Air New Zealand Weighing Passengers and Carry-Ons Before Boarding.

Photo credit: Air New Zealand. Passengers are being asked to step on a scale before boarding as part of a survey.Participation is voluntary.
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By Jonathan Mason-June 3rd 2023.

It is customary for airlines to weigh passengers’ baggage before boarding, but now one international airline is also weighing the passengers as part of a survey.

The weigh-in takes place before passengers reach their boarding gate. Anyone who doesn’t want to take part in the survey can simply skip it. The goal is to get readings from at least 10,000 air passengers.

Passengers’ carry-on bags are also weighed in the survey, which the airline says it carries out every five years. The purpose of the voluntary exercise is to collect data on the average weight of passengers and their carry-on luggage. The survey is being conducted at Auckland International Airport and will run for five weeks.

The weight survey falls far short of a controversial plan launched by Samoa Air in 2013, when it moved to charge each passenger an airfare based on their weight. But the company wasn’t alone.

“If they had their way, airlines would love to weigh passengers as they get on the planes, but it would be too embarrassing,” as science writer Brian Clegg once told NPR. “In fact, they actually used to do it in the very early days of flight.”

“Most modern aircraft are so designed that, when all seats are occupied, the baggage compartment is full, and all fuel tanks are full, the aircraft is grossly overloaded,” the FAA says.

With that in mind, airlines and pilots must ensure planes have the proper weight and balance for flights.

“If maximum range is required, occupants or baggage must be left behind,” the FAA says, “or if the maximum load must be carried, the range, dictated by the amount of fuel on board, must be reduced.”

Such concerns are vital for any airline, particularly in an island nation like New Zealand, where Air New Zealand jets take off for long-haul international flights — like a non-stop trip from Auckland to New York City. The airline is also preparing to roll out more amenities, including bunk beds on long routes.

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