Pay What You Weigh on Samoa Air

smrAirlines use all types of methods to determine airfares, and sometimes their fare structures get so complicated that it’s not unusual for people sitting next to each other to, unbeknownst to them, be paying vastly different fares for the same service.

Samoa Air is a small inter-island airlines which transports people and goods around the islands of Samoa and U.S. Samoa. It uses small aircraft, such as BN2A Islanders and Cessna 172s. Because of the size of the aircraft, load is a consideration, so Samoa Air has become the first airline in the world to charge people by weight, rather than have standard fares.

This actually does make sense, because a plane’s job is to lift particular weights into the air and carry those weights for a certain distance. It would be difficult for regular airlines to charge passengers by weight as it would be a nightmare to determine well before a flight exactly how much you should pay on the day you fly.

With a small inter-island airlines for which travel decisions would usually be made very close to flight time, the introduction of a weight system would be more workable.

Of course, whether or not it is a fair system or not is another thing.

To my mind, if an airline charges you by your weight, then you should also be allocated enough space to be able to travel comfortably. Which should include the curtailing of reclining seats by small people, who have not paid enough for the privilege of invading a larger person’s space.

If we are to pay a fare that is determined by our weight, then large people should be provided with seats that are big enough to accommodate them comfortable. This means their seat pitch (which determines the amount of leg room you have) should be longer. Small people, on the other hand, could be crammed in to small spaces like sardines because of the bargain prices they’ve paid.

According to Samoa Air some people are quite satisfied with the new fare structure. Families have found that it is cheaper to fly with young children than it used to be when they just paid for a seat, no matter what their weight.

In reality, there is probably no truly fair way in which to charge people who fly. Paying for a seat works out better for most airlines where an individual’s weight isn’t such a big issue, but it is not an entirely fair measure.

If more airlines do adopt Samoa Air’s principle I may make a fortune by running weight loss classes for frequent fliers.

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