- As travel rebounds, passenger weight gain over the past year could put a dent in summer travel plans.
All that comfort food during the pandemic might make flying a little difficult this summer.
Airline passengers are being warned to brace for the possibility of being booted from flights, while their luggage could arrive later due to increases in the average weight of passengers and baggage — a rise estimated at about 10% since 2005, which was the last time the Federal Aviation Administration asked airlines to submit weight estimates, according to a new report.
The FAA told airlines they have until June 12 to figure out weight estimates for passengers and baggage, as the increases could threaten the safety of flights, The Wall Street Journal reported.
While the travel industry continues its rebound after being grounded for safety concerns last year, this could be just another headache travelers will have to endure as they find ways to use up all that stashed vacation time accrued during the pandemic.
The FAA isn’t weight-shaming you
Don’t blame airlines or the FAA. They don’t benefit from this required update.
And passengers won’t be forced on a scale, the report said. Airlines can use estimates from data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While most airlines remained quiet regarding their plans, Alaska Airlines said it will increase the average estimates by “7 pounds for adults, 2 pounds for carry-on bags and 4 pounds for checked luggage.” The airline has been using the same average estimates since 2013.
Airlines also aren’t targeting any particular type of travelers; they’ve been told that they are supposed to adjust for markets where unique travelers may come through, such as flights holdings sports teams.
Some destinations are more problematic than others
It’s anticipated that some flights will be affected during the summer, but the impact is most likely to be seen on flights during unusually hot days, or in cities higher above sea level, the report said. Weight can cause plane wings to not generate enough lift, while flights heading into stronger winds require more fuel, which adds to the overall weight of the flight.
This means airports in areas like Salt Lake City and Denver could see disruptions, while hotter places like Phoenix and the South could also be at risk.
Expect long lines
Even if there’s little chance you’ll be booted from an overweight flight, you may have to deal with slow TSA lines.
The Transportation Security Administration issued a memo warning that 131 of the US’s largest airports are facing staffing shortages this month, calling for office employees to volunteer at airports for as many as 45 days.
The TSA said that it has screened seven times more passengers during a busy weekend in May than it had at any other time in 2020. This past Sunday, the agency had 1.98 million people screened, a new pandemic air travel record, according to ABC News.
While the TSA is hiring in waves, it isn’t helping wait times at airports.
ABC News said customers have waited up to four hours to reach a reservation agent at the largest airlines in the US.