Weight is a crucial consideration when flying aircraft across any distance. Airlines especially play close attention to the total weight of their flights, including passengers and their luggage, to create a safe experience for everyone involved. Now, some airlines are asking customers to weigh themselves before they even get on the plane.
Back in 2017, Finnair became the only airline in the world to survey passengers’ weights, though it was more for data collection than for flight safety. “Airlines are required to update the average weight of passengers every five years to ensure the data used for flight planning and aircraft balance calculations is accurate,” the Finnish airline said in a statement to USA Today, adding the reassuring comfort “that participation is optional and all data collected is anonymous and will not be linked to customers’ personal profiles.” Two other global airlines, Korean Air and Air New Zealand, followed with weight recording programs of their own last year.
Finnair is once again surveying customers at the gate to determine the average weight of passengers and their luggage. If you’re worried about your information being released in a data hack, there’s no chance of it being linked to your name.
“We record the total weight and background information of the customer and their carry-on baggage, but we do not ask for the name or booking number,” Finnair head of ground processes Satu Munnukka explained. “Only the customer service agent working at the measuring point can see the total weight, so you can participate in the study with peace of mind.”
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Some, however, are concerned it could become compulsory for everyone in the future. One of those critics is model Hayley Hasselhoff, daughter of film and TV star David Hasselhoff, who shared in a Feb. 8 appearance on Good Morning Britain that the process could be harmful for passengers with eating disorders, for example.
“I have actually had friends go to airlines and not know that there was a disclaimer that they were going to be weighed. That’s triggering,” she said. “So to go to an airline and [when] you’re checking in and you’re going to have to be weighed, even though it’s not public knowledge, the public knowledge of it just being in a vulnerable state and having to put your weight out there, that’s a lot.”
“I know this is voluntary so it’s a different situation, but it leads to something else,” she acknowledged.
TV host Neev Spencer countered Hasselhoff’s argument, believing that the weight policy is simply just part of doing business as an airline. “I think it is about operational efficiency,” she said. “Weighing yourself, whether you’re underweight or overweight, can be a good thing.”
Finnair, for its part, confirmed that the data collected will remain private as the survey continues until May. “We will need data for both winter season and for summer season—in winter season people typically have heavier clothing, which impacts weights,” Finnair spokeswoman Päivyt Tallqvist told The Associated Press. Those flyers boarding European and long-haul flights won’t be “penalized for their weight,” Tallqvist said, adding that “the numbers are kept discreet, away from prying eyes.”
For now, most customers’ biggest weight concern will probably be with their bags and not their bodies.