Samoa Air's Plan to Charge Fliers by Their Weight: Crazy or Smart?

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Photographer: Getty Images

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Photographer: Getty Images

You may have seen the news that Samoa Air has decided to create a rather unusual pricing plan. Going forward, air fares for its fleet of small planes will be based on weight—not just the weight of your luggage, but the weight of your own body. This kind of thing has been joked about for years, but now that it's a reality, is it actually a good idea?

Why it's a good idea

There is something to be said for the simplicity of this model. Just add up your weight and the weight of all your bags and you pay a flat price per pound (or in this case, kilogram). The price per kilo goes up the longer the flight. Seems simple, right?

And when it comes to flying, weight is a huge cost component. The heavier the plane and everything in it, the more fuel required to fly it. So the airline is doing a good job of tying its revenues to its costs in using this kind of method.

As a bonus, on smaller aircraft (the only kind Samoa flies), weight distribution is crucially important in order to make sure that the plane is balanced for flight. If you know everyone's weight in advance, you can spread it around before takeoff and make sure the plane isn't too heavy.

Why it's a bad idea

First of all, weight varies. You might go on a huge diet between the time you book and the time you fly. (Or you might eat a ton.) So what you purchased could be different than what you actually need. Not to mention that what you need might not be based on eating habits at all—some people are just naturally taller or bulkier, and their fee will reflect that.

When it comes to bag weight, that's like asking someone if they want to eat chicken or beef at a wedding dinner…two months in advance. Who the heck knows? Oh yeah, and people lie about their weight all the time.

That means that Samoa Air is still going to weigh everyone and everything at the airport. You'll have to pay the difference or get a refund if you've lost weight, I assume. That takes a lot of time to process at the airport and it's going to make travel more stressful.

Of course, none of this even takes into account the social stigma of stepping on a scale in public. My wife won't even step on a scale with me in the room, so there will certainly be a lot of people who balk at this kind of handling in the middle of an airport.

Every culture is different, however, and maybe Samoa Air thinks that its clientele will be perfectly okay with this plan. I think there is going to be quite the mixed reaction, especially if this strategy moves beyond the small market of Samoa.

What do you think?

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