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.