In “truth is stranger than fiction” travel news, various news outlets are reporting that the airlines are considering weighing passengers before their flights.

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travelers in line at airport with baggage

The initiative came about because the current “average passenger weights” are believed to be very out of date.

The average weight of Americans has been rising for many years, and the current numbers are based on outdated information. The Federal Aviation Administration recently issued an advisory where this potential policy change was outlined.

Why is average passenger weight important for airlines?

To make a long story short – the issue is safety. The airlines use this “average passenger weight” to calculate the allowable weights for passengers plus their luggage in order to keep things safe in the air.

How would this impact you?

In the advisory, airlines would be tasked with surveying a random selection of their flight crews and passengers by “random selection.”

The airline would pull random people at boarding to be weighed. If a weigh-in isn’t possible, the passenger will be asked to estimate their own weight and add 10 pounds to account for clothing. If the airline rep has reason to think that a person might be underestimating their own weight – there’s a contingency for that as well. Airline reps would be given latitude to add an additional 10 pounds to the estimation at their discretion.

If this sounds a little intrusive, we get it! And the FAA gets it too. They issued additional guidance for privacy protection including the fact that the scale used must not be visible to others, and that any information gathered must be kept private as well.

image of air travelers in line for checkin

Is this a mandatory requirement?

Still not convinced? At least as of this publication date, the whole plan is volunteers only. So, theoretically if you don’t like the idea, when you are asked to provide this information you will be permitted to decline participation.

All of which begs the question – if it’s optional – how can the airlines hope to get accurate data for their destinations? It seems like a big ask to assume people will be willing to share this personal information, and many people might be offended at the question.

The other option airlines may have at their disposal is to avoid this potential P.R. nightmare altogether and simply estimate weights of passengers based on current demographics.

We’d love to hear what you think about these potential changes? Would you feel comfortable stepping on a scale before a flight if an airline staffer asked you to weigh in? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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