Samoa Air—which is sadly not an airplane made out of Girl Scout cookies and which is an airline with mini planes that appear to come pre-packaged in a box that you can order on Amazon—is beginning to charge its customers based on how much they weigh. As in, however many kilograms you bring on the plane—on your body and in your bags—you'll multiply that by whatever set per-kilogram rate the airline is charging at the time.
"People have always traveled on the basis of their seat but as many airline operators know airlines don't run on seats they run on weight and particularly the smaller the aircraft you are in the less variance you can accept in terms of the difference in weight between passengers," [Samoa Air Chief Executive Chris] Langton told ABC radio.
"There is no doubt in my mind that this is the concept of the future. We always weigh the mass that is on an aircraft. And that always has to pay for the transportation, it doesn't matter whether you are carrying freight or people. Anyone who travels at times has felt they have been paying for half of the passenger next to them. The standard width and pitch of the seat are changing as people are getting a bit bigger wider and taller than they were 40-50 years ago."
Under the pay by weight system passengers input their weight into the online booking section of the Samoa Air website and pay the "pay-per-kilo" rate for that sector.
The rates range from $1 a kilogram—for the weight of the traveler and their baggage—on the airline's shortest domestic route to about $4.16 per kilogram for travel from Samoa to American Samoa.
Based on Samoa's current rates, what would that cost the average American?
The average American woman weighs in at 166.2 pounds, or 75.5 kilograms, far from the ideal weight for her average height of 5 feet, 3.8 inches tall, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Her ticket on Samoa Air, at the $1 a kilogram rate, would cost $75.50.
But let’s be honest here. The average American woman is at least 20 to 40 pounds overweight—and it’s costing her an extra $20 to $40.
Now, you could presumably lie about your weight because you're just plugging it into a form on a ticketing site, but passengers are then weighed again at the airport—like: on a scale, possibly in public—to confirm the original transaction. (They're forgiving up to a two-percent difference, but they don't refund if you come to the airport with way less weight than originally planned. So, time your diet carefully or something.) Samoa Air is a tiny operation—their planes have no more than 10 seats—so they're probably as well-situated as any airline to make this work. Despite some academic support for the idea, American airlines will probably be flying people to Mars and letting dogs pilot intercontinental flights before they're able to implement something similar.