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Update: Hawaiian Air begins new weight survey on HNL-PPG flights

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HA says survey is “for safe, efficient flights” — and it’s “voluntary”

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — To revalidate the weight survey conducted three years ago, Hawaiian Airlines is conducting the survey, again, of passengers on the airline’s flights between Honolulu and