Which brings us to the first question of Samoa Air's new policy: How, exactly, does this work? Well, when you go to book a flight on the airline's website, you simply submit your weight (in which unit, it's unclear), right next to where you submit the weight of your luggage:
And once you arrive at the airport, having prepaid for your flight based on your submitted weight, a Samoa Air official actually weighs you, to ensure that you didn't lie about your weight. "With Samoa Air, you are the master of how much (or little!) you air ticket will cost," the airline's policy reads. Because Samoa Air is so small — they only have a handful of flights per day, and they use small planes — this policy probably doesn't add that much time to their boarding procedure. But how would the same policy work in larger airports, where thousands of passengers fly in and out each day? In other words, how would America — a much bigger country — deal with weighing passengers?
First, a necessary aside: Air travel is already a pretty humiliating experience even without the potential of being weighed. To board a commercial jet, you have to submit to an arbitrary screening process in which you are either scanned for metal objects or directed to walk through a backscatter X-ray device, which is capable of rendering a fairly accurate representation of your naked body. (Even if it's getting goofier.) If you don't want to do that, you get patted down by a gloved TSA employee. (So do wheelchair-bound kids.) Stories of awkward and invasive screenings are legion. (All this and they're allowing knives again.)
Being weighed, however, adds an entirely different element. Remember, most tickets are purchased in advance, so — unless we're talking about submitting medical records, or some other sort of process usually reserved for all those svelte folks in the pre-screened line — you'd have to submit your weight without any proof, if the airline you're purchasing tickets from somehow decided to adopt the Samoa Air policy. Would ticket agents weigh people, like they weigh luggage? (Perhaps using the same scale?) This isn't impossible, but it seems like an unwise logistical decision. What if the passenger contests his or her weight — and thus the price increase attached to it? (You can ship a piece of luggage, but it's much more difficult to reroute an unhappy passenger at the last minute.) And then there's the potential of a legal challenge. It's not technically illegal for businesses to discriminate between customers based on weight if doing so pertains to a legitimate business decision. Still, the policy would certainly make any airline vulnerable to legal action. Indeed, a former Southwest Airlines customer is suing the company for requiring her to purchase a second seat due to her body's shape and size.
Multiply such an incident by hundreds of passengers, each of whom probably doesn't enjoy being weighed in public, and what is apparently "the concept of the future" begins to feel like, well... a marketing stunt for a little-known airline that, before today, nobody was talking about.
So no, this policy isn't quite fat-shaming, insofar as it shames everyone into disclosing their weight. More important, it's pretty unlikely to catch on here.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.