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Finnair Introduces Passenger Weighing to Refine Aircraft Calculations

Participation is voluntary and weights will be averaged for use in aircraft balance calculations

by Lauren Smith

February 8, 2024

Photo: Courtesy of Finnair

From now until May, Finnair will weigh volunteer passengers and their hand luggage before boarding as the carrier updates its aircraft weight and balance calculations.

The Finnish flag carrier is setting up the scale at its Helsinki (HEL) hub and will ask travelers on select flights to step on with their hand luggage during pre-boarding. Passengers will also be asked about their travel class, age, and gender.

Participation is voluntary, and passengers’ data will be anonymized and kept confidential.

Photo: Courtesy of Finnair

“We do not ask for the name or booking number,” said Satu Munnukka, head of ground operations at Finnair. “Only the customer service agent working at the measuring point can see the total weight, so you can participate in the study with peace of mind.”

Finnair didn’t reveal which flights would be selected for the weigh-ins but said it would alternate between short-haul European flights departing from the airport’s Schengen area and long-haul flights departing from non-Schengen gates.

While pre-flight weigh-ins sound intrusive, they’re relatively common, especially outside of Europe, to help airlines refine their plane weight and balance calculations.

These calculations help airlines safely distribute weight on planes and know how much fuel to put into tanks. While airlines know the mass of the plane and weigh baggage in the hold, the weight of passengers and their hand luggage is a wildcard.

Photo: Courtesy of Finnair

The European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) publishes standard weights for passengers, which most airlines on the continent use. But Finnair believes taking its own measurements will make the calculations more accurate.

The figures Finnair gathers this spring will be crunched by the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency to produce an average weight the airline will use in its calculations between 2025 and 2030.

The last time Finnair took passenger weights was in 2017 and 2018, to produce the average weights it’s using to this day.

“In the previous measurements five years ago, a good number of volunteers wanted to participate in the weighing, and we hope to have a good sample of volunteers, both business and leisure travelers, also this time, so that we can get the most accurate information possible for important balance calculations,” Munnukka said.

Photo: Courtesy of Finnair

Finnair isn’t the only airline to recently ask passengers to step up to the scale. Last year, Korean Air weighed hundreds of passengers before domestic and international departures from Seoul’s Gimpo International Airport (GMP) and Incheon International Airport (ICN), as required by South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

Similarly, last summer, Air New Zealand took the measurements of 10,000 travelers boarding international flights from Auckland (AKL), as mandated by New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority.