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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"A kilo is a kilo is a kilo."

Posted by on Tue, Apr 2, 2013 at 3:06 PM

The first airline in the world to charge passengers by weight declares their new pricing model a success:

Passengers do not pay for a seat but pay a fixed price per kilogram, which varies according to the length of the route. Analysts believe other airlines around the world are likely to follow suit, especially as the rising weight of populations adds to fuel costs. Some airlines in the United States have already begun forcing passengers who cannot fit in a single seat to buy two tickets....

The head of Samoa Air, Chris Langton, said the new system was fairer and that some families with small children were now paying substantially cheaper fares. "This is the fairest way of travelling," he told ABC Radio. "There are no extra fees in terms of excess baggage or anything – it is just a kilo is a kilo is a kilo."


Comments (66) RSS

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Will in Seattle 1
It's not a measure of weight.

It's a measure of mass.

A kilo weighs less when it's further away from the earth's surface.

That said, a kilo of liquid nitrogen is not as easy to handle as a kilo of iron.
Posted by Will in Seattle on April 2, 2013 at 3:11 PM · Report this
geoff teardrop 2
would make sense if they packed you in like cargo. but since that is not safe and they have to install seats in a passenger plane this model is bullshit
Posted by geoff teardrop on April 2, 2013 at 3:12 PM · Report this
The fact it's Somoa Air doing this is actually pretty amazing.
Posted by No Excuses on April 2, 2013 at 3:14 PM · Report this
My new plan for flying: buy the seat next to me and leave it empty. Air is about 1.2 kg/m^3, so I should be able to buy a lot of elbow room for my dollar.
Posted by Asbel on April 2, 2013 at 3:20 PM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 5
What @2 said. It's even a bad idea from a business perspective. Since the average ticket price will likely remain the same (fuel prices aren't the dominant cost, and aren't directly related to weight anyway), larger passengers will stop flying Somoa Air leaving them with less revenue per flight. If they charge even more per kilo to keep this average ticket price the same, they'll lose more passengers, etc.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on April 2, 2013 at 3:21 PM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 6
(scratch "directly related", meant "linearly related")
Posted by Matt the Engineer on April 2, 2013 at 3:22 PM · Report this
theophrastus 7
we're not outraged that statistically this is a penalty for being male?
Posted by theophrastus on April 2, 2013 at 3:27 PM · Report this
tdalec 8
Isn't the dateline April Fools Day?
Posted by tdalec on April 2, 2013 at 3:28 PM · Report this
The dateline is April Fool's, but I could have sworn I heard this being reported last week.
Posted by Chali2Na on April 2, 2013 at 3:33 PM · Report this
@3 Seems like a sound business practice to me- Samoans are not known for being dainty.
Posted by UNPAID COMMENTER on April 2, 2013 at 3:40 PM · Report this
As I see it, the problem of pricing a fare by weight is that airlift capacity isn't a scarce commodity. There's no rational reason for charging a 120lb person less than a 180lb person. They're both going to take up one unit of seating, and the plane isn't any worse off for it. In fact, that 120lb person is now costing the airline money, because they could have their seat taken by a 180lb person willing to pay the increased price. Finally, the problem that this supposedly solves--large people needing more than one seat--is not solved at all. A 300lb person still needs 2 seats... you can't just sit them next to a 100lb ballet dancer because they "average out." As for the price of fuel, I don't see how trying to optimize for that particular line-item outweighs the fact that, ultimately, you're charging for and making your money on discrete units of volume, the market dynamics of which have to drive pricing. Now, as a surcharge for outliers, on the other hand...
Posted by Endash on April 2, 2013 at 3:46 PM · Report this
Fortunate 12
@10, perhaps not, but Samoans aren't restricted to flying only Samoa Air, so not really a smart buisness move.
Posted by Fortunate on April 2, 2013 at 3:50 PM · Report this
This is just discrimination against Americans.
Posted by tacomagirl on April 2, 2013 at 3:50 PM · Report this
raindrop 14
Poor Michael Moore!
Posted by raindrop on April 2, 2013 at 3:52 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 15
@4 for the mass-related Somoan win. Although @13 for a close second.
Posted by Will in Seattle on April 2, 2013 at 4:00 PM · Report this
Dougsf 16
How would they even implement this model? You can't weigh in before you purchase your ticket, so is it left to the discretion of the counter staff to apply a last-minute penalty to passengers that appear heavier? If that's the case—not only would that not be kosher in the US—then a kilo isn't a kilo isn't a kilo.
Posted by Dougsf on April 2, 2013 at 4:03 PM · Report this
douchus 17
I love this idea.
Posted by douchus on April 2, 2013 at 4:09 PM · Report this
snicker---facepalm---snicker ... but I swear I saw it somewhere else....snicker---double facepalm---guffaw with choke...
Posted by pupuguru on April 2, 2013 at 4:10 PM · Report this
It actually makes much more sense as a business model when you combine it with United Airline's plan for passenger loading:…
Posted by Teshumai on April 2, 2013 at 4:11 PM · Report this
sperifera 20
Passenger weight is a significant consideration for an airline, as the plane has a loaded weight that cannot be exceeded for takeoff. I know it's not uncommon for cargo to get bumped to the next flight because of weight restrictions on a fully passenger loaded flight. And fwiw, 300 passengers at 60 kilos each rather than 80 kilos each allows the airline to sell an additional 7 TONS of cargo. You don't even want to know what it costs to airfreight a ton of merchandise trans-Pacific...
Posted by sperifera on April 2, 2013 at 4:13 PM · Report this
Dr_Awesome 21
Dammit, thought that after yesterday's Fnarf-administered smackdown we would have a whole day free from Useless Will.

