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World’s first ‘pay as you weigh’ airline

Weigh more, pay more to fly

A Samoan Airline says it's perfectly fair to charge passengers according to their weight

April 3, 2013 5:27 by

Samoa Air, a relatively new airline opened in 2012, is the world’s first to implement a ‘pay what you weigh’ scheme to replace the traditional per seat fare that all other airlines follow. As the carrier’s name would indicate, it operates primarily within the Samoan Islands.

Interestingly enough, the airline has had this plan running since last November (or January: conflicting reports) but this announcement has gained recent attention for two reasons:

Reuters reports that 1) the airline has just launched international flights to neighboring American Samoa, and 2) it coincided with a report by a Norwegian economist suggesting that airlines should charge obese passengers more. Now, not only does this plan affect the airline’s customers but its CEO, Chris Langton, makes two strong and arguably bold points in one sentence.

“There is no doubt in my mind that this is the concept of the future,” he says. “This is the fairest way of you travelling with your family, or yourself. People who have been most pleasantly surprised are families, because we don’t charge on the seat requirement even though a child is required to have a seat, we just weigh them,” Samoa Air Chris Langton tells Australia’s ABC News radio.

Langton says ‘aeroplanes always run on weight, irrespective of seats’. In essence, the more weight on the plane, the more fuel it will burn – hence airlines charging fliers for extra baggage weight. It’s not that the aircraft can’t handle it, it’s simply that more fuel will be consumed.

Tony Webber, a former Qantas Group chief economist between 2004 and 2011, confirms Langton’s argument (not directly) and poses his own set of reasons to back it up. “The rationale is simple. The fuel burnt by planes depends on many things but the most important is the weight of the aircraft. The more a plane weighs, the more fuel it must burn,” he writes. “If the passengers on the aircraft weigh more, the aircraft consumes more fuel and the airline’s costs go up.”

Webber makes another argument that airline fuel costs have increased significantly since the year 2000 ‘not just because of higher oil and jet fuel prices – although these are by far the most important drivers of higher costs – but also because the average adult passenger is carrying a bit more heft’.

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