Paying by the Pound: Samoa Air to charge passengers based on weight

Samoa Air to start charging passengers by the pound.

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An airline in Samoa is the first to officially start charging passengers based on their weight. It sounds like a bold move, but could it end up in Hawaii’s skies?

Samoa Air’s website says it all… “You are the master of how much or little your air ticket will cost.”

That’s because this small, regional airline has become the first in the world to charge passengers according to their weight.

“Any pilot knows and will tell you that airplanes don’t run on seats, the bottom line with an aircraft is how much payload it can carry between two points,” said Chris Langton of Samoa Air.

Price varies on length of flight, but on average you would be charged $1.60 per kilogram on a flight between western and American Samoa.

For a 200 pound person, that’s about $144.

“When you reduce the operation to a pay by kilo or pay by weight basis, then you can use the space that you’ve got in the aircraft to provide for people service,” Langton said.

Health statistics on obesity in the region suggest that many passengers could be forking out for a lot to fly.

Samoa appears regularly in lists of the top 10 overweight countries in the world with more than 80 percent of the population overweight.

“It’s not actually discriminatory at all, it’s just measuring the fact an airplane runs by weight and you can’t help whatever sort of weight it is,” Langton said.

The airline says the move actually allows them to better accommodate passengers in comfort no matter how big or small.

“And we’ve already started this now. We take out a row seats to provide the heavier people with more leg room. We try and split the seats,” Langton said.

Samoa Air flies similar planes and routes as Island Air and Hawaiian Airlines’ new Ohana service. So could Hawaii’s market be next?

“I really don’t see that happening over here, but you may see that happen not for the passenger weight, but for the baggage weight. So you could actually see charge by pound baggage weight at some point,” aviation analyst Peter Forman said.

Samoa Air says it hope to begin service between Samoa and Honolulu by this summer.

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