This airline asks passengers to weigh themselves before their flight
If you're anything like a lot of us, going through an airport goes hand in hand with a minefield of worry and anxiety. If you're not busy stressing over the baggage allowance and finding the right gate, the bros holiday coming in directly on your right with nicknamed T-shirts saying "Mr Ladykiller" and "Mr Rebound" is sure to do you in. That or the middle-aged woman on your left, who thinks it's appropriate to prop her foot up on the chairs and give herself a full-blown pedicure in the waiting room. All this, of course, while obsessively thinking "I don't have a bomb. I don't have a bomb" as you go through security.
However, if you ever choose to fly with a certain Finnish airline, they've thrown another stumbling block into the mix to consider. In an unanticipated move, Finnair, the largest airline in Finland, has begun asking passengers to climb on the weighing scales before they get on the plane. And, surprise surprise, a lot of people aren't too happy about the situation.
The airline has insisted that, rather than to shame passengers who tip the scales at heavier weights, the move is merely in place to gather more accurate information about the weight its planes can handle, as well as extra data on fuel and safety. To date, FinnAir, founded in 1923, has used European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) passenger standard weight estimates. These calculate to 88kg for a male passenger, 70kg for a female and 35kg for a child, plus carry-on bags for each. However, the estimates were put together in 2009 and are criticised for being only an average and therefore not very accurate. Therefore, it appears the airline, based in Helsinki, is keen to collect data on at least 2,000 people in order to form its own guidelines.
Päivyt Tallqvist, communications director at Finnair, said: "We expect that we will need at least 2,000 customers, and we are continuing the project during the rest of this year and next spring, to get data from different routes and also from different seasons. For example, at winter time people have heavy winter coats, while in summertime people travel with lighter clothing."
It will come as a relief to many that stepping on the scales is not compulsory; the weigh-in is voluntary and anonymous, and only the customer service agent will be able to see the result. So far, 180 volunteers have agreed to include themselves in the weigh-in, which takes place along with their carry-on luggage. But of course, that hasn't stopped a flurry of bad feeling between passengers and the airline on social media, as users have questioned their intentions.
One wrote: "Airline, Finnair is asking passengers to weigh in before boarding. It's volunteer only & for data purposes. Charging by the pound 1 day?" while another posted "How Rude! Finnair Begins to Weigh Passengers at Helsinki Airport Before Takeoff".
On the other hand, others couldn't have been happier with the chances, with one Twitter user complaining about the prices writing "Finally because its fucking unfair 200kg and 80kg pay the same price for baggage" and another going so far as to post: "That's cool, I don't want the plane to crash".
So, is weighing passengers a much-needed move that more airlines should take, or is it the first step to discriminating against plus-size passengers and charging them a higher price? And are airlines like Finnair honestly considering it?
The honest answer is that no one really knows and you'd need a crystal ball to look into to determine the answer. What we do know, though, is that the question of whether obese passengers should be charged more has been flying around for years in the media, in public forums and most likely in airline head offices. Check a lot of people's social media history and chances are, they'll be at least one having a moan about another customer taking up more room than they should do.
A few airlines have reportedly responded to the growing obesity epidemic by suggesting passengers of a bigger size buy two seats to ensure safety and comfort. But is this another example of larger customers being needlessly persecuted for their size?
Passenger rights advocates argue that most aeroplanes can’t accommodate passengers of all body types and that everyone has the right to fly. After all, we live in a society which claims to give individuals the right to live without discrimination or oppression. But throw in the fact that many argue that heavier flyers have create heavier planes, thus pushing up fuel costs, and you have yourself some seriously angry customers who don't have an ounce of sympathy for those who weigh a little more.
Unsurprisingly, the controversial Finnair study is not the first of its kind and airlines have been attempting to learn more about weight distribution for years. In 2016, Hawaiian Airlines won the right to weigh people travelling on its 2,600-mile route between Honolulu and American Samoa, with passengers assigned seats when checking in to ensure weight is evenly distributed around the cabin, while in 2015, Uzbekistan Airways started to weigh passengers to ensure "passenger safety".
Regardless of past projects, Päivyt Tallqvist has insisted that the Finnair project is not an attempt to charge passengers more and has been well-received by all so far, stating: "The initial reaction by our customers has been positive, people understand the importance of this, and we have been very happy that so many people already volunteered to be a part of this."
But if critics are right and Finnair - or another major airline - do eventually begin charging heavier passengers more for their flights, will this peace and tranquillity continue? We're betting not. Let's just all cross our fingers that it never happens...