A Finnish airline has begun its controversial plan of weighing passengers before they take flight, in a move that has been harshly criticised as being fat-shaming.
European carrier Finnair began its voluntary programme of weighing passengers at the departure gates at Helsinki Airport, which it says will allow airlines to better calculate weight estimates for planes before they take off.
The first passengers were seen standing on scales at the airport, next to a large sign that reads: ‘Voluntary Customer Weight Survey.’
Finnair says that the scheme is necessary to understand the weight being carried by a place on a given trip, which can massively fluctuate depending on where in the world you are, and what time of year the flight is taking place.
A spokesperson previously told MailOnline the scheme would get ‘accurate data for aircraft performance and balance calculations’ that are ‘needed for the safe operation of flights’ – instead of relying on European standard weights.
The first passengers were seen being weighed as part of the voluntary programme
The airline says over 800 people have so far agreed to be weighed
Finnair says the move will help provide better data for flights, which will improve safety
A comms director previously said that Finnish people, for instance, tend to wear heavier items of clothing in colder months.
‘This is part of having a very strong safety culture in our organization,’ they said.
‘We want to see if the data we’re using for calculations is accurate. We use them for every flight, and they’re important for the aircraft’s performance.
‘When you explain this to [passengers], they understand.’
And engineers have backed the ‘long overdue’ move, saying that airlines need to be armed with the most up to date data in order to increase safety on flights.
Finnair insist the measures are to get better averages that they can use for safer flying
A Finnish airline made headlines over a week-long policy that involved weighing passengers
A former USAF engineer told MailOnline: ‘Airlines estimates of weight and weight distribution on aircraft are very important to flight safety. Weights are assumed based on [averages] from decades ago.
‘The bottom line is that people are much larger and heavier than they were decades ago.’
He said overloaded planes are ‘flying blind’ without up-to-date information, which he warned was ‘extremely dangerous’.
But frequent flyers warn the policies must not overstep their limits, arguing that weighing passengers for safety reasons could be ‘humiliating’ for some who could be left ‘particularly vulnerable to discrimination’.
Speaking to MailOnline today, travel and consumer rights journalist Laura Sanders said: ‘Relying on averages could become less accurate as aircrafts are packed to the rafters and we could see more instances where passengers are asked to get off the plane to reduce weight.
‘Weighing passengers and their luggage before each flight to manage weight distribution on an individual level instead of relying on averages is sensible, but if you’re being weighed at the gate, it’s already too late and a huge inconvenience if you’re asked not to fly to avoid tipping the scales (not to mention embarrassing).
‘This could leave overweight people and solo travellers particularly vulnerable to discrimination as they’re the easiest to remove (families and friends will want to stay together).’
She suggested airlines considering weighing passengers could instead request they input their weight at the time of booking the flight to support safety directives without exposing travellers to humiliation.
Finnair told MailOnline the decision to weigh volunteers came about in 2017 when they chose to use their own guide measures instead of relying on the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA)’s standard weights.
These estimate the average male weighs 88kg and the average female 70kg.
Finnair’s current standard weights, based on their own testing, finds that men weigh, on average, 96kg while women weigh 76kg. They note this varies depending on the season and by route.
So far, the company said, more than 800 people have voluntarily weighed themselves, adding that it was ‘positively surprised by the number of volunteers.’
Finnair are not the first airline to take the initiative and measure the weight of passengers themselves.
In August last year, Korea’s largest airline, Korean Air, announced it would start weighing passengers at Gimpo Airport on domestic routes and Incheon Airport on international flights for a short period through September.
The company said the move was aimed at reducing wasted fuel and helping more accurately estimate the weight of the plane.
It is unclear if any other airlines have similar plans to bring in weigh-ins for their passengers.