Small island airline starts charging fliers by weight

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Random Heroine
Oct 20, 2010
St. Louis

A small island-hopping airline says it has begun charging passengers by weight, according to media reports from around the world.

The carrier is tiny Samoa Air, which flies turboprop flights within the Samoan islands.

As for the carrier's weight-based pay scheme, the BBC reports "passengers pay a fixed price per kilogram, which varies depending on the route length."

ABC News appears to have broken the report, though it says Samoa Air apparently introduced the practice in January.

"People who have been most pleasantly surprised are families, because we don't charge on the seat requirement even though a child is required to have a seat, we just weigh them," Samoa Air Chris Langton tells Australia's ABC News radio.

"So a family of maybe two adults and a couple of mid-sized kids and younger children can travel at considerably less than what they were being charged before," he adds, according to Australia Network News.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Samoa Air's "rates vary depending on the distance flown: from $1 per kilogram on the airline's shortest domestic route to about $4.16 per kilogram for travel between Samoa and American Samoa. Passengers are then weighed again on scales at the airport, to check that they weren't fibbing online."

One kilogram equals about 2.2 pounds.

As background, the Morning Herald notes "Samoa has a serious obesity problem and is often included in the top 10 countries for obesity levels."

CEO Langton says he hopes his airline's policy "has raised the awareness of weight" in Samoa.

Langston adds to ABC News that charging by weight helps address safety concerns for the company's small Britten and Cessna aircraft.

"Aeroplanes don't run on seats, they run on weight," he says to ABC News. "The smaller the aircraft you're in, the less variance you can accept in terms of the differences in weights between passengers."


Well-Known Member
Aug 21, 2009
Weight distribution is super important in the smaller aircrafts.

Silver Fox

Well-Known Member
Mar 18, 2007
Actually I think this is a good and fair practice. As mentioned above, weight is very important in smaller aircraft. I just hope they include the weight of your baggage when calculating what you pay.


Fast Feedist
Feb 16, 2007
This seems like an interesting policy.
I found these figures on the internet.

Small turboprop place is 7000kg and seats about 30.
That means that each passenger must pay for about 233.33 kg (513lbs)
of plane to be carried by fuel. Not only that, but fuel only accounts for about 12% of operating costs of the average airline. Everything else is fixed.

Suppose the airline wants to make the same amount of money as before.

mu=Cost per pound (unknown)
wbar=avg samoan weight (lbs)

Avg Fuel Cost per customer=mu*(wbar+500lbs)
Avg Total Cost per customer=mu*(wbar+500)/.12

Suppose this average cost is actually $300 a seat.

Thus the cost of someone with weight w should be


Suppose, that wbar=200lbs!

Cost=36*(w+500)/700=5cents per pound+290

Conclusion, charging by the pound is a bit silly unless the customer weighs around 1000pounds, in which case there should be a $50 surcharge but wouldn't fit in the seat anyway. If you weigh 400pounds and the airline makes you buy two seats, then the airline is definitely coming out ahead.


Well-Known Member
Jul 30, 2008
I got no problem with it, gotta own it.

If they would charge by the pound, look at it this way

3 seats, 3 people that are 150 lbs. 450 lbs

3 seats, two people sitting comfortably that weigh 300 each, 600 lbs.

If fiddypence didn't drop some logic on us I would say that the airline would rather cater to the 300 lb person over the 150 lb person.


Well-Known Member
Dec 1, 2010
I think the time is right for a plus-size airline to emerge and start catering to larger clientele. They would dominate the other airlines.

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