3 Apr 2013

Airline defends charging passengers by weight

7:14 am on 3 April 2013

A Samoan airline is convinced other airlines will copy its controversial new fare structure which charges passengers according to their weight.

Samoa Air chief executive Chris Langton says the policy is the fairest way to charge people, and makes sense for smaller aircraft restricted by weight.

Mr Langton told the ABC that it may take a while for customers to get used to the system, but it addresses safety concerns in the company's fleet of small aircraft.

He said airlines do not operate on the number of seats, but on how much each flight weighs.

Mr Langton expects others in the industry will follow his lead.

However Air New Zealand and Qantas say it is not a pricing plan they intend to copy.

Air Chathams general manager Noel Gillespie says his airline always weigh passengers as well as their bags when they check in to ensure the plane is not overloaded and can be balanced correctly.

Mr Gillespie is not thinking of copying the pricing plan, though, because he says it sounds impractical.

But he says he can see the reasoning as aircraft, particularly small planes, are restricted by weight and an airline can miss out on fares if it has to carry fewer passengers.

The "pay by weight" booking system requires Samoa Airlines passengers to type in their weight on the airline's online reservation system where their fare is calculated, the ABC reports.

Rates range from $1 a kilogram on the airline's shortest domestic route to about $4.16 per kilogram for travel from Samoa to American Samoa.

The rate includes a customer's body weight and baggage.

A Pacific community leader in New Zealand, Tino Pereira, says the airline may be seen to be discriminating against fat people.

On the other hand, he says, Samoa has been trying and failing to deal with an obesity epidemic for years and the concept could be just the innovation to combat it.