SAMOA (CBS) -- A Samoan airline that says it is the world's first carrier to charge passengers by their weight rather than per seat on Wednesday defended the plan as the fairest way to fly, in some cases actually ending up cheaper than conventional tickets.
Samoa Air, which opened in 2012, asks passengers to declare their personal weight during booking, which is then charged per 2.2 pounds at a rate dependent on flight length.
The customers will also be weighed at the check-in counter.
"The indications are that once people have acknowledged that the airplane runs by weight and not by seats it makes it a lot easier for them to understand and also by the time they come back to us a second time around they have had time to digest that information and recognize that its actually the fairest possible system of air carriage that's available and that covers both the cargo and passenger travel. A great benefit for families it makes it easier to
work out costs we can carry everything they want on board it makes us much more efficient," said Samoa Air CEO Chris Langton.
Though the airline instituted the plan last November, it caught attention last week when the carrier began international flights to neighbouring American Samoa and coincided with the publication of a report by a Norwegian economist suggesting that airlines should charge obese passengers more.
According to Samoa Air's latest schedule, the airline charges up to WS$1.32 ($0.57 USD) per kg for domestic flights and WS$2.40 ($1.03 USD) per kg for its only international flight to American Samoa, around 250 miles (402 km). A 150 kg person flying one-way internationally would be charged $154.50 U.S.
The plan could actually prove cheaper in some cases, such as for families travelling with small children.
Children under 12 are charged 75 percent of the adult rate, with fares also based on weight. Any overweight baggage is calculated at the same rate as the passenger's personal weight.
"I usually travel to Pago with my son and our fares almost cost the same, which is not fair for my son as he is much younger and smaller than me. I agree that we should pay according to our weight it makes it fair for everyone and cheaper," said one woman checking-in at Apia airport.
Others said they would try to lose weight before purchasing tickets.
"I don't think it's really fair because the skinny people will be paying less and the bigger people will be paying a whole lot more and I've got a bit of weight and I'm trying to lose weight so if I go right now it will be quite expensive so I will have to go and do some training to get a cheaper fare," said an unidentified Samoan.
The Pacific Islands contain some of the world's most prevalent countries for obesity, many ranking in the top 10, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Samoa is ranked number four, with 59.6 percent of the population considered obese, said the most recent 2008 WHO report.