Last weekend a Thai airline began requiring its passengers that, once their luggage had been weighed, they stood on the scale on the conveyor belt to also find out its weight. Bangkok Airways says it will continue to collect data on its customers' weight in a completely anonymous and non-discriminatory manner until October 31. The objective would be to optimize the weight distribution in its aircraft as well as save fuel, in the current circumstances, with a more precise knowledge of the human load.
Its statement adds, unreassuringly, that it tries to determine that the weight at takeoff does not exceed the prescribed limits. Bangkok Airways flies to seven Asian countries and has the second largest fleet among Thai airlines, behind Thai Airways (it would be the third, if Thai Air Asia, with Malaysian capital, is included). At the national level, it practically has a monopoly on the Koh Samui airport, whose construction it paid for in the 1980s.
The measure is still surprising, but it is no longer unprecedented in the Pacific. Korean Air, for example, is carrying out the same exercise at Seoul International Airport until this Tuesday, after having completed it on its domestic flights. The Korean flagship company weighs passengers along with their luggage and transmits the data equally anonymously to the Ministry of Transport, which seeks to get a more accurate idea of the average load per ticket. In theory, Korean Air allows that the passenger can refuse to be weighed.
Last July, it was Air New Zealand that put an end to this data collection, after a few weeks, on its international flights, with the explicit objective of saving fuel. The New Zealand airline assured its customers that their weight would not be readable to the rest of the queue and that, in fact, not even its employee would be able to read the digits, which would be sent directly to a central computer confidentially.
In Europe it seems that the only experiment in this sense was that of Finnair, six years ago, although in this case it was completely voluntary for passengers. A study by the European Union last year confirmed the progressive increase in weight of the average passenger, which would have increased to 80 kilos in the case of men and 68 in the case of women. In the United States the reference value exceeds 88 kilos for men and 70 for women.
Some experts question the usefulness of this data when it comes to commercial flights, in which the weight of the fuel is twenty times that of the ticket, not to mention the weight of the device. The character of the flight also determines the weight. Businessmen weigh more than tourists, but the latter carry more luggage, which balances the final result.
In any case, there is a consensus that average body mass has not stopped increasing since the sixties or seventies, when space standards in commercial aviation were set. However, the emergence of low-cost airlines has tended to reduce the average space per passenger, instead of increasing it.
In any case, the initiative of Samoa Air, a decade ago, when it decided to calculate the price of the ticket according to the weight of the passenger, has not spread, in one of the countries with the most obese people in the world (60% of the population). A few years later, Samoa Air disappeared from the radar. But the feeling of tightness on airplanes has been increasing.