Long lines, lost baggage and lengthy delays — common features of air travel these days. Now passengers in some places are being asked to step on the scales before boarding to help airlines calibrate their weight loads. It’s to do with safety.
Air New Zealand Ltd. is the latest to ask travelers to be weighed before flying, carrying out a survey in Auckland through June. The carrier plans to ask more than 10,000 customers boarding international flights to take part, saying the data will help it calculate the “weight and balance of the loaded aircraft.”
“Civil aviation rules are all about keeping passengers and aviation operators safe, and determining the weight of everything that goes on an aeroplane is an essential step to ensuring it reaches its destination safely,” New Zealand aviation authority spokesperson Aly Thompson said in an email. Air New Zealand did the same thing for domestic flights in 2021.
The US Federal Aviation Administration and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency also require airlines under their jurisdiction to conduct periodic weight surveys, along with assessing hand baggage and checked luggage.
As part of an EASA survey published in 2022, Lufthansa Consulting collected the weight of more than 4,000 passengers to update aircraft mass and balance calculations. EASA said it would repeat the process in 2026 to see how recent factors such as the shift to remote working, war in Ukraine and potential long-term effects of Covid-19 have impacted people’s weight.
A global rise in obesity doesn’t appear to be slowing down. The World Obesity Atlas 2023 reported in March that over half of people over the age of 5 will be obese or overweight by 2035, an increase from 38% in 2020. For airlines, a broad increase in passenger weights could affect anything from the size of seats to how far a full aircraft can fly.
Inaccurate weight data has led to some airlines grounding aircraft and can even prompt aviation agencies to fine carriers over faulty results.
The FAA allows airlines to either weigh passengers on scales before boarding or ask a person their weight and add at least 10 pounds for clothing, according to a 2019 advisory circular from the agency.
Air New Zealand has pledged that passengers who take part in its survey will remain anonymous. The carrier weighs everything loaded onto the plane, from meals to luggage, so pilots can prepare for flight.