Hawaiian Airlines Clarifies Why They Weighed Passengers Traveling To American Samoa

Filed Under: Hawaiian

Earlier I wrote about the story that Hawaiian Airlines was supposedly weighing passengers traveling on their flight between Honolulu and Pago Pago in American Samoa. It was being claimed that this was due to the weight & balance issues caused by passengers on the route being heavier than average. Some passengers didn’t like the concept, and some have even filed complaints with the Department of Transportation, claiming this is a bogus practice from Hawaiian Airlines.

Well, a Hawaiian Airlines spokesperson has reached out to provide the following explanation of what has been going on with their Pago Pago flight, and it’s an interesting read. Here’s the statement, in its entirety:

We will not be weighing passengers at any point during the check-in or boarding process.

This action resulted from the recognition that over time our fuel burn on Pago Pago (PPG) flights was consistently much higher than projected, indicating that our weight assumptions were inaccurate.  We review weights on any flight within our route network that demonstrates such a discrepancy.  For example, we surveyed our Japan and Korea flights in 2015 and our new Narita flight earlier this year.

Since fuel consumption can change due to a multitude of factors like wind, fuel policy changes, flight routing, etc., we perform a process of elimination to eliminate all other factors before we conclude that the assumed passenger weight is not representative of the actual passenger weight for a particular route. That triggers a passenger weight survey to establish a new “standard” passenger weight for that route only.

Using FAA protocols, a survey was conducted on all of our PPG flights during a six-month period beginning in February. During this timeframe only, all passengers along with their carryon luggage to be weighed.  The survey results confirmed that our aircraft cabin weight was heavier than projected.  This requires us to manage the distribution of weight across each row in our cabin and we have elected to do so by making sure that one seat in each row is either empty or occupied by a traveler under the age of 13.

The decision to assign seats at the airport was made because that is the most efficient way to manage weight distribution. This allows us to make sure that families with children are seated together, for example, and it minimizes the confusion created by changing pre-selected seats.

We conducted our first flight under the weight distribution guidelines this week and were able to accommodate all passengers and accommodate all parties traveling together.

Interesting stuff, and seems like a very fair explanation!

  1. “The survey results confirmed that our aircraft cabin weight was heavier than projected. ” PC way of saying, you’re all fat in the aggregate

  2. I’m going to say this, despite that this is very non-PC: if one grew fat, chances are that it was his own fault. Own up to it and deal with it, stop blaming everybody else.

    I understand that some people put on weight due to medical conditions, but if one isn’t one of them, he should just shut up and stop feeling aggrieved for something he had done to himself.

  3. @stvr there’s no scandal, it’s not like it’s a secret that unhealthy food makes one obese… They made the choice, they need to learn to deal with the consequences.

    One can’t simply cut his penis off and then blame the scissor factory for not putting a warning sticker…

  4. It’s shocking that because of the obesity problem, they will be flying empty seats or seats with only small children. Can one safely conclude that the price of these tickets will be increased because of the lower passenger “load?”

  5. Just to double-up on the explanation, I asked a 30 year pilot friend what the deal might be.

    His response:

    “The FAA allows airlines to use average weights for passengers and baggage, both carry on and checked.
    Hawaiian might be very justified in weighing these passengers to stay within weight and balance limits as well as fuel loads and cargo loads. Since Pago Pago is on an island, more fuel must be carried as a reserve since there’s nowhere else to go should something make a scheduled landing impossible. That requirement is 2 hours of extra fuel in place of what would ordinarily be the reserve to go to another airport.should weather or an accident close the available runway. That fuel also cuts into the amount of revenue cargo which could be carried.”

  6. Lol majority of Trump supporters who are obese and believe fast food is healthy will not be able to fly with Hawaiian now!

  7. This must be Hawaiians complaining, not Samoans. For flights between American Samoa (Pago Pago) and Western Samoa (Apia) on Polynesian Airlines or Talofa Airways, Samoan passengers are very much used to being weighed on the baggage scale for every single flight. On the six flights I took on that route in August and September 2016, I don’t recall anyone complaining — even when the airline staff called out the weights verbally to their colleagues. It’s a safety issue with a flight on any route with any plane, not a fat-shaming exercise. Airlines should pay particular attention to local variations when flying routes in Polynesia and Micronesia, which — statistically — have the world’s highest incidence of obesity, not to mention diabetes.

  8. I used to fly this route several times a year. I can tell you that Samoans are just really big people. I have been on flights where they ran out of seatbelt extenders!

  9. I guess it has something to do with the fact that Samoa is currently facing an obesity epidemic. Hence if the average weights are off it could lead to problems

  10. People weigh more than bags. Why are bags weighed but not people?

    Getting correct weight is a matter of safety. One thing trump got right. Enough pc bs. Fat people need to pay more for services they consume more of.

  11. I am fat and dont mind saying so. I do understand if airlines at some pointt in the future charge extra due to extra fuel consumption because of my fat belly but they have to take into account the total weight of luggage and person and price the ticket accordingly.

  12. Reminds me of a Pulp Fiction quote:
    “I wouldn’t go so far as to call the brother fat, I mean he got a weight problem. What’s the gonna do? He’s Samoan.”

  13. I used to work Load Control (Weight and Balance) at AA many years ago.
    As mentioned by HA’s statement, the FAA allows airlines to use average weights when calculating the load.
    The actual weight of the plane, freight and mail is used while (in my day) each bag weighed 23.5 lbs and each passenger was 170lbs in the summer and 175 in the winter. Each child was 90lbs, but we assumed all passengers were adults unless we were right at the cutoff for a limit … then we’d radio out to the flight for a “child count” to see if we change enough “adults” to “kids” to get within limits.

