'Pay what you weigh' says Samoan airline
Samoa Air to Passengers: 'Pay What You Weigh'
The South Pacific airline is charging airfare based on passenger weight — a move that some may claim is just a masked fat tax.
By Brett Spiegel
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WEDNESDAY, April 3, 2013 — If you're planning to fly Samoa Air on your next beach vacation, here's some motivation to shed extra pounds before your flight: Since last November, the airline has been pricing plane tickets based on passenger weight.
The South Pacific carrier is a small operation primarily used for travel between Samoa, North Tonga, Niue, the North Cook Islands, and French Polynesia. Depending on their destination, travelers, who are weighed at booking and check-in, pay 57 cents to .03 per 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of body weight, in addition to luggage. The airline's planes are small — the largest ones seat only 9 to 10 passengers, the smaller air taxis only three to four.
"[P]lanes are run by weight and not by seat, and travelers should be educated on this important issue," Chris Langton, Samoa Air's chief executive, told the Associated Press. "The plane can only carry a certain amount of weight and that weight needs to be paid. There is no other way."
Seasoned Samoa Air travelers already pony up the weight-based prices, but uproar over the plan began with the announcement that the charge would be even higher — over per kilogram — on the airline's first international route between American Samoa and Samoa. The route was only recently approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation back in January.
"The next step is for the industry to make those sort of changes and recognize that 'Hey, we are not all 72 kilograms (about 160 pounds) anymore and we don't all fit into a standard seat,''' Langton told CNN.
"There is no doubt in my mind that this is the concept of the future. This is the fairest way of you traveling with your family, or yourself," he added, saying that Samoa Air passengers can request an entire row if they require more room.
"When the initial shock has worn off, there's been nothing but support," Langton told Reuters. "People who are up around 200 kg recognize...they're paying (for) 200 kg, so they deserve to get 200 kg of comfort," he added.
According to the World Health Organization, the Pacific Islands are home to the some of the most obese populations in the world, with almost 60 percent of Samoan residents classified as obese.
Samoa Air is the first carrier to charge by weight, and according to David Vaeafe, executive director of the American Samoa Visitors Bureau, this is fair. "For example, a 12- or 13-year-old passenger, who is small in size and weight, won't have to pay an adult fare, based on airline fares that anyone 12 years and older does pay the adult fare," he told the Associated Press.
Though the controversial policy has been accepted by Samoans, it remains to be seen whether Americans would welcome a weight-based ticketing system or protest it as a tax rooted in weight prejudice.
Video: Samoa Airlines CEO says pay-by-weight effort working
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