Explained: Why passengers are being weighed at the airport

The importance of accurate data should not be underestimated.
The importance of accurate data should not be underestimated. Photo credit: Newshub (File)

There's probably nothing they could add to the check-in process that's more awkward than having to measure how heavy each passenger is.

The weight check has been taking place at New Zealand airports this week - much to the confusion and sometimes horror of travellers.

On Wednesday journalist Hilary Barry tweeted about the experience: "OMG Air NZ announces to everyone in the terminal it's conducting a survey to weigh both passengers and hand luggage today. That won't be embarrassing AT ALL. They also said it's a requirement they do it every 5 years."

The anxiety of the situation was lessened for some when they realised their weight wouldn't be shown on any sort of screen visible to other travellers.

"Grateful the digital display wasn't visible," Barry added in a follow-up tweet.

Economist Shamubeel Eaqub went one step further and asked staff if they could let him know what his weight was, but they were unable to tell him as they didn't have access to the data.

In a statement from Air New Zealand, its chief operational integrity officer Captain David Morgan said the weighing process was a regulatory requirement by the Government which must take place every five years.

"In order to fly safely and efficiently, we need to calculate the weight, balance and fuel requirements of each and every flight ahead of take-off. To do this, we need to know the average weight of our passengers, crew and cabin baggage," he said.

All data is collected anonymously and results cannot be seen by the data collection team or other customers. 

Captain Morgan also confirmed it's not compulsory to be weighed when asked, but it does help the airline ensure its weight averages are accurate.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) told Newshub the process is hugely important for airlines and the industry as a whole, helping ensure aircraft stay within their structural limitations.

"Operators usually use standard weights for passengers and their carry-on bags to avoid the requirement to weigh each passenger and their bag before the flight," the Government safety agency said in a statement.

"To ensure these standard weights remain accurate, airlines are required to conduct a survey to check this standard figure and update it if necessary. Airlines across the world have been successfully using this technique for many years."

Standard weights are based on years of international data as well as the operator's own data, of which this survey forms an important part.

In 2013, Samoa Air went a step further, announcing it would introduce an airfare structure based on the weight of each passenger. The 'pay as you weigh' scheme would see passengers pay per kilogram of weight for both themselves and their luggage. The airline closed in 2015.