ProTip to Will: Nobody cares who you think 'wins' in the comments. Period.
Posted by Dr_Awesome on April 2, 2013 at 4:15 PM · Report this
The scoop from their website. They got phone numbers there to call as well.... You gotta do some work.....check this out and see what they mean....…

So how does 'Pay-by-weight' work?

Well, its simple really:

Step 1. Select 'book online', and choose your flight

Step 2. Enter your details, including your estimated weight(s) of passengers and baggage

Step 3. Your airfare is then calculated using your weight.

Step 4. You travel happy, knowing full well that you are only paying for exactly what you weigh... nothing more.
Posted by pupuguru on April 2, 2013 at 4:19 PM · Report this
Happy Fools Day!!!!
Posted by pupuguru on April 2, 2013 at 4:20 PM · Report this
pfffter 24
@15 Yes, weight does depend on distance from the earth, but from its center, not its surface. Your argument is pointless. The difference in weight between the ground and 30000 feet is negligible.

For a person weighing approx 72 kg, the force of gravity is approx 704 N. At 30K feet, it's 702 N.
Posted by pfffter on April 2, 2013 at 4:20 PM · Report this
seandr 25
@7: Of course not - weightriarchy is the direct result of patriarchy.
Posted by seandr on April 2, 2013 at 4:21 PM · Report this
eclexia 26
I would fly the shit out of that airline!

It is disgusting to be seated next to a fatass oozing over the seat divider into my space. Knowing that they were at least paying their fair share would make it easier to take.
Posted by eclexia on April 2, 2013 at 4:21 PM · Report this
Dougsf 27
@18 - there's an article on the same site from a few weeks before proposing this in some Scandinavian country. This may not be a real article (in which case setting it in Samoa is kind of a shitty jab), but this is something people have considered to some degree.
Posted by Dougsf on April 2, 2013 at 4:22 PM · Report this
Fnarf 28
@11, you're wrong -- it costs the airline significantly more money to carry the heavy person than the light one. The relevant variable is fuel cost, not number of seats.

@21, I'm excited to see that Will has repeated the typo, though. (It's Samoan, not Somoan). If I had a nickel for every stupid thing Will said or did, I could probably buy Samoan Air. Though his inane "mass vs. weight" dissertation @1 ought to be worth more than a nickel.
Posted by Fnarf on April 2, 2013 at 4:23 PM · Report this
Really @21? Cause I am part of a Fantasy Sloggers League, and I am keeping track of the wins on a big whiteboard. Just saying.

