XL airline will offer extra space for larger passengers
THE world's first airline to charge people according to their weight is set to introduce an "executive row", with extra space and no armrests, to cater for bigger passengers.
Samoa's domestic airline Samoa Air made headlines this year when it introduced a pay-by-weight fare system.
Despite claims that it's discriminating, the airline's popularity has risen among tourists and locals travelling to and from American Samoa, and between Samoa's two main islands, Upolu and Savai'i.
Chief executive Chris Langton told the Herald the airline was in the process of installing a special seating place for bigger passengers.
"We're in the process of changing the space between the seats. What we've done is created what we call the executive row, where they've got an extra 14 inches (35cm) between the seats. There's also a ramp so people have easier access. They've got added space as there's no [arm] rest between the seats. It's basically like a two- or three-person sofa," he said.
Rates range from 1 tala (54c) a kg - for combined weight of traveller and baggage - on the airline's shortest domestic route, to 3.8 tala ($2.07) a kg for travel from Samoa to neighbouring American Samoa.
Mr Langton said bookings for flights had doubled, with about 50 bookings coming through each day.
The airline had received more inquiries from around the world and the company's website had received 190 million hits.
The fare system had been particularly popular with heavier people, who now understood that paying a little bit extra meant a better seat. "They don't mind paying for their weight. The thing that they never had before was that comfort."
Local woman Leilani Curry, who grew up in Hamilton but now works in Apia, travelled with the airline with a "tall and very skinny" friend.
"My fare was much bigger than hers. But I was looked after. I never felt like I was being discriminated against because of my weight."
Having to pay more had motivated her to start exercising and she has lost 4kg since April.
Samoa Air now hopes to become an international carrier, flying to other Pacific islands as well as New Zealand and Australia.
The pay-by-weight fare system would not be applied to these flights.