Home Airlines Are Airlines Really Going To Weigh Passengers? FAA Says Probably Not

Are Airlines Really Going To Weigh Passengers? FAA Says Probably Not

by SharonKurheg

A couple of days ago, several news outlets and travel bloggers began reporting that U.S. airlines might begin weighing passengers before they board flights to ensure planes maintain a safe weight in the sky.

Airlines do all sorts of crazy things to decrease weight on planes (Here are a bunch of them. Some are really creative!), but that’s usually in the name of using less fuel, which will be less costly. The reason behind the possibility of weighing passengers was that obesity rates are trending upwards. With that, the average weight of Americans is higher enough than it used to be that the FAA suggested there was a higher risk of error between passengers’ actual weight and the averages that were on file. That put the weights & balances system that airlines currently use into jeopardy. And that could be unsafe.

As per AirInsight, an airline media organization:

Airlines are in the business of making money from payloads.  To date, payloads have been fudged and averaged.  Even if people have grown larger/heavier, passengers have managed to squeeze into seats and put up with growing discomfort.  Airlines made lots of money. But payloads are going to be more defined, down to a personal level. The weight issue is going out of balance, to twist the meaning of W&B.  We have something coming that has not been seen before.  The past averages are too imprecise for the FAA and they want tighter W&B numbers.

So in 2019, the FAA sent an advisory to airlines with instructions for how they (the airlines) could update their Weight & Balance control programs for their planes. Their final action, whatever that will be, should be coming up soon.

But will it require passengers to be weighed? According to Fast Company, a U.S.-based business magazine that focuses on technology, business and design, “probably not.”

An FAA spokesperson said weighing individual passengers was merely an option, not a mandate. “The FAA issued an Advisory Circular in May 2019 that stressed the importance that airline weight and balance programs accurately reflect current passenger weights,” the agency told Fast Company. “Operators are evaluating their programs to comply with this guidance. While weighing customers at the gate is an option, most operators will likely rely on updated methods for estimating passenger weights.”

Fast Company reached out to the three legacy airlines to get their input on their plans.

  • Delta referred them to the FAA’s statement.
  • United referred them to Airlines to America (the industry’s trade association), which, in turn, had no comment.
  • American was the only one to reply and they suggested that not much would change. “As we do today, American expects to continue using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data to determine accurate standard average passenger weights. We’ll continue to evaluate average passenger weights for each flight we operate and adjust as needed.”

So although airlines COULD ask passengers to get weighed before boarding, all signs point to that chances are good that they won’t.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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