Expanding new horizons! Finnair begins controversial passenger weigh-in before flights amid ‘obesity shaming’ accusations
- Finnair has started weighing passengers before take-off
- The airline says it will help with flight data, which will improve safety
- But critics say the measure amounts to fat-shaming
A Finnish airline has begun its controversial plan to weigh passengers before they board, in a move that has been heavily criticized as fat-shaming.
European carrier Finnair has started its voluntary program for weighing passengers at departure gates at Helsinki Airport, which it says will allow airlines to better calculate weight estimates for aircraft before they take off.
The first passengers were seen standing on a scale at the airport, next to a large sign reading: “Voluntary customer weight survey.”
Finnair says the chart is essential to understanding how much weight a place carries on a given flight, which can fluctuate significantly depending on where you are in the world and what time of year the flight takes place.
A MailOnline spokesperson previously said the scheme would obtain “accurate aircraft performance data and balance calculations” “needed for the safe operation of flights” – rather than relying on European standard weights.
One communications director previously said that Finnish people, for example, tend to wear heavier clothing in the colder months.
“This is part of having a very strong safety culture in our organization,” they said.
“We want to see whether the data we use in the calculations is accurate. We use it on every flight, and it is important for the aircraft’s performance.
“When you explain it (to passengers), they understand.”
Engineers have backed the long-awaited move, saying airlines need to be armed with the latest data in order to increase safety on flights.
A former US Air Force engineer told MailOnline: Airline estimates of weight and weight distribution on aircraft are very important to flight safety. The weights are assumed based on (averages) from decades ago.
“The bottom line is that people are much larger and heavier than they were decades ago.”
He said crowded planes were “flying blind” without updated information, which he warned was “extremely dangerous.”
But frequent flyers warn the policies should not go too far, arguing that weighing passengers for safety reasons could be “offensive” to some who may become “particularly vulnerable to discrimination”.
Speaking to MailOnline today, travel and consumer rights journalist Laura Sanders said: ‘Relying on averages could become less accurate as planes are packed to the rafters and we could see more cases of passengers being asked to deplane to reduce weight.’
“Weighing passengers and their baggage before each flight to manage weight distribution at an individual level rather than relying on averages is sensible, but if you are weighed at the gate, it is already too late and it will cause significant inconvenience if you are asked not to do so.” To fly to avoid tipping the scales (not to mention embarrassment).
“This could leave overweight people and solo travelers particularly vulnerable to discrimination because they are the easiest to remove (families and friends will want to stay together).”
She suggested that airlines considering the weight of passengers could instead require them to enter their weight at the time of booking a flight to support safety guidance without subjecting travelers to humiliation.
Finnair told MailOnline that the decision to weigh the volunteers came in 2017 when they chose to use their own indicative scales rather than rely on the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) standard weights.
These estimates put the average weight of a male at 88 kg and the average weight of a female at 70 kg.
Finnair’s current standard weights, based on its own tests, find that men weigh, on average, 96kg while women weigh 76kg. Note that this varies depending on the season and route.
So far, more than 800 people have voluntarily weighed themselves, the company said, adding that it was “positively surprised by the number of volunteers.”
Finnair is not the first airline to take the initiative and measure the weight of passengers themselves.
In August last year, Korea’s largest airline, Korean Air, announced that it would begin weighing passengers at Gimpo Airport on domestic flights and Incheon Airport on international flights for a short period until September.
The company said that this step aims to reduce wasted fuel and help estimate the weight of the aircraft more accurately.
It’s not clear if any other airlines have similar plans to bring their passengers’ weights back.