Hawaiian Airlines operates a flight between Honolulu and Pago Pago, American Samoa every Monday and Friday. According to Radio New Zealand, the airline has now put a stop to online seat assignments on this flight. Instead, Hawaiian Airlines are weighing passengers at check-in before assigning them a seat.
Hawaiian cited weight distribution as the reason for this policy, due to a higher than usual percentage of overweight passengers on the flight. The airline said that a recent survey showed increased passenger weight, and that they needed to take steps to ensure the weight distribution meet Boeing’s specifications. To that end, Hawaiian has limited the number of adults per row, and set aside rows for children under 13.
The practice has led to some complaints, and businessman Avamua David Haleck recently filed a complaint with the US Department of Transportation. Haleck says that if it’s a safety issue, he would understand. However, he wasn’t buying “weight distribution” as a legitimate reason, saying “…have we been flying unsafe for all these years?” Another businessman, Daniel King, claims this is a discriminatory policy because it only applies to this Hawaiian flight, and not others.
This “selective policy” might have a bit to do with obesity being of epidemic proportions in American Samoa. American Samoa is a US territory, where 75% of the population is declared overweight. It’s said that 1 in 3 of Samoan residents developed Type 2 diabetes as a result of their diet and obesity.
I do think weight and balance is important for safe aircraft operations, but I can also understand how weighing passengers at check-in might lead to some outcry. The Department of Transportation said they are investigating the matter.