I'd say who I've drafted, but I don't want to knock them off their stride.
Posted by UrbanDuck on April 2, 2013 at 4:24 PM · Report this
If this could actually be done properly and avoid the blatantly obvious way to just lie when booking online, I might inboard with it. Paying $500 for my five year old is complete bullshit
Posted by ultrasuedecushion on April 2, 2013 at 4:31 PM · Report this
SiSiSodaPop in Vegas 31
I Love this. Finally an advantage to being small. I'm 90 lbs. I would fly on that airline anywhere it would take me!
Posted by SiSiSodaPop in Vegas on April 2, 2013 at 4:40 PM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 32
@30, the linked article says you book online and it prices by what you enter, but they weigh you for real when you arrive to check in, then adjust the fare accordingly.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on April 2, 2013 at 4:42 PM · Report this
yeah, I don't see how this can work well - people aren't boxes that can be stacked. Although I'm amused to think about prorated, adjustable seats - if the very large must pay extra and thus be given a larger seat, then the very thin (who pay less) must get a smaller seat that fits exactly to their proportions as well. Everyone still gets to be packed in like sardines and nobody wins! Except the airlines, I guess.
Posted by genevieve on April 2, 2013 at 4:51 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 34
I think there should be a separate airline for people who think weight has no effect on fuel cost or how the airplane flies. That every seat is equal, no matter how much the person in it weighs. That every bag is equal, not matter what they way.

This airline should only have pilots who think the same thing. They should only use planes designed by engineers who agree with this notion.

Call it Leviticus Air. Or All I Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten Airways. Or just Jesus.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on April 2, 2013 at 5:16 PM · Report this
harmonyak 35
Not sure how I feel about the idea of paying per kilo, but I do like the idea of making the extra-wide people buy the extra seat. Or at least making them upgrade to first class.

I'm juuuust too big to fit into a seat comfortably, and consequently, I don't fly much. I always put the armrest to keep myself from oozing into the neighboring seat when I do fly, though.
Posted by harmonyak on April 2, 2013 at 5:19 PM · Report this
A kilo is a thousand grams. Easy to remember.
Posted by Block Boy on April 2, 2013 at 5:38 PM · Report this
seandr 37
@fnarf: it costs the airline significantly more money to carry the heavy person than the light one.

Nonsense. Allow me to dismantle your specious reasoning.

What happens when you throw a fat woman in the water? That's right, she floats. What else floats? Wood. And what burns like wood? Witches. Therefore - and it should be obvious where I'm going with this now - if fat people are witches, and witches fly of their own accord, then it logically follows that fat people have an airlift cost of $0.
Posted by seandr on April 2, 2013 at 5:41 PM · Report this
I am mindful of the fact that if you ship a large package that doesn't weigh much (by UPS, FedEx, or, I think, USPS), they charge you "dimensional weight," being a charge, basically, for taking up space.

Airlines charge by the seat for a reason -- they only have so many of them.

I'm going with the April Fool's joke scenario, because whether the airline is playing this on the public, or someone on the staff is playing it on management, it's got to be a joke.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on April 2, 2013 at 6:11 PM · Report this
Fnarf 39
@37, oh, Jesus. I have seen the light. I'll follow you anywhere now.
Posted by Fnarf on April 2, 2013 at 6:22 PM · Report this
I'm tall, can I buy some extra leg room?
Posted by kwodell on April 2, 2013 at 6:50 PM · Report this
@37 seandr that is complete crap. I have some experience in aviation and I can tell you that larger people do indeed increase costs for the airlines. If you have a larger calorie intake, you are placing a greater demand on the agricultural system, which is driven primarily by the use of fossil fuels. Processed foods in particular require more industry, and thus more fuel use. This greater use of fuel drives up demand for crude oil and, consequently, oil prices, thereby increasing fuel costs for the airline. Therefore, larger passengers do indeed lead to increased fuel costs for the airlines. It's basic aerodynamics. I'm surprised this isn't common knowledge.
Posted by LateBloomer on April 2, 2013 at 6:59 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 42
@ 37, I'm no longer voting you off the island, you lucky duck.
Posted by Matt from Denver on April 2, 2013 at 6:59 PM · Report this
@37 I am laughing tea out my nose. WITCHES! Fucking hilarious!
Posted by auntielarrie on April 2, 2013 at 7:01 PM · Report this
@37 Isn't there supposed to be a duck in that chain of reasoning, somewhere?…
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on April 2, 2013 at 7:07 PM · Report this
Can we just make this optional pricing for people under 18? Either pay per kilo or pay the adult rate? Because seriously it would be awesome to get a reduce fare for my kid.

