This European airline is weighing passengers: Do you have a right to say no?

Finnair says their voluntary weigh-in policy is improving flight safety.

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On Monday, one European airline started inviting passengers to ‘weigh in’ before flights.

Finnish airline Finnair is asking travellers at Helsinki airport to voluntarily step on the scales at departure gates.

The company hopes the measure will help estimate the weight of a plane before taking off.

While the airline has already had 800 passengers voluntarily weigh themselves, some travellers have expressed concerns over ‘body shaming’ and financial penalties based on weight.

So why do airlines need to weigh customers and do you have a right to say no?

Why do airlines weigh passengers?

Finnair has emphasised that their weigh-in option is for improving flight safety and will not be used to penalise passengers – the process is anonymous and names and booking numbers are not recorded.

Each aircraft has a set maximum weight over which it is not safe to fly. Airlines can either use official data from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to estimate how much a plane weighs or do their own standard weight measurements.

Finnair has chosen the latter because it gives a more accurate picture of current passenger and hand luggage weights, but safety authorities require that the survey be renewed every five years.

“We hope to have a good sample of volunteers, both business and leisure travellers, also this time, so that we can get the most accurate information possible for important balance calculations,” says Satu Munnukka, head of ground processes at Finnair.

“We will need data for both the winter season and for the summer season – in the winter season people typically have heavier clothing, which impacts weights,” adds Finnair spokeswoman Päivyt Tallqvist.

The airline will continue the scheme until May after which it will send its figures to the Finnish transport and communications agency, Traficom, to inform aircraft balance and loading calculations from next year until 2030.

The last time Finnair undertook weigh-ins was in 2017 – and it is not the only airline to do so.

At the end of last year, Korean Air announced it would weigh passengers at Gimpo International Airport while Air New Zealand did the same last June for passengers departing from Auckland Airport on international flights.

Do you have a right to refuse airline weigh-ins?

The introduction of weigh-ins for plane passengers has been controversial – Korean Air had to backtrack on their mandatory policy after public criticism.

If you are travelling with Finnair in the next few months, there is no obligation to step on the scales, Kate Staniforth, Head of Marketing at Travel Republic, emphasises.

“Passengers flying with Finnair should be aware that these ‘weigh-ins’ are voluntary, and they should not feel pressure to partake,” she says.

“However, upon deciding to complete the weigh-in, passengers are assured that the information stays anonymous and only the customer service agent working at the measuring point can see the total weight.”

The only personal information recorded is the total weight of the customer and carry-on baggage, the customer’s age, gender and travel class. No information is collected that would allow participants to be identified.

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Airlines do have the option to use average weights provided by aviation authorities or collect their own data, like Finnair,” Staniforth adds.

“Given the controversy that has risen around the topic, with people accusing the airline of ‘body shaming’, and backlash forming on social media, other airlines might be hesitant to follow suit and choose to use averages given by the authorities.”