If you’ve passed through the Helsinki airport, you may have been surprised with an unpleasant step in your travel experience. When checking in, Finnair staff have started putting passengers on weighing scales to measure their “personal baggage.”While this practice seems like an offensive invasion of privacy, Finnair claims to be doing it to recalculate their costs of travel. It is not part of their “thin air” strategy, as the BBC reports. The airline is merely surveying customers so they can check estimates on the total weight of their airplanes.
“Airlines know what the aircraft weighs, what the check-in luggage weighs, but not what passengers weigh,” said Päivyt Tallqvist, communications director at Finnair.
To this end, Finnair staff have been asking passengers if they’d be willing to step onto a scale. The airline has already had 180 volunteers ready to step onto the scale with their carry-on luggage.
A total of 2,000 passengers are needed to give Finnair an accurate calculation of their regular payloads, Tallqvist said.
Until Finnair started weighing their passengers, they’ve been using the standard weight estimates the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) provides.
The EASA estimates that the average male weights about 84.6kg or about 186.5 pounds, and the average female weights 66.5kg or about 146.6 pounds. As for children under 12, the EASA estimates their average weight is 30.7kg or about 67.7 pounds.
But the EASA averages are not as accurate as Finnair would like. For example, the average man traveling first class weighs more than one in the coach or economy seating. And for women, the reverse is true. Women in first-class tend to weigh less than women in coach on average.
The average carryon luggage weights 6.1kg or 13.4 pounds. But this average falls in the summer when people travel lighter and men carry heavier bags than female counterparts on average.
Finnair hopes to get more accurate averages so they can save money on fuel and make better estimates. This difference will then translate into potentially lower ticket prices for customers.
“So many people actually wanted to take part in this,” Tallqvist said, indicating that the weigh-ins are anonymous. “No one is forced on the scale.”
If Finnair can adjust their weight estimates, they will also change their fuel levels and the speed of travel as well as the balance of the craft.
“The weight of the aircraft impacts on so many things,” said Tallqvist. “We just want to verify that the data we are using is as accurate as possible.”
Some skeptics wonder if the weigh-in results are skewed because some people are more likely to step onto a scale than others. Of course, Tallqvist had an answer for that and she’s not worried. So far, all sorts of people are jumping onto the scale for the anonymous weigh in.
“That’s a question a lot of people have asked,” said Tallqvist. “We found yesterday and today we had people of all shapes and sizes. We had Finnish and Asian customers, and we had a variety of male and female and of different sizes.”