Getting the Skinny on Air New Zealand's Passenger Weigh-in

Image: Air New Zealand

Check your bag, check your weight?

The news that Air New Zealand is asking passengers to step on the scales before they board international flights next month has created media - or should we say: "mass" media - hysteria around the world.

The weighty issue of the effect of increasing girths on aircraft weights, corresponding fuel consumption and seat sizes/ passenger comfort has been growing for years, accompanied by occasional calls to weigh pax - along with an acknowledgment of what a plus-sized sensitivity issue that would be.

But news this week that Air New Zealand is asking passengers on international flights to weigh in, just like boxers do before a fight, on a public scale surrounded by on-lookers, made headlines.

The headlines first beg at least one hefty question:

Did anyone check with their tourism board to see how such a policy might 'shrink' visitor numbers? (Not to mention reduce domestic air travel. Until your car starts telling you your weight every time you buckle up, there are lots of people who are a little self-conscious about the couple of extra pounds they're carrying who'd take a long drive before they'd subject themselves to a public weigh-in.)

On closer inspection, including of an Air New Zealand official media release, we come to the truth of the matter:

Air New Zealand has not assumed the mantle of the first major airline prepared to incur the wrath of the weight-sensitive by implementing a new policy that would result in many of its valued passengers feeling publicly shamed.

The weigh-ins are part of a month-long survey, not a new and permanent policy. Furthermore, the airline has no choice: it's been mandated by the country's Civil Aviation Authority.

The logic is simple - and to those in the industry, unassailable: weight and balance of aircraft are essential factors for safe flight. The survey will help it determine what 'average' passenger weight is.

"We weigh everything that goes on the aircraft – from the cargo to the meals onboard, to the luggage in the hold.​ For customers, crew and cabin bags, we use average weights, which we get from doing this survey," Air New Zealand Load Control Improvement Specialist Alastair James explained.

The airline conducted a similar passenger weight survey in 2021, and is repeating the process upon the resumption of international travel. Hm. Those who spent the pandemic learning to bake bread may have regrets "weighing" upon them now.

However, Air New Zealand assures its customers not even they will see how much they weigh.

"We know stepping on the scales can be daunting. We want to reassure our customers there is no visible display anywhere. No one can see your weight – not even us! It's completely anonymous,​" said James​.

He added that the weight survey, at the entrance to the gate lounge of select Air New Zealand flights departing from Auckland International Airport until 02JUL, is even voluntary.

But that has us at Open Jaw weighing in to wonder: if it's voluntary, won't that "thin" out the survey sample - with the weight-self-conscious opting out even if the results aren't public? And wouldn't that skew the results downward?

I guess we'll know if this "voluntary" weight "survey" is merely Phase 1 of a more calculated long-term plan to weigh and shame heavy pax if they start assigning seats after you step off the airport scales.

Lynn Elmhirst


With a background in broadcast news and travel lifestyles TV production, Lynn is just as comfortable behind or in front of the camera as she is slinging words into compelling stories at her laptop. Having been called a multi-media ‘content charmer’, Lynn’s other claim to fame is the ability to work 24/7, forgoing sleep until the job is done. Documented proof exists in a picture of Lynn at the closing celebrations of an intense week, standing, champagne in hand - sound asleep. That’s our kind of gal.

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