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Samoa Air's 'Pay-Per-Kilo' System Is Degrading

Hallie Roth |
April 5, 2013 | 9:56 a.m. PDT


Samoa Air operates with a Britten-Norman BN2A aircraft similar in size to the one pictured here. (Ad Meskens, Creative Commons)
Samoa Air operates with a Britten-Norman BN2A aircraft similar in size to the one pictured here. (Ad Meskens, Creative Commons)
A typical grocery shopping agenda includes standing in line, weighing your items and making a payment depending on how heavy your produce is. This paying-by-the-pound routine seems typical, but imagine weighing yourself instead.

In recent news, a small regional airline in the South Pacific, Samoa Air, has decided to charge passengers a ticket price based on how much they weigh. Yes, you read this correctly. Heavier passengers will bear a more expensive fee to travel in the same manner as a thinner passenger. A customer can’t even lie about his or her weight, because the airline plans to weigh the person along with their luggage at the terminal.

Not only is this system strange and far-fetched, but it is also completely dehumanizing. How can a company put a price on human life? This question may seem slightly more philosophical than the issue at hand, but think about how demeaning it is to discriminate against passengers based on weight. A heavier person is enjoying the same experience as a thinner person and both are going to the same location. They deserve to be treated equally. Targeting a person because of their biological make-up is a complete violation of human rights. I do understand the idea that a heavier person can purchase two seats on an airline. If he or she physically cannot fit into a seat, that is a different issue. But, if two people of different weights can fit into the same sized seat, they should be charged the same price.

Samoa Air carries very small planes, and the CEO stated that he is concerned about “the optimal weight of passengers and luggage.” But if weight was always such a concern for a small plane, why is the airline only now implementing this policy? And if weight were the only issue, the CEO would not suggest charging a passenger more because of it. Charging per kilo does nothing to alter the amount of weight entering the plane. The CEO's explanation seems to be a façade. The airline is simply profiting at the cost of morality.

I can understand why an airline would be concerned about the proper luggage weight. There has to be some limit as to how much a passenger can bring, because there is only so much weight allowance on a plane. If small Samoa Air planes are so concerned about on-board weight, they should consider changing the luggage weight requirements. If the airline’s maximum luggage weight per person is rather small, the airline should not face any concerns. As long as there is a ratio between plane size and luggage weight limit, no airline should have an issue.

People may support this pay-per-kilo model because it seems like a good way to curb obesity. And, maybe it is. However, there are ways to promote healthy eating that do not involve emotional torment and do not violate equal rights. This system is just as “arbitrary and capricious” as Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal for a ban on sugary drinks in New York City. While it may seem like a great way to curb unhealthy food purchases, the government and corporations cannot dictate how we personally control our bodies. Promoting healthy eating through lessons and helpful information is valid and important, but ultimately how we choose to eat is our prerogative.

If other airlines care at all about their customers, they will not reproduce this system. It is irrational and utterly degrading. At this rate, where do we draw the line? Maybe our favorite movie theater will charge a higher ticket price for the customer that orders buttered popcorn over low-fat popcorn.


Reach Contributor Hallie Roth here



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