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Airfares based on passenger weight won't fly, experts say

April 07, 2013|By Hugo Martin
  • It wouldn't make sense for airlines operating in the U.S. to try to charge passengers based on their weight, experts say.
It wouldn't make sense for airlines operating in the U.S. to try to… (Digital Vision, Getty Images )

News that the tiny Samoa-based carrier Samoa Air has begun to charge fares based on the weight of its passengers has some fliers worried that the idea might catch on with other airlines.

“There is no doubt in my mind that this is the concept of the future,” said Samoa Air’s chief executive, Chris Langton.

But industry experts don't think the idea will fly.

“Any airline that tries that, heavy people would not fly that airline,” said Jan Brueckner, a UC Irvine economics professor and expert on the airline industry.

There are also logistical reasons the idea won’t work with major commercial airlines in the U.S., according to industry experts.

First, the longer it takes to board passengers on a plane, the less revenue airlines can squeeze from each plane. Asking each passenger to stand on a scale and listening to the reactions -- ”No way! Your scale is broken!” -- would only slow the boarding process.

Second, installing weight scales at already crowded terminals would mean removing ticket counters, kiosks or other fixtures.

“In addition to being outrageous, it would also be a logistical mess,” Brueckner said. “I think its a non-starter.”

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