Officials say it's for safety reasons because weight has to be taken into consideration, particularly on smaller aircraft. It can also be crucial on large ones. I was once flying from Karachi to Heathrow, with stops in Jeddah and Frankfurt. The Boeing was so sparsely populated there was only me, three or four other people and a cabaret band in the tail section. No, they were not the in-flight entertainment.
The bass player in the band was an extremely large young gentleman who could have tucked his instrument beneath his chin and used it as a fiddle. He was asked to sit alone in the middle of the back row for landing and take-off to provide ballast.
Whether this was a genuine concern, or cabin staff having fun on a long and boring flight, I don't know, but the chap was extremely obliging.
Anyone who has flown budget airlines knows weight matters. I have flown Ryanair to Ireland on a 737 with only a dozen passengers. To maintain balance, the first six or seven rows of seats were out of bound. Presumably, if everyone had crowded to the front, we would have struggled to take off and landing could have been a nosedive into the runway.
Please move further down the bus makes sense.
Check any airline queue in departure and you will see a vast difference in passenger size. I am a modest five foot six and weigh 10 stone. Is it fair I pay the same as a chap who is 27 stone whose expansive waistline is likely to spread over two seats, and possibly me, if I'm located next to him?
I wouldn't mind taking a weight test but I can see that this would not be universally welcomed if everyone in line was asked to step onto a talking weight machine at the boarding gate. They could place it next to the cage of ignominy: the device designed to ensure your hand luggage does not exceed size limits.
Budget airlines have taken this to extremes although I am in favour of imposing some kind of size limit. Too often on long hauls, I've watched in amazement as passengers climb aboard, with backpacks big enough for kitchen sinks or small families, who then take up all available locker space.
But weighing machines?
“I'm sorry, sir. You're five stone overweight for your body height. You'll have to pay £140 extra or travel in the hold in a luggage net.”
One airline that already charges passengers according to their weight is Samoa Air that uses small aircraft for island hopping in the Pacific. A year after this was introduced, 95% of the population was declared to be overweight.
I can't wait for such a system to be introduced in America, the land of the free and obese. A country whose citizens take air travel for granted, like catching a bus. I wouldn't be surprised if freedom to fly wasn't included in the Declaration of Independence. Any airline that attempts to impose weight restrictions in the US could be in for a fight.
Who knows? Maybe airlines will have to do the unthinkable and actually widen the seats and provide more personal space? Now that would be a novelty.
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