Samoa Air charges passengers by their weight

Amid a growing debate about how to price airline tickets for so-called passengers of size, an airline that's become the world's first airline to charge passengers by weight is defending its decision, saying it's the system of the future.

Air Samoa, which flies in the Pacific region, including American Samoa, the Cook Islands and Tonga, says its pricing policy that it implemented in January is the fairest way to charge for a ticket.

Chris Langton, the airline's CEO told ABC Radio about its controversial decision: "People have always travelled on the basis of their seat but as many airline operators, know airlines don't run on seats - they run on weight," he said. "We have worked out a figure per kilo. This is the fairest way of you travelling with your family or yourself. You can put your baggage on, there are no separate fees because of excess baggage - a kilo is a kilo is a kilo."

He added that "the standard width and pitch of seats are changing as people are getting a bit bigger, wider and taller than they were 40 to 50 years ago".

Rates start at $1 per kilo (about 2.2 pounds), which includes the weight of both the flyer and his or her baggage.  For longer routes, rates run as high as $4.16 per kilo.

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A statement from Samoa Air said: "You are the master of your air 'fair', you decide how much (or little) your ticket will cost. No more exorbitant excess baggage fees or being charged for baggage you may not carry. Your weight plus your baggage items, is what you pay for. Simple."

The company's website says: "Booking a flight with us is as easy as inputting your approximate weight into our online booking engine (don't worry, we will weigh you again at the airport) – you then can prepay your 'guesstimate', guaranteeing you that much weight is allocated to you for that flight … with Samoa Air, you are the master of how much (or little!) your air ticket will cost."

Just last week Bharat P Bhatta, associate professor of economics at Sogn og Fjordane University College in Norway, recommended in the Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management that air ticket costs be calculated according to a passenger’s weight, sparking outrage among passengers.  Some charged that practice of charging by weight is discriminatory.

According to the World Health Organization 80 percent of those aged 15 and above in Samoa are considered obese.