Mind you, toddlers more than make up for the weight with all the crap the parents have to bring.
Posted by EclecticEel on April 2, 2013 at 7:18 PM · Report this
Oh Suzanna 46
@41 - It is complete crap to say logic requires that all fat people are witches?? Where did you go to school??
Posted by Oh Suzanna on April 2, 2013 at 7:21 PM · Report this
Pridge Wessea 47
@37 - Seandr wins the thread. Brilliant.
Posted by Pridge Wessea on April 2, 2013 at 7:32 PM · Report this
As someone who has been kept off a flight due to the weight of the plane and concerns of its ability to fly, I have to say that I like the idea of a weight consideration in airfare. You see, I am that ballerina mentioned earlier. And, as I sat at the gate being told I couldn't get onto the flight due to it having too much weight, I watched very large people walking onto the ramp to the plane. The three of us not allowed on, skinny. Why couldn't we get on? Not the cost of the fuel, but the aerodynamics of the airplane, specifically when there is snow.

I'd be more inclined to suggest a surcharge for being over a certain weight/dimension. And this would include the weight of the checked bags as well as carry ons.
Posted by ballerina on April 2, 2013 at 8:01 PM · Report this
@46--No no, I'm objecting to the common misconception that witches don't weigh down an aircraft, even if they're large. It's this sort of misinformation that makes dealing with the travelling public so difficult. You have to look at it scientifically.
Posted by LateBloomer on April 2, 2013 at 8:55 PM · Report this
I think the unit of volume corresponding to a seat in the cabin has real monetary value. However, as an aerospace engineer, I can state with absolute certainty that weight has a significant impact on fuel consumption. Perhaps combination pricing is a good solution. You should pay for a seat in the cabin + a certain amount of $/pound (or kilo), with body weight and luggage all worth the same.
Posted by DrVanNostrand on April 2, 2013 at 9:07 PM · Report this
Fnarf 51
@49, you stupid fucking moron. It's only since the TSA stopped allowing brooms that witches have been weighing down aircraft. Guyyyyy! (Do people still say "Guyyyy"?)

@50, the time you really notice when the unit of volume has value isn't when the fat guy tries to get into the aisle seat, but when grandma tries to get her 10,000 cubic inch suitcase into the overhead.
Posted by Fnarf on April 2, 2013 at 9:20 PM · Report this
Doctor Memory 52
Damnit, I missed a WiS smackdown? Some days I hate having a job that I care about: it's totally cutting into my snarking slog comments time.
Posted by Doctor Memory on April 2, 2013 at 10:12 PM · Report this
playswithknives 53
As a cook who has a lot of Samoan customers, i think this is a wise decision. Samoans are some huge motherfuckers.
Posted by playswithknives on April 3, 2013 at 12:31 AM · Report this
A little additional info, which sort of clarifies this story:

Samoa Air, in its current incarnation, is a small commercial operation running what are essentially lightplanes. Besides a single Cessna 172, they operate two Britten-Norman Islanders, which according to Wikipedia is a 9-passenger twin-engine prop plane with a max take-off weight of 6600 pounds.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on April 3, 2013 at 3:20 AM · Report this
Dr_Awesome 55
Dr. Memory- check the lengthy thread on booze-buying posted Monday afternoon. About three-quarters of the way in or so the takedown is epic.
Posted by Dr_Awesome on April 3, 2013 at 5:21 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 56
@ 55, I stopped being impressed when it became apparent that the takedowns have no effect at all. Sometimes I wonder if WiS is deliberately saying obtuse things for the sole purpose of getting under Fnarf's skin.
Posted by Matt from Denver on April 3, 2013 at 7:05 AM · Report this
Dr_Awesome 57
Matt, I think they do- WiS is noticeably absent following both a particularly great takedown and also following multiple posts from different users pointing out something stupid he said or did.

