Flying Samoa Air in the near future? Step on a scale before buying a ticket, because that will tell you how much you will have to pay.
The small airline, which launched last year, is believed to be the first airline to charge based on weight.
The announcement on Samoa Air’s site says that travelers pay for “weight plus your baggage items,” with no “exorbitant excess baggage fees” or charges for bags you don’t wind up bringing.
Travelers booking flights on Samoa Air can type their estimated weight, along with the estimated weight of their baggage, on the airline’s site to learn their airfare. They are also weighed again at the airport, according to the airline.
The policy, much like the airline, has gotten a lot of attention in recent days, but it actually dates to last year. Chris Langton, head of Samoa Air, told CNN that the policy went into effect last November for domestic flights and in recent weeks for international flights.
Obesity remains a major issue in the United States, with more than a third of adults believed to be obese. This is an issue for airlines, which have different ways of accommodating overweight passengers. Southwest Airlines has a policy that lets travelers purchase extra seats if they will “encroach upon any part of” a nearby seat, with the armrest considered the boundary between seats.
The notion of paying based on weight isn’t unique to Samoa Air. A Norwegian economist last week argued in favor of “pay as you weigh airline pricing.” The economist, Bharat P. Bhatta, noted in the Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management that this would actually reward passengers who lose weight and therefore pay less, which would in turn help airlines accommodate more passengers (and, therefore, make more money).
Of course, Samoa Air’s decision is “an inspired piece of marketing,” as the Economist’s Gulliver blog notes. Pause for a moment to consider if you knew Samoa Air existed before hearing about this story (either here or elsewhere). Travelers flock to stories about new airline fees, and being charged extra for being overweight certainly counts as a new fee.