Too heavy to board? Another airline asking passengers to step on scales

While the average traveler will not come across this information during their experience with the airline, every plane is subject to very strict weight requirements that it needs to meet before being allowed in the air.

This concerns first of all the engineers who design planes but plane operators also need to ensure that the weight of the passengers, baggage and cargo going into the aircraft falls within the permitted amount. It’s something that airlines will generally overestimate in order to not come close to the limit even if, in recent years, there has been a push to get more accurate data around how much passengers weigh.

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Last May, Air New Zealand  (ANZFF)  received a lot of publicity for an experiment in which it asked passengers to weight themselves before checking in for an international flight at Auckland Airport.

A Finnair plane is captured right before takeoff.

This is where and when passengers can expect to be weighed

Passengers were allowed to refuse and the data was not visible to either the check-in agent or the passengers themselves but fed into an anonymized pool meant to inform the airline of the overall weight trends of those coming into the plane with all their belongings — a way to calculate and account for those who take weight out of their main suitcase to a carry-on at the last minute.

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A few months later, Korean Air ran a similar experiment for those traveling domestically out of Seoul’s Gimpo and Incheon airports. The practice evidently provides airlines with much useful data because, for the next three months, Finland’s flagship carrier Finnair  (FNNNF) will also be asking passengers to step on scales at check-in.

The airline ran similar experiments in 2017 and 2018 but is the first European airline to commit to do this type of weigh-in starting in the months of February, March and April.

Finnair says ‘a good number of volunteers wanted to participate’

“We use the weighing data for the average calculations required for the safe operation of flights, and the collected data is not linked in any way to the customer’s personal data,” Satu Munnukka, who heads ground processes for Finnair, said in a statement. “In the previous measurements five years ago, a good number of volunteers wanted to participate in the weighing, and we hope to have a good sample of volunteers, both business and leisure travelers, also this time, so that we can get the most accurate information possible for important balance calculations.”

Finnair will be doing these weigh-ins during the check-in process for those leaving Helsinki Airport on several short flights within the European Union as well a few longer ones across the ocean.

Munnukka clarified that the data is gathered solely to inform the airline on how to plan for future flights and which aircraft to invest in while “no information is collected that would allow participants to be identified.” 

The data will also be sent to the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency as part of compliance processes. Last year, Korean Air ran similar tests to meet audit requirements from the country’s transportation ministry.

As more airlines run such tests, the initial outcry over “being asked to step on a scale” has largely died down as fewer travelers are surprised to encounter this type of request at the airport.

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