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Finnish airline asking passengers to weigh themselves at departure gate

Along with their luggage, Finnair is asking passengers to voluntarily weigh themselves as a safety examination

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Passenger planes of the Finnish national airline company Finnair stand on the tarmac at Helsinki international airport in Helsinki on Nov. 16, 2009.

Passenger planes of the Finnish national airline company Finnair stand on the tarmac at Helsinki international airport in Helsinki on Nov. 16, 2009. The Finnish national carrier is asking aircraft passengers and their hand luggage to voluntarily hop on a scale to update the standard weights. The anonymous weighing of passengers takes place before boarding onto European and long-haul flights at departure gates at the Helsinki airport.

Markku Ulander, Associated Press

Finnish airline Finnair is asking for their passengers’ consent to weigh themselves and their baggage at their Helsinki Airport departure gates.

The data collection, according to NBC News, will occur in February, April and May of this year, and is part of the airline’s routine update of weight measurements to ensure that its planes are taking off safely.

Finnair’s last weight analysis, which is conducted every five years, was in 2018, per ABC News.

The airline’s statement

Satu Munnukka, head of ground processes at Finnair, said in the company’s news release, “We use the weighing data for the average calculations required for the safe operation of flights, and the collected data is not linked in any way to the customer’s personal data.” 

Munnukka added that the data collection will not involve passengers providing their names or booking numbers. Only their background information and total weight will be shared to customer service agents.

A representative shared to CNN that the trial started last Monday, and by Thursday morning, 800 volunteers had already participated. The company hopes to weigh 1,200 passengers during the winter season and potentially more by the summer months.

Munnukka reflected on this plan in the company’s statement:

“In the previous measurements five years ago, a good number of volunteers wanted to participate in the weighing, and we hope to have a good sample of volunteers, both business and leisure travelers, also this time, so that we can get the most accurate information possible for important balance calculations.”

Once data is collected and analyzed, measurements will be sent to The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency later this year, per its statement. After weights are confirmed, the data will be used for “aircraft balance and loading calculations between 2025–2030.”

Why is Finnair gathering this data?

Time reported that Finnair uses the average weight of people to “determine aircraft balance calculations,” which is essential to confirm that aircrafts remain below the determined maximum weight required for liftoff safety.

Additionally, government officials require the airline to update its estimates every five years for safety reasons.

It’s not just passengers’ and bags’ weights that need to be known. CNN reported that everything on a commercial airplane is accounted for in total weight: fuel, water tanks, engine and even food, among other sources on airplanes need to be weighed before each takeoff.

Have other companies done this before?

Finnair is not the first airline to implement a weight-based data collection.

The Washington Post mentioned Samoa Air in 2013 made a controversial policy to weigh passengers and “charge a variable kilogram-per-mile rate based on whatever the scale had to say.”

In May of last year, Air New Zealand conducted a survey in compliance with the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand’s governing rules regarding airline operations, per CBS News.

And during the summer, Korean Airlines undertook a similar procedure, which, according to The Washington Post, faced backlash among passengers for reasons of embarrassment and the potential promotion of heavier bags for lighter persons.