Two Samoan businessmen have filed complaints with the US Transportation Department after Hawaiian Airlines forced them to step on a scale before boarding a flight, supposedly in the name of safety. The airline has stopped allowing passengers to preselect their seats, instead distributing heavier passengers around the cabin to ensure that the aircraft has proper weight distribution. You know, like cargo.
The two businessmen who complained claim that the airline is practicing discrimination, not only based on weight, but also on nationality. Hawaiian's new rule only applies to flights into and out of Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa. The CIA's World Factbook reports that American Samoa is the most obese country in the world, with at least 74.6% of the adult population falling into that category. That's a lot of seafood.
A Hawaiian Airlines spokeswoman told the Telegraph that this new rule was part of a six-month survey that has since concluded, and explained the corporation's rationale:
This action resulted from the recognition that over time our fuel burn on Pago Pago flights was consistently much higher than projected, indicating that our weight assumptions were inaccurate … The decision to assign seats at the airport was made because that is the most efficient way to manage weight distribution.
So was Hawaiian justified in adding another humiliation to flying? (The TSA is bad enough.) Was the decision truly based on safety, or is it just another way to penny-pinch on fuel? Avamua David Haleck, one of the businessmen who complained, made an excellent point while speaking to Radio New Zealand:
And of course Hawaiian is saying that "yes it is a safety issue" but, you know, weight distribution … so have we been flying unsafe for all these years?
Let this be a lesson to every other business out there: if you're going to force people to weigh themselves in public, you'd better be able to tell them a damn good reason why.