RFT 501: Airline Passenger Weights

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By George Nolly and Captain George Nolly. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

In a measure that will likely irk flyers, airlines could soon require plus-sized passengers to step on the scale — or provide their weight — before boarding the aircraft.

The initiative, which was outlined in a recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) advisory, strives to provide new data on average passenger weights as the current numbers reportedly don’t reflect today’s sky-high obesity rates in the US. In turn, this would help ensure aircrafts, especially the small ones, don’t exceed their allowable weight limit, View From the Wing reported.

To put it plane-ly, the FAA wants to gauge how much fatter Americans have gotten, to prevent things from coming apart when planes take to the skies.

The new mandates, which were reviewed by airline industry publication AirInsight Group, would require airlines to take surveys to establish “standard average passenger weights” for crew members, baggage and passengers via random selection, Fox reported.

Once they’ve chosen a traveler, an operator may “determine the actual weight of passengers” by having them step “on a scale before boarding the aircraft,” per the guidelines transcribed by AirInsight.

If that’s not an option, they’re urged to ask each passenger their weight, while making sure to add 10 pounds to account for clothing.

They even have a contingency plan for when operators suspect flyers are miscalculating their heft. In that case, crew members should “make a reasonable estimate about the passenger’s actual weight and add 10 pounds,” per the document.

Naturally, weighing people like luggage may seem a bit obtuse, which is why the FAA also provided guidelines on conducting the procedure in a way that protects passenger privacy.

They stipulate that the scale readout should remain hidden from public view” while “an operator should ensure that any passenger weight data collected remains confidential.” Chalk one up for bedside manner.

Thankfully, travelers have the option of declining “to participate in any passenger or bag weight survey,” per the guidelines.

In order to update guidelines on “standard passenger weight,” airlines will have to up the weight of an average adult male passenger and carry-on bag to 190 pounds in the summer and 195 pounds in the winter — a 20-pound increase from the current guidelines, Fox reported. Meanwhile, female passengers and carry-on bags will increase from 145 pounds to 179 pounds in the summer, and 150 pounds to 184 pounds in the winter.

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