His feelings do indeed get hurt and he goes and hides a while, only slowly resuming to spamming every Slog post with his arrogant and condescending blather.

He posts inane things because he just needs attention and to make himself appear important. The more his pompous b.s. is deflated, the less he posts.
Posted by Dr_Awesome on April 3, 2013 at 10:28 AM · Report this
Doctor Memory 58
@55 oh my stars and garters. "Read InBev". Classic, classic, classic.
Posted by Doctor Memory on April 3, 2013 at 10:49 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 59
@21 sorry, I must have missed that, was Fnarf upset at me?
Posted by Will in Seattle on April 3, 2013 at 10:54 AM · Report this
@40: Of course you can, it's called "First Class".
Posted by tiktok on April 3, 2013 at 12:05 PM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 61
@59: I think there is going to be an article about it in next month's issue of InBev.

You do get that magazine, right?
Posted by Theodore Gorath on April 3, 2013 at 12:11 PM · Report this
@54, yes it makes more sense for smaller airlines to go by weight.

In Alaska, there are a lot of small commercial and freight flights that go to various villages. I've been on some of them and they do ask you what you weigh before they let you know where your seat will be. Due to the small size of the plane, they need to make sure they aren't exceeding the weight limit and to make sure the weight they do carry is appropriately balanced on the plane. In that situation, it makes a lot of sense that a smaller carrier might want to start charging by weight.

BTW, @5, as another commented, the appropriate variable is the cost of the fuel consumed, rather than the price of the fuel. You are correct that the price of fuel is not related to the weight of the passengers. However, the cost of the fuel consumed during the flight IS directly related to the amount of weight the plane is carrying. More weight, more fuel consumed. I'm sure it's not a perfect correlation, but I would guess it is at least a linear relationship.
Posted by SherBee on April 3, 2013 at 12:44 PM · Report this
Dougsf 63
@62 - It makes sense that these airlines flying small planes would want to know passenger weight so they can accurately assess their load, but charging more as the solution? Never fly Get Rich or Die Trying Airlines.
Posted by Dougsf on April 3, 2013 at 3:04 PM · Report this
I don't think airlines will do this, but, as a thin person with small children, I hope they do.
Posted by MichelleZB on April 3, 2013 at 7:47 PM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 65
As a bigger woman who has both crossed the line into someone else's airline seat space (this has only happened once, due to my not flying often & flying at off times), AND had my own space seriously violated (guy w/ dreads kept passing out on my shoulder, super tall guy shoved his legs into my back, & smacked by screaming unruly kid.

Then there was my most recent & least favorite, the older guy 'charmer' flying with his wife, who when he 'fell alssep' his arm/hand/elbow would 'mysteriously rub/bump/come into other contact w/ my boob)*.

Lemme tell you - fat & thin alike, the airlines treat all of us like crap. Know that if some fat guy/gal is ruining your flight experience, they're probably painfully aware of this. Not that it changes their encroachment on your paid-for space, but maybe to just get you to sympathize.

If there was a middle ground..between coach & 1st class..something like AirTran's business class..I'd be willing to bet larger-size flyers would pay a little more to have some extra space. It doesn't seem on first glance like that would be economical, but I'd pay that premium, in a heartbeat, just as some Sloggers have said they would for a child-free flight or flight with a "family zone" & one for adults only.

BTW, all of that worry/bad experiences have added to an already-existent phobia about flying. Am flying across country for the first time in about 3 years, in 2 weeks. I'm not much smaller than before. Bought myself an extra seat. The person in the window seat better just keep their distance.

* = the 1st time, I was able to laugh off the arm/boob 'accident'. The 2nd time, I talked to the guy, but quietly & he seemed apologetic. The 3rd, I yelled at him & his wife offered to trade seats with him but he wouldn't do it! The flight attendant was all "nothing we can do about it, your word against his", but at least they let me stand the remaining 3 hours in the back of the plane with them. 'cause if any part of that man connected with my breast again, I would have HIT him.
Posted by Eva Hopkins on April 4, 2013 at 1:10 AM · Report this
@62 A linear relationship would, by definition, be perfect correlation.
Posted by dirge on April 4, 2013 at 2:47 PM · Report this

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