Some airlines have dabbled with the idea of instituting a "fat tax" — charging overweight travelers more for their airplane seats.
While awful, that might be preferable to what some customers say Hawaiian Airlines is doing.
Radio New Zealand reported that Hawaiian Airlines has started stopping some heavier passengers on flights between Honolulu and Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, and asking them to step on a scale, or they can't fly.
Avamua Dave Haleck, a Samoan businessman, is one of two people to have filed a claim with the US Department of Transportation against Hawaiian Airlines, according to The Telegraph. The rule is discriminatory, Haleck said, because it only applies on flights to or from American Samoa (which has a high rate of obesity).
A representative of Hawaiian Airlines told The Telegraph that the new rule was put in place to even out weight distribution as a safety precaution, but Haleck doesn't buy it.
"Hawaiian is saying that it is a safety issue," he said, "so have we been flying unsafe for all these years?"
According to a statement from Hawaiian Airlines supplied to The Telegraph, the new weight rule is a result of the airline realizing that fuel burn on Pago Pago flights was much higher than they thought — an indication "that our weight assumptions were inaccurate," the company representative said.
The survey results confirmed that our aircraft cabin weight was heavier than projected. This requires us to manage the distribution of weight across each row in our cabin and we have elected to do so by making sure that one seat in each row is either empty or occupied by a traveller under the age of 13.
The decision to assign seats at the airport was made because that is the most efficient way to manage weight distribution. This allows us to make sure that families with children are seated together, for example, and it minimizes the confusion created by changing pre-selected seats.
UPDATED 10/7/16, 9:31 a.m.:
Alex Da Silva, senior external communications specialist, responded to our inquiry about these reports in an email, claiming that "some of the stories we've seen [are] misrepresenting the issue" (emphasis ours):
I want to start by saying that no customers will be asked to step on scales before they are allocated seats. Second, this is not about the weight of the aircraft but about distribution of weight in the main cabin. ... This requires us to manage the distribution of weight across each row in our cabin and we have elected to do so by making sure that one seat in each row is either empty or occupied by a traveler under the age of 13.
But again, no customers will be asked to step on a scale before being assigned seats, he said.