Overweight passengers using Samoa Air will have to pay more for their Samoa Air flights now that the airline has become the first in the world to institute a "pay what you weigh" policy. (Or this is an elaborate April Fools joke. Continue reading for our update.)
Samoa is consistently listed as one of the most obese countries in the world. The airline will charge travelers by the kilogram for their weight and the weight of their luggage. A kilo is a kilo, plain and simple.
Under the new system, Samoa Air passengers must type in their weight and the weight of their baggage into the online booking section of the airline's website. The rates vary depending on the distance flown: from $1 per kilogram on the airline's shortest domestic route to about $4.16 per kilogram for travel between Samoa and American Samoa. Passengers are then weighed again on scales at the airport, to check that they weren't fibbing online.
Chief executive of Samoa Air, Chris Langton points out that this new policy will make it cheaper for, say, a family of four (two adults, two mid-sized children) to travel. In other words, Michael would have paid hella less for Walt's ticket than what Hurley would have had to pay for his own trip if Oceanic Flight 815 was actually a Samoa Air flight. [Sydney Morning Herald]
At first glance, the news may seem like an April Fools joke with a late arrival. But, the company explains the policy on its website.
Booking a flight with us is as easy as inputting your approximate weight into our online booking engine (don't worry, we will weigh you again at the airport) - you then can prepay your 'guesstimate', guaranteeing you that much weight is allocated to you for that flight. Take as many or as few bags as you wish - and avoid the exorbitant excess baggage fee's! Gone are the days of 'Special' airfares (lets face it, there is only ever 2 or 3 seats available at that 'special rate' on your typical airline) With Samoa Air, you are the master of how much (or little!) you air ticket will cost.
When I tried to book a flight, I had to fill in my weight (plus the weight of my baggage) and their terms and conditions included numerous bullet points referencing their pay/kilogram policy.
The first evidence pointing to the fact that it's a big joke is in the Chris Langton interview with Australian Network News, when he immediately identifies the day of the week.
"You know, there's a day's difference between American Samoa and Samoa. Where I am at the moment it's a Sunday. In about two hours time, we'll be back in Samoa where it's a bustling Monday."
Monday, obviously, was April Fools Day. Also, the company hadn't updated its Facebook page since February (and only twice since December). But, as soon as the news broke of their policy, a link was posted.
Though these examples might indicate that Samoa Air fooled nearly everyone on the Internet, the company runs a lot of charter flights and scenic tours on small planes and it's not entirely unfathomable that they'd benefit from a pay-by-weight policy.
We've put in a call and an email, but they weren't immediately returned (not surprising considering that it's the middle of the night down there). We'll update as we hear more.
If it is an April Fools joke, it's an incredible one. The updated booking system on their website. The altered Terms & Conditions. The radio interview and subtle reference to the day. You can check out news of the announcement at a number of high-profile news websites.
UPDATE: An Australian news organization has reportedly reached a Samoa Air spokeswoman who confirmed that the policy is not a prank and that the company hopes it raises obesity awareness. [h/t Gawker]