    Those were just the standard average weights. They have been increased over the years since Americans are getting bigger. I don’t know the current weights used.
    For flights to the Carribbean, each bag weighed 31lbs .
    The only passenger weight exception we had (other than adult vs child) was for NFL Charters. On those flights, the average passenger weight used was 215lbs.

    HA is simply doing with Samoa what AA did with NFL Charters. It isn’t about singling out “large” passengers. It’s about accepting the fact the as a whole, Samoans are a “larger build” than other ethnic groups. Thus for safety’s sake, a different average needs to be used for those flights.

  14. I’ll repost my thoughts from yesterday:
    1. I’ve flown this route. It’s horrible, especially on the return, even in first-class. That’s because the flight leaves Pago Pago late at night and Hawaiian basically doesn’t cater it because there’s no catering facility in Pago Pago. You’re left with some finger food and drinks — that’s it. Additionally, the tablets that Hawaiian distributes don’t have enough content for anyone who intends to watch the device for entertainment on most of the flight to/from American Samoa.
    2. A skinny American Samoan is rare. A few years ago, the world’s busiest McDonald’s was in Pago Pago. Despite tuna being the major industry, it’s very difficult to actually buy fresh seafood. It’s incredibly rare. Most of the food is shipped in. They grow very little — even produce — in part because food stamps discourage locals from having their own garden.
    3. American Samoa is a dirty island, despite otherwise being a tropical paradise. There is trash everywhere. The beaches are seldom clean for swimming because of trash, pollution and sewage. Many residents don’t have indoor plumbing and proper septic/sewer systems. The trash and sewage flows into creeks, which flow into the sea. Wild dogs are everywhere and are a nuisance. By contrast, independent Samoa has numerous international flights, premium hotels and is a vacation destination for Australians and New Zealanders.
    4. American Samoa is a U.S. territory but is technically not part of the United States. In fact, American Samoans are not U.S. citizens–they’re U.S. nationals. Most of the Constitution doesn’t apply there. Kind of like Gitmo.

  15. Sorry Joe, but someone can be considered medically obese for reasons that are well beyond their control. Genetics, chronic cardiovascular or renal disease completely unrelated to lifestyle, etc are all reasons why some people are beyond normal BMI.

    Get over yourself.

  16. Thats fine… so why not extend their weight policy on all their routes? Wouldn’t that be considered unfair?

  17. “Thats fine… so why not extend their weight policy on all their routes? Wouldn’t that be considered unfair?”

    They do have a “weight policy” on all flights. They found that this particular flight happened to be far enough above that average that it was affecting fuel burn rate, which affects flight safety (because having enough fuel is important when you’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with few places to land if you’re running low.)

    All pilots (whether of single-engine 2-seaters or A380s) must consider weight and balance. It’s very important for a number of reasons. The aforementioned fuel burn reason is one of them, but there are even more important reasons:

    1. Center of gravity location. The center of gravity of the aircraft must be kept within certain limits, both side-to-side and forward-to-aft. If the CoG gets too far forward, the aircraft won’t be able to climb at lower airspeeds. If it’s too far aft, the aircraft will be unstable in the longitudinal axis and stall recovery may be difficult or impossible. Even further aft and it may force the aircraft into such an unrecoverable stall. This was what happened to the 747 that crashed at Bagram Air Base 3 years ago. Its load wasn’t properly secured and shifted aft, causing the aircraft to stall shortly after takeoff and plummet into the edge of the airfield, killing everyone onboard.

    2. Takeoff run length/Landing rollout length. Heavier aircraft accelerate slower with the same thrust and they also require higher airspeeds to become and remain airborne. Thus, the takeoff run length can be dramatically increased when the aircraft is heavier. Furthermore, when this increase in weight isn’t known to the flight crew, it can lead to an improper calculation of the rotation speed, leading to early rotation. If you want to see the results of that, take a look at the video of the recent Royal Air Maroc flight leaving Frankfurt. If it hadn’t been on a really long runway, it would have overrun the runway and crashed at high speed. Another possible outcome is the aircraft briefly becoming airborne and then stalling and crashing shortly after takeoff.

    In short, physics doesn’t care about what passengers consider to be ‘fair.’ Pilots like to live, so they tend to care more about physics than their passengers’ feelings.

  18. Lol… nice try. No shit they have weight policy, I was referring to weighing all of the passengers on all their routes. Btw, they have extra fuel on board in case of emergency landing… and lastly, Hawaiian Air only cares about profits… period.

  19. Been in the Avaiation Industry for over 40 years as a Ceritfied Weight/Balance Agent and a FAA Licensed Aircraft Dispatcher. In a crash the first things the NTSB looks at is the weight/ balance of the aircraft, Dispatch Release, Weather.
    Then the mechanical operation of the aircraft. Weight/Balance is taken seriously as well a disptaching a flight. I would rather have someone weigh me for a flight than end up in the ocean without enough fuel especailly to PPG. The alternate is two hours of fuel and the ETOPS alternates are harder to come by especially when there is bad weather. So basically you are pretty much carrying enough fuel to get there and fly back. Even more so on a two engine aircraft.

  20. People never look at the bright side! Always gotta be negative! Only Polynesian people that’s doing all the complaining are the GREEDY ones looking to be compensated!

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