Thrifty Spending Issue 102: Did you know…

…that your weight could determine the price of your plane ticket?

Rates range from $1 to $4.16 per kilogram (2.2 pounds) based on the distance. The airline’s planes are much smaller than commercial ones – their fleet seats fewer than nine passengers per flight – and Samoa Air CEO Chris Langton says that makes minimizing weight variance more important.

One price comparison shows a 165-pound person with a 33-pound suitcase would pay less for a flight from Samoa to American Samoa on a flat fare from Polynesian Airlines than a “fat” fare on Samoa Air. (The difference is about $15.) Shorter, thinner people and families with children would likely benefit from the change, and it might make luggage fees more agreeable in some cases.

Others could end up paying more, although the airline’s website says, “With Samoa Air, you are the master of how much (or little!) you air ticket will cost.”

Samoa Air flies a very limited number of routes in the Pacific Islands. But how likely are American airlines to adopt this pay-as-you-weigh strategy? It’s certainly a possibility if fuel costs and the average waistline continue to increase.

Price discrimination, such as charging kids and the elderly different prices, is not new, and airlines like Air France, Southwest and United already have policies that require passengers to buy an extra ticket if they cannot fit in the seat with both armrests down.

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