Airlines Weighing Passengers - Real Or Rumor?

Airlines weighing passengers is definitely not a new thing at all. It happens more often than you think. You can find the topic discussed under the terms of “pay-by-pound flights” and “flight weight discrepancies”.

However, the reasons are not what you think. They’re more scientific and technological than you might expect. The same rules do not apply to all airlines that weigh their passengers. 

Some do it as part of a program that runs for a specific amount of time. Some do it because it’s fairer and safer, and they do it for every single passenger, not just certain individuals.

In this article, we will guide you through all the questions you might have about airlines weighing their passengers in the hope that it’ll help keep your travel hassle-free.

Airlines Weighing Passengers - CabinZero

People wonder if they have to step on a scale to be able to board the plane. Yulia Ranever on Adobe Stock.

What Airlines Want To Weigh Their Passengers?

Finnair confirms on their official site that in February and the period between April-May of 2024, the airline will start weighing passengers and their carry-on bags at Helsinki Airport departure gate as part of their data collection program to optimise “aircraft balance”.

South Korean Air is another major airline that weighed its passengers for two months (September 8—September 19, 2023) at Gimpo International Airport. However, there is no current news that this program is still ongoing in 2024. 

Following, we have Air NZ, which ran a similar program as Finnair’s back in June of 2023. 

Samoa Air charges passengers their kilos + luggage instead of their seats + luggage as others do. Ticket fares can range from 1 GBP to 3 GBP/ kilo. 

Uzbekistan Airways also asked their passengers to step on the scale before boarding back in 2015, but we are not sure if this is still an ongoing procedure.

Why Do Airlines Weigh Passengers?

Some might argue that it is to single out plus-sized flyers, but airlines weigh passengers purely for technical reasons

So, what are they?

1. To Ensure Safe Take-off And Landing 

Can a plane crash if it is too heavy? Yes. There’s a weight limit to everything, especially a heavy machine that is packed full of people and flies in the sky. 

And when we speak of “weight”, we mean everything on the plane, including cargo, engines, machinery, and of course, passengers and crew members.

Every aircraft has a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) determined by the manufacturer. This weight considers factors like lift capacity, fuel, passengers, and cargo.

To ensure a safe flight, the airline needs to calculate the total weight of everything on board, including passengers and their carry-on luggage. While they don't weigh every passenger individually, they use average weight data to estimate the total passenger weight for a specific flight.

Airlines also use passenger weight data to estimate the centre of gravity (CG) of the aircraft. An improperly balanced CG can affect controllability during takeoff, landing, and manoeuvring.

Airlines Weighing Passengers - CabinZero

Proper weight distribution is crucial for the aircraft’s balance and stability. Photo by Chalabala -

In aviation history, though fortunately not at a great number, crashes in which weight is a contributing factor do exist. For example, Air Midwest Flight 5481, departing from North Carolina in 2003, crashed because it was reported to be over 580 lb (264 kg) overweight. 

In another example, EasyJet asked 20 volunteers to get off a plane from Lanzarote to Liverpool. “That heavy aircraft combined with a fairly short runway here in Lanzarote, and some winds… the aircraft is too heavy at the moment to depart,” the pilot said

The overall weight of the aircraft plays a crucial role in its stability during and after takeoffs and landings. That’s one of the most important reasons why airlines weigh everything, including passengers. 

2. To Determine The Amount Of Fuel Needed

The weight of the aircraft determines its fuel needs. The heavier it is, the more fuel it needs. Aircraft refuel before takeoff. While the weight of the aircraft itself is a fixed number, the total weight of all passengers changes from flight to flight. By collecting data on passenger weight, airlines can accurately improve the performance of the aircraft. 

Over-fueling can lead to unnecessary additional weight, reducing overall fuel efficiency, while under-fueling poses obvious risks. Although rare, there are crashes related to wrong fuel calculations. For example, the Tenerife airport disaster was partially caused by a staggering 45 tonnes of excessive weight, including fuel.

3. To Improve Balance And Stability

Remember how it feels to wear a backpack heavier on one side than the other and find it more challenging to walk properly for hours? It’s the same thing with an aircraft. If the nose or the tail is too heavy, it can be more challenging to control and pose safety threats.

When weight is not distributed evenly throughout the plane, it can become unbalanced. This factor also ties in with the other two mentioned above - safe takeoffs/landings and fuel efficiency. 

Airlines weighing passengers may benefit engineers and pilots in making appropriate adjustments.

The Bottom Line Is…

Airlines Weighing Passengers - CabinZero

Collecting passengers’ weight data can help plane performance. Photo by Svitlana -

It’s not about you and your weight personally; it’s about the safety of everyone onboard and the performance of the aircraft itself. 

That brings us to another question:

Do I Have To Be Weighed To Fly?

The answer is no in most cases. Airlines weigh passengers who volunteer to be weighed. Collecting data on passengers’ weight is consensual. As far as we know, they will not take out a scale and ask you to step on it in order to grant you permission to board the plane. 

As Finnair publicly states, “The weighing is voluntary and anonymous, and we use the collected data for aircraft balance calculations.”

The current exception we know of is Samoa Air, which operated on a “pay-by-weight” system in 2012. This means that everyone had to be weighed as part of their booking process. 

Samoa Air believed this was “the fairest way to fly” since Samoa is reported to be one of the most obese countries in the world. A pay-by-weight system is better than a flat price because it helps offset the fuel costs of carrying heavier passengers. It’s similar to a person carrying an overweight carry-on who is charged while one who doesn’t isn’t.

Don’t Like Airlines Weighing Passengers? (Tips For Comfy Flying)

Of course, weighing can be a sensitive topic for some people. The purpose of travelling is to enjoy yourself and let your body and soul breathe, after all. No matter how small the problem is, if you’re stressed out, it defeats the purpose of travelling, is it?

So, if you want to avoid airlines weighing passengers, here are some tips you need:

  • Research Plus-Sized Friendly Airlines Aircraft: Look for airlines that offer more spacious seating and more accommodating services to their passengers, such as seat belt extenders and an extra seat at a discounted rate. You can also research specific aircraft types to see which offer wider seats or more legroom ( is a helpful resource).
    • Pack Light: If you carry extra weight on your body, consider going light on your luggage. For example, try one-bag travel or learn the proper packing hacks
    • Get up and move around: Sitting for extended periods can be uncomfortable. When safe to do so, stand up and walk around the cabin to improve circulation and prevent stiffness.
    • Maintain a positive attitude: A little patience and a good sense of humour can go a long way in making your flight experience more enjoyable.
    Airlines Weighing Passengers - CabinZero

    Remember to prioritise your comfort when flying.

    Don’t Stress Over Airlines Weighing Passengers

    Though it sounds a bit intimidating, airline weighing passengers is just a technical procedure. A safety measure, some may say. Its objective is beneficial to air travel, and most of the time, it is optional. If you want more tips on how to travel hassle-free, don’t hesitate to reach out to us via social media!

    Nguyen Tran Gia Khanh

    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.