistlines. This trend isn’t ending. Maybe time for America to go on ration coupons. Close down Walmart, Costco, Sam’s, and all other big box stores. Or Congress passes a law for mandated gym memberships.

  3. They are scramming more passengers in the same plane now, nothing to do with average passenger weight.

  4. The only weight I’ve gained in the last year was muscle mass.

    Then we have guys (or maybe trans-gals) like UA-NYC who were always bloated pigs and just got fatter.

  5. Hey Joe, boomer red states have the highest obesity rates. Mississippi is at 41%, New York is at 27%.

  6. I walked around a flea market in the deep south recently.
    Mooooooooo… Mooooooooo!!

  7. After decades of inaction, maybe now they’ll finally install treadmills beside the departure gate.

  8. @ChrisCan
    I presented this idea when I worked for Dug. I’m surprised The Eagle hasn’t pounced on it.

  9. I really wish they would price tickets by weight! I could fly cheaply. Actually lost weight during Covid.

  10. @Scotch. The only thing you’re capable is pouncing on is a crumb from someone’s Biscoff.

  11. It brings to mind the old British airline BMI which was widely understood to stand for Body Mass Index. Although it merged with British Airways in 2012, the concept of combining aviation and body fat content into a seamless marketing campaign was years ahead of its time.

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