PAGO PAGO, American Samoa — A tiny Samoan airline is offering a new reason to drop extra weight before your next trip: Tickets sold not by the seat, but by weight.
Samoa Air this week planned to start pricing its first international flights based on the weight of its passengers and their bags. Depending on the flight, each kilogram (2.2 pounds) costs between 93 cents and $1.06.
That means the average American man weighing 195 pounds with a 35-pound bag would pay $97 to go one way between Apia, Samoa, and Pago Pago, American Samoa. Competitors typically charge $130 to $140 round trip for similar routes.
The weight-based pricing is not new to the airline, which launched in June. It has been using the pricing model since November, but in January the U.S. Department of Transportation approved its international route between American Samoa and Samoa.
The airline’s chief executive, Chris Langton, said this week that “planes are run by weight and not by seat, and travelers should be educated on this important issue. The plane can only carry a certain amount of weight and that weight needs to be paid. There is no other way.”
Travelers in the region already are weighed before they fly because the planes used between the islands are small, said David Vaeafe, executive director of the American Samoa Visitors Bureau. Samoa Air’s fleet includes two nine-seat planes for commercial routes and a three-seater for an air taxi service.
Langton said passengers who need more room will be given one row on the plane to ensure comfort.
The new system would make Samoa Air the first to charge strictly by weight, a change that Vaeafe said is, “in many ways ... a fair concept for passengers.”
“For example, a 12- or 13-year-old passenger, who is small in size and weight, won’t have to pay an adult fare, based on airline fares that anyone 12 years and older does pay the adult fare,” he said.