Go skinny and save when you fly Samoa Air

Picture: Samoa Air/Facebook

Picture: Samoa Air/Facebook

IN a region where “big is beautiful”, it seems almost an anomaly that Samoa Air should introduce a fare policy to charge passengers according to what they (and their baggage) weigh.

The airline announced the new basis on its website as follows: “We at Samoa Air are keeping airfares fair, by charging our passengers only for what they weigh. You are the master of your Air ‘fair’, you decide how much (or little) your ticket will cost. No more exorbitant excess baggage fees, or being charged for baggage you may not carry. Your weight plus your baggage items, is what you pay for. Simple.”

Passengers (together with their baggage) will be weighed at the airport.

The airline’s chief executive Chris Langton defended the policy, citing how it is not fair to “pay for half of the passenger” seated next to you and that families with children would benefit “because we don’t charge on the seat requirement even though a child is required to have a seat. We just weigh them.”

Seems fair enough, but is it really?

The airline has elicited unhappy comments from travellers who feel that they are being treated like “cattle”. Should someone be penalized for his or her natural weight, give and take some deviation from the norm? Some airlines are already charging extra for obese passengers who cannot comfortably fit into a single seat, and it is an industry practice to charge for excess baggage above the contracted allowances. Those were the days when the trim of the aircraft has to take into consideration the weight of passengers to decide where they should seat to maintain the aircraft’s balance. Perhaps not quite in some places still, as someone recounted to me how boarding was temporarily halted to assess whether the small plane could take on any more passengers.

Samoa Air is said to be the first airline to introduce the pay-by-weight fare. Will other airlines ditch the rule of average and follow suit when there is already in place penalties for deviations? The assumed fairness may not be worth the hassle, adding to the stress of travel.