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Aussie airlines to update average passenger weights as obesity soars

Pictured: Inside an airplane. Image: Getty
Image: Getty

Australia’s airlines may be forced to update their average passenger weights for the first time in 30 years, as Australians are becoming increasingly obese.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is reportedly moving to add an extra 5kg to the average passenger weight, with airlines to comply with the new standard weight when calculating the aircraft’s gross weight, The Australian reports.

The last time the weight guidelines were updated was in 1990, however according to the 2017-18 national health survey, the average weight of an Australian man has climbed from 81.8kg to 87kg since then, while the average female weight has become 71.8kg from 66.7kg.

And according to the Heart Foundation, 27.9 per cent of Australians are obese, up from 18.7 per cent in 2995.

The authority last year consulted on safety regulations for larger aircraft, and noted that submissions reported that there were “difference in the standard crew and passenger weights to those currently utilised by an operator”.

“CASA notes that the Australian standard weights have not been updated in a considerable period of time. Other major regulators have explicitly linked the updating of standard crew and passenger weights to regular health surveys of their populations,” the association said in response.

“The standard adult male, adult female and child weights proposed by CASA are lower than those currently published by the FAA and Transport Canada for equivalent US and Canadian operators.

“CASA notes that passenger gender is not always readily available however it is available in the majority of cases and provided an operator adopts a conservative approach regarding the use of standard weights for those passengers whose gender cannot be ascertained then the overall level of aviation safety will not be comprised.”

Most airlines have rules for larger passengers, with most airlines asking passengers who either can’t comfortably fit in a seat with both armrests down, or passengers who require a seatbelt extension, to purchase another seat.

Are airline seats too small?

However, the size of the seat is a problem in itself, with many passengers claiming that seats are getting smaller.

In fact, the US Court of Appeals in 2017 ordered the US Federal Aviation Administration to put a stop to the “case of the incredible shrinking airline seat”.

However, the FAAA said it would not do so as seat size had nothing to do with passenger safety.

“The FAA has no evidence showing that current seat dimensions hamper the speed of passenger evacuation, or that increased passenger size creates an evacuation issue,” a spokesman told MarketWatch.

“During an evacuation, passengers stand up in just a few seconds, which is less time than it takes for emergency exits to begin functioning and for the line that begins forming in the aisle to clear.”

US passenger advocacy group, FlyersRights.org has also campaigned against smaller seats.

"It's really become almost like a torture class," Paul Hudson, president of Flyers Rights told NPR.

"We have space regulations for transporting animals, for transporting prisoners. But we don't seem to have anything for regular passengers."

Yahoo Finance has contacted CASA for comment.

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