Samoa Air becomes first airline to implement “pay as you weigh” system


April 2, 2013

Samoa Air has become the first airline in the world to charge passengers based on weight

Samoa Air has become the first airline in the world to charge passengers based on weight

Thrifty Samoans looking to take a trip may want to shed a few pounds before booking a flight with Samoan Air after the airline announced the implementation of a “pay as you weigh” system. Unlike some other airlines that have courted controversy by forcing some obese passengers to purchase two seats, Samoa’s national carrier will charge passengers based on their weight.

Samoa has the dubious honor of being one of the fattest countries in the world. It consistently ranks in the top ten fattest countries in the world with over 80 percent of persons aged 15 and over considered overweight. Samoa Air’s fleet of Britten Norman (BN2A) Islanders that carry nine passengers, and a four-seater Cessna 172 are likely to be particularly sensitive to the extra burden of such passengers.

Established in 2012, Samoa Air flies routes between Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Niue, the North Cook Islands, and French Polynesia, with pay as you weigh rates starting at $1 Samoan Tala (US$0.44) per kilogram (2.2 lb) including baggage, with rates increasing for longer distance flights. Passengers “guesstimate” their total weight (with baggage) when booking online, but are weighed at the airport and pay for only that amount.

While the move has attracted headlines, Samoa Air’s chief executive, Chris Langton, believes the “pay as you weigh” system is fairer for all passengers and could have the added benefit of promoting health and obesity awareness.

A demo fare calculator can be found here.

Source: Samoa Air via The Sydney Morning Herald

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

excellent. I've wanted to see something like this for years. Sucks to pay excess baggage when you're 10kg over on your suitcase, and the guy behind you in the queue weighs 80kg more than you.


A rebrand to Thin Air in the wings?

Russ Pinney

Fair enough! However, have those in mind who can't do anything about their weight. We should watch out not to punish people for having a bad gene or a disease.

Nolley Martis

Re post above. Having spent 30 years as a Health Therapist and Personal Trainer, and helped thousands of obese people improve their quality of life, I can honestly tell you that 99% of people who are clinically overweight choose this situation and if sufficiently motivated, can change their lifestyles. Diets do NOT work. They do more harm than good.

Daniel Posner

Inspired!! We are all biological machines at the end of the day energy in = energy out Lets hope this encourages us all to think about what we take aboard airlines. who wants to take spare tires on a plane anyway!


This isn't an 'airline'. It flies three prop/piston aircraft, and has a "big boy" plane on order for next year. The carrying capacity of those aircraft on a hot day (and every day is hot in Samoa) is very little, and they pretty much have to charge by weight. Remember, in the early days of aviation when all aircraft were piston propeller the accepted thing was to charge by weight. When the jet age came along the thrust was so great, and the capacity of the planes so great, that space was the premium, rather than weight, and that still applies. Rather than moan about weight, why don't the naysayers talk about bigger and smaller seats? If you had smaller seats the carrier could fit more people onto the plane. This discussion is absurd anyway.


This will really suck for people who are tall but not "overweight". It's bad enough that I already can't fit in coach without jamming my knees into folding tray in front of me and the headrest hits me in the shoulder blades. It seems like most airline seats are designed for someone 5'8" and 140lbs. That's not even average height/weight for an American male.


Bottom line, passengers are freight, and most freight is charged by weight. In large commercial jets the weight variance between passengers (luggage included) is easier to tolerate. In smaller planes the danger of stalling is very real if weight is ignored. If a person's motto is "Don't eat until you're full, eat until you are tired", then eventually they gotta pay them dues.

Bruce H. Anderson

Assuming weight = your weight + luggage this would be something difficult to determine when you buy your tickets in advance but even as someone who is over 200 lbs I don't think I would care really.

I am curious what the cost difference for fuel is for ~50-80 lbs though.


That's a great idea. Makes it fairer for everybody

Bradley Irwin

When you consider the average size and shape (and therefore weight) of a Samoan - why else do they seem to gravitate to the jobs of security or disco bouncers - the idea should end up making them money.

The Skud

Mass is only one factor for passengers and other cargo. Volume also matters. Any passenger will require a minimum volume (seat) after that there may be additional volume/mass requirements.

Since seating/space is not only limited in total volume, but limited in duration (perishable--which is why standby is cheap.) And many others affect the cost and pricing.

It's possible to buy two tickets minutes apart but next to each other on the same flight and pay prices which differ by an order of magnitude...a major irritation when passengers compare their ticket costs.

You get discounts on either end of the perishable spectrum--by purchasing days in advance or by buying last minute available seats you can get cheaper seats than buy buying in the intermediate zone...of course stand-by risks a delay to another flight.

Trying to find the lowest cost travel options is a nightmare only slightly assisted by computerized searches.

Like buying things on Amazon or other 'instant update price' retailers, comparison shopping can be impossible as the price of your item can vary constantly until the actual purchase is recorded...finding a better price may result in you actually loosing the best price you find.

But such dynamic pricing is not going away as automated systems permit real-time analysis and updating of prices...a sudden change in sales volume may easily result in an equally sudden change in pricing....

Not that this is particularily novel except in the speed. Manufacturers have any number of product which are sold by one unit but the raw materials are purchased by another. Things like paper & sheet metal are purchased by the manufacturer by mass, but sold to the consumers by area...

Charles Barnard

so someone 6'2" should weight the same as someone 5'2" ?

David Wallace

so remember to take your laxative at least 3 hours before flight time for maximum savings :)

Tom Swift

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. It's all about fairness. The old policy was unfair to the airlines and the new one unfair to the passengers (to some extent) although you'd think it would all average out over a 100 passengers or so. I think it's a logical policy but we're dealing with emotions too.

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