Business law

Should airlines weigh passengers? Airlines say it’s for safety

Specialists say airlines weigh passengers for safety, but fuel efficiency may be the biggest culprit.

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Starting Monday, Korean Air passengers may be required to stand on a scale before boarding their flight.

A Korean Air representative told CNBC that the training, which will last about three weeks, is required by law and applies to all Korean airlines.

The representative told CNBC that the law requires airlines to weigh passengers and their carry-on baggage at least every five years, which is “critical to the safety of flight operations.”

This advertisement has been met backlash from the public, according to local media.

Detailed notice of the exercise – scheduled to begin at Gimpo International Airport on Monday, followed by Incheon Airport next month – it has been removed from the airline’s website, due to “adequate notice and media coverage,” according to the airline.

“Absolutely not,” said Vance Heldermann, CEO of aviation safety firm Avuzion.

Said at least not for the purpose of safety.

“If you’re on a small Bombardier jet, or an Embraer small jet, and we have 10 obese people, it might make a small difference,” he said. “On commercial aircraft, anything from a 737 and up, you know, 120 people, we’ve installed.”

Flight programs can adapt to changes in weight, air density and other factors, which is why safety is not compromised even in situations where the passenger composition is unusual, such as an early morning flight and mostly businessmen, who tend to weigh more than the average passenger. , He said.

In general, Heldermann said, the significant increase in weight per passenger will be outweighed by the weight of fuel, cargo and the aircraft itself. “The fuel is 20 times more than the weight of the passenger,” he said.

Instead of focusing on the weight of passengers, it is important to adjust for additional cargo and the number of passengers on board, said Vance Heldermann, CEO of Afuzion.

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But Shem Malmquist, an instructor at Florida Tech University’s College of Aviation, said random weight samples are a good idea.

“We use average passenger weights, but people weigh much more,” he said. “Three hundred people overweight can put significantly more weight on an aircraft, and all of our performance calculations – runway length, climb, obstacle clearance, landing distances, altitude capabilities – are all based on weight, among other things.”

Heldermann agrees that people are getting bigger, but he said commuters are now different in other ways, too.

“The Americans are getting heavier. So are the Chinese, and so are the Koreans,” he said. “But we’re also traveling at a younger age…so that actually makes up for the weight gain of the average person.”

Study published in 2019 It found in the Journal of Transportation and Health that areas with a high prevalence of obesity “may begin to see safety margins significantly compromised if increasing weight trends continue.”

Jose Silva, an associate professor in the Australian RMIT University School of Engineering and one of the study’s authors, told CNBC he believes airlines are reluctant to weigh passengers because of the sensitive nature of the subject.

“There is also a lack of understanding of the safety gains that could be obtained if there were more accurate means of ascertaining the weight of passengers rather than relying on standards,” he added.

a The whistleblower complaint was filed in 2021 It alleges that the US Federal Aviation Administration failed to recognize the safety issues caused by relying on average passenger or baggage weights that no longer reflect the US population.

Air New Zealand It added that passengers were weighed in June for safety and fuel efficiency reasons.

Veneer It did the same thing in 2017, and Hawaiian Airlines ran several weight exercises for passengers on flights Between Honolulu and American Samoa. (The now defunct Samoa Air used to Cargo passengers according to their weightAccording to Reuters).

It is likely that weather forecasts are not weighed in the United States, Heldermann said, although there are Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Advisory Circular. Published in 2019 stated that airlines can weigh passengers.

But it’s different in Europe, where airlines follow the regulations of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Heldermann said US airlines follow regulations set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, which do not require passengers to be weighed.

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The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) weighed nearly 23,000 passengers in 2008 and 2009 and found that the average passenger weighed 3 to 5 kilograms (6.6 to 11 lb). A subsequent report published in 2022 found that It means a slight increase in passenger weight Since 2009, an average of 82 kg (181 lb) for men and 68 kg (149 lb) for women.

Heldermann said periodic assessments of the weight of passengers and other items on board can help airlines determine whether weight estimates are still accurate to compensate for the amount of cargo they are carrying.

“But there is more to this puzzle,” he added.

“In Europe, they are much stricter on individual rights in terms of privacy,” he said. “With EASA, they want to protect passengers and say, ‘Look, passengers are getting bigger,’ so we want airlines to provide the minimum distance between your seats.”

Commercial airline seats are based on average passenger weight from the 50s to 70s, Heldermann said. Since then, the number of people has gotten bigger, but the seating spaces have diminished, he said, “29 inches in some cases, it’s absolutely ridiculous.”

The size of passengers on planes is a controversial topic – with flyers oversized Submit allegations of discrimination Over Lilliputian aisles and seat sizes, young passengers Public reprieve for infringement of seats.

But unlike other industries serving heavyweights – from chair makers to toilets to… Fun park tours – The airline industry has not expanded seats.

“Some have suggested that obese passengers be asked to pay for two seats so they don’t make other passengers uncomfortable, but this allows airlines to evade any responsibility,” said Nick Gosling, consumer services business consultant and managing director of Romy Group LLC.

Gosling noted that while other industries have been pressured to prioritize customer experience, “consumers don’t have very much choice to take their business elsewhere” when it comes to airlines.

Tigress Osborne, executive director of the National Association to Promote Fat Acceptance, told CNBC that most major airlines have responded with three options for overweight travelers: pay for higher-priced tickets that come with larger seats, buy a second seat, or stay home.

“Obese people deserve to travel for pleasure just as much as anyone else, and we also have to remember that air travel is for work, family obligations and other responsibilities as well,” she said. “Our taxes help support the industry, and we deserve to be accommodated safely and comfortably, with accessible seating at all price levels.”

Heldermann said airlines can sell second seats to plus-size passengers at a deeply discounted rate.

As more people have grown, airline seats have gotten smaller, leading to frequent complaints from air travelers of all sizes.

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He added that they or they can reserve six seats for larger people, which passengers can register for privately online, using height and weight details from their driver’s licences.

He added that these seats can be sold for a small additional cost, and if eligible passengers do not reserve them in the week prior to the flight, they will be given to anyone willing to pay for them.

As to whether airlines will increase seat sizes for everyone, Heldermann said that while it is computationally feasible, it is not practical.

“The fuselage diameters have been predetermined,” he said, referring to the main body of the plane. “We currently have 29,000 commercial aircraft, and we only make about 1,500 a year, so it would take 20 years to replace the entire fleet.”

He added that refitting planes with wider seats means narrowing the aisle, which is already a lot of pressure. To widen the aisle, he said, one seat would have to be removed from each row, leading to a 20-25% increase in ticket prices across the board.

“Most people don’t look at the type of plane they’re flying, and they have no idea how big or wide the seat is,” Heldermann said. “They simply buy at the price – and the airlines know that.”

Most travelers are willing to put up with current seat sizes for lower fares, Arnold Barnett, professor of management science and statistics at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, told CNBC.

If seats are changed, “airfare prices will go up, and air travel will become unaffordable for passengers on a tight budget.”

For many, he said, a cramped airline seat is better than a seat on a bus.


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