Should airline companies weigh guests? It’s for security, state airline companies

Starting Monday, guests flying on Korean Air might be asked to step on a scale prior to boarding their flight.

The workout, which will last about 3 weeks, is needed by law and uses to all Korean flag providers, a Korean Air representative informed CNBC.

The law needs airline companies to weigh guests and their carry-on travel luggage a minimum of every 5 years and is “crucial for safety of flight operations,” the representative informed CNBC.

The statement was met reaction from the general public, according to regional media.

A notification detailing the workout — set to start at Gimpo International Airport Monday, followed by Incheon Airport next month — has actually been gotten rid of from the airline company’s site, due to “sufficient notice and media coverage,” according to the airline company.

Is it sensible to weigh guests?

“Definitely not,” stated Vance Hilderman, CEO of the air travel security business Afuzion.

At least not for the function of security, he stated.   

“If you’re at a small Bombardier, a small Embraer jet, and we had 10 very obese people … it could make a small difference,” he stated. “On commercial aircraft, anything from a 737 and above you know, 120 people, we have it built in.”

Aviation software application can change for weight modifications, air density and other aspects, which is why security isn’t jeopardized even in scenarios where traveler makeup is irregular, such as a morning flight of mainly entrepreneurs, who tend to weigh more than the typical tourist, he stated.

Overall, a considerable weight boost per traveler would be eclipsed by the weight of fuel, freight and the airplane itself, stated Hilderman. “Fuel is 20 times more than the passenger weight,” he stated.

Rather than concentrating on traveler weight, it’s more crucial to change for extra freight and the variety of guests on board, stated Afuzion CEO Vance Hilderman.

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But Shem Malmquist, a trainer at Florida Tech’s College of Aeronautics, stated random weight samples are an excellent concept.

“We use average weights of passengers, but people are getting a lot heavier,” he stated. “Three hundred people that weigh more than average can put an airplane significantly over weight, and all of our performance calculations — runway length, climb, obstacle clearance, landing distances, altitude capabilities — all are dependent on weight, among other things.”

Hilderman concurs that individuals are growing, however he stated guests now vary in other methods too.

“Americans are getting heavier. So are Chinese, so are Koreans,” he stated. “But we’re also flying younger … so it’s actually offset the average human’s weight increase.”

A research study released in 2019 in the Journal of Transport & Health discovered that areas with greater weight problems frequency “may begin to see significantly compromised safety margins if increasing weight trends continue.”

Jose Silva, an associate teacher at Australia’s RMIT University’s School of Engineering and among the research study’s authors, informed CNBC that he believes airline companies hesitate to weigh guests due to the delicate nature of the subject.

“There is also a lack of understanding of the safety gains which could be obtained if there were more accurate means to ascertain the passengers’ weight, instead of relying on standards,” he stated.

A whistleblower problem submitted in 2021 declares that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has actually stopped working to acknowledge security concerns triggered by depending on typical traveler or luggage weights that no longer show the U.S. population.

Where airline companies weigh guests

Air New Zealand weighed guests in June for factors, it stated, associated to security and fuel effectiveness.

Finnair did the exact same in 2017, and Hawaiian Air has actually performed several traveler weight workouts on flights in between Honolulu and American Samoa. (The now defunct Samoa Air utilized to charge guests by their weight, according to Reuters.)

Flyers in the United States most likely will not be weighed, stated Hilderman, despite the fact that an FAA advisory circular released in 2019 mentioned that airline companies can weigh guests.

It’s a various story in Europe, where providers follow European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) guidelines.

American airline companies follow guidelines stated by the International Civil Aviation Organization, which does not need that guests be weighed, stated Hilderman.

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EASA weighed almost 23,000 guests in 2008 and 2009 and discovered that typical traveler weight had actually increased by 3 to 5 kgs (6.6 to 11 pounds). A subsequent report released in 2022 discovered that mean traveler weight increased a little considering that 2009, for approximately 82 kg (181 pounds) for males and 68 kg (149 pounds) for females.

Periodic weight evaluations — of guests and other products on board — can assist airline companies figure out if weight quotes are still precise to balance out the quantity of freight they bring, stated Hilderman.

But “there’s a little more to this mystery,” he included.

“In Europe, they’re a little more rigorous about individual rights with privacy,” he stated. “With EASA, they want to protect the passengers and say: Look, the passengers are getting larger, so airlines, we want you to provide a minimum pitch distance on your seats.”

Commercial airline company seating is based upon typical traveler weight from the 1950s to 1970s, Hilderman stated. Since then, individuals have actually grown, however airline company seats have actually diminished, he stated — “29 inches in some cases, it’s absolutely ridiculous.”

A hot-button subject

Passenger size on airplanes is a questionable subject — with large leaflets lodging discrimination claims over Lilliputian airplane aisles and seat sizes, and smaller sized tourists openly venting about seat infringement.  

But unlike other markets that service heavy individuals — from makers of chairs to toilets to theme park trips — the airline company market hasn’t bigger seats.

“Some have proposed that obese passengers be required to pay for two seats in order to not make other passengers uncomfortable, but that lets the airlines escape any responsibility,” stated Nick Gausling, a customer services company specialist and handling director of Romy Group LLC.

Gausling kept in mind that while other markets have actually been pushed to focus on client experience, “consumers have very little choice to take their business elsewhere” when it pertains to airline companies.

Tigress Osborn, the executive director of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, informed CNBC that many significant airline companies have actually reacted with 3 choices for obese tourists: spend for more expensive tickets that include larger seats, acquire a 2nd seat, or stay at home.

“Fat people deserve to travel for pleasure just like everyone else, and we also need to remember that air travel is for work, for family obligations, and for other responsibilities, too,” she stated. “Our taxes help support this industry, and we deserve to be accommodated safely and comfortably, with access to accessible seating at all price levels.”

Ideas to assist bigger guests

Hilderman stated airline companies can offer 2nd seats to plus-size tourists at a greatly affordable rate.

As individuals have actually grown, airline company seats have actually gotten smaller sized, which has actually resulted in regular grievances from air tourists of all sizes.

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Or they can book half a lots seats for bigger individuals, which guests might independently sign up for online, utilizing height and weight information from their chauffeur’s licenses, he stated.

Those seats might be cost a little additional charge, and if not reserved by certified guests the week prior to the flight, launched to anybody ready to spend for them, he included.

Any wish for larger seats?

As to whether airline companies will increase seat sizes for everybody, Hilderman stated that while it’s mathematically possible, it’s not useful.

“Fuselage diameters have been predetermined,” he stated, referencing the primary body of the airplane. “We currently have 29,000 commercial aircraft flying, and we only make about 1,500 per year, so it would take 20 years to replace the entire fleet.”

Refitting airplanes with larger seats implies narrowing the aisle, which is currently a tight capture, he stated. To expand the aisle, one seat from every row would require to be gotten rid of, leading to a 20-25% ticket cost boost throughout the board, he stated.

“Most people don’t look at what kind of aircraft they’re flying, and they have no idea what the seat pitch or width is,” stated Hilderman. “They’re simply buying on price — and the airlines know that.”

Arnold Barnett, a management science and stats teacher at the MIT Sloan School of Management, informed CNBC that many leaflets want to sustain existing seat sizes in return for lower fares.  

If seating altered, “airfares would have to go up, and flying would become unaffordable to passengers on limited budgets.”

For lots of, a tight airline company seat is much better than a seat on a bus, he stated.


News and digital media editor, writer, and communications specialist. Passionate about social justice, equity, and wellness. Covering the news, viewing it differently.

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