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This Airline Is Asking Passengers to Do Something That Many of Us Would Never Want to Do



Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

So there you are at check-in. 

“Put your bag on the scales,” says the nice airline agent. 

You comply. 

“Now, get on the scales yourself,” he says. 

“Excuse me?”

“Please get on the scales.”

I fear not everyone will feel joyous about being weighed before takeoff.

Many of us can feel a touch sensitive about our spare tires and the spare tires we keep beneath those spare tires, just in case the first spare tire goes a little flat.

Yet passengers on Finnair are undergoing this distinctively dubious pleasure at check-in right now.

What’s going on? Does the airline fear that people are getting larger and its planes may not cope?

This certainly seemed the impression when Hawaiian Airlines did it on one specific route between American Samoa and Honolulu. That ended up in a lawsuit.

I contacted Finnair to ask what was weighing on its mind. 

The airline told me that gosh, no, this is nothing to do with obesity. Instead, it’s just about data.

“We have a strong safety culture at Finnair, and we are also very data driven organization, so we want to ensure we have the best possible data in use in aircraft performance and loading calculations,” an airline spokesman told me.

Safety? So the airline is worried that overloaded planes will fall out of the sky?

The spokesman explained that airlines tend to use the standard weights provided by the European Aviation Safety Agency. But those are from 2009 and suggest that the average male weighs 88 kg (around 194 lbs) and the average female weighs 70 kg (around 154 lbs).

We may have all eaten a lot more since then.

Finnair told me that it wanted its own very specific data.

“For example corporate travelers have often different amounts of carry-on baggage than leisure travelers, and there are differences in weights of males and females,” the spokesman said, delicately.

Oh, don’t all travelers just drag on as much as they can get away with? Or are business travelers just the worst?

Finnair told me that it expects to weigh around 2,000 passengers — all volunteers, naturally. 

“It was great to see that so many people wanted to be a part of this study,” the airline told me.

Well, perhaps now almost everyone is worried that planes will fall out of the sky too. And they don’t want it to be their fault for having enjoyed an extra slice of almond cake and two more glasses of Schnapps.

“Only the customer service agent sees the weighing result,” the airline said.

But of course. 

There wouldn’t be any question of, say, one customer service agent turning to another after weighing an especially rotund passenger and muttering: “Goodness, look at how much that bloke weighs.”

My natural sense of human justice — and how data is progressively destroying it — is also discombobulated by a further fear: I wonder what happened to those that declined to mount the scales.

Did they all get middle seats?

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