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

Airlines have their rules. What's odd about some of these rules is that they change without anyone seeming to know--sometimes not even airline employees. Suddenly, passengers are confronted by these rules and they don't like them.

Take Hawaiian Airlines. This popular carrier, America's eighth-largest, startled one or two passengers by asking them to take their clothes off before boarding. I'm sorry, I don't have that quite right. Instead, airline staff did something just as personal. They prevented passengers from pre-booking seats and then demanded to weigh them. As Radio New Zealand reports, this didn't sit well with those who were forced to mount scales. It's inevitable that at least one or two might want to mount a response.

The weighing issue currently seems confined to flights between Pago Pago in American Samoa and Honolulu. Avamua David Haleck, president of staffing services company Haleck Enterprise, says he was told this was all about safety. To which he replied: "So, have we been flying unsafely for all these years?" Hawaiian has been flying the route with Boeing 767-300s since 2003.

Why has the airline seemingly introduced this policy now? It could be because American Samoa has the highest obesity rate in the world. It could be because Samoa Air has been setting fares according to passenger weight since 2013. But Samoa Air flies much smaller planes--two 10-seaters and a four-seater. The Boeing 767-300 can fly 269 passengers for up to 6,835 miles. Pago Pago to Honolulu is a mere skip at 2,594 miles.

Haleck has asked the U.S. Transportation Department to investigate. He believes the new rule represents discrimination, as it only applies to flights in and out of American Samoa. Hawaiian Airlines offered me an interesting explanation. A spokeswoman told me: "This action resulted from the recognition that over time our fuel burn on Pago Pago flights was consistently much higher than projected, indicating that our weight assumptions were inaccurate."

Ah, so the airline worried it was losing money and the reason might be larger people?As a result, it started to weigh passengers as part of a survey, which began in February and lasted six months. And what did the airline find? "The survey results confirmed that our aircraft cabin weight was heavier than projected. This requires us to manage the distribution of weight across each row in our cabin," the spokeswoman told me.

So Hawaiian will continue to weigh passengers, yes? Apparently not. Hawaiian told me that its new policy is that "one seat in each row is either empty or occupied by a traveler under the age of 13."

The issue of human weight on planes seems to have coincided with other parameters, such as airlines wanting to squeeze more seats in by leaving less room for human beings and making seats themselves narrower. Just a couple of weeks ago, an Italian lawyer sued Emirates after insisting that he'd suffered greatly in sitting next to an extremely large man for nine hours. But if Hawaiian is insisting this is an issue of weight distribution and safety, then its argument will still seem curious to some. On its website, Hawaiian invites you to "Experience Authentic Hawaiian Hospitality." This hospitality appears to be under slight strain.

Published on: Oct 5, 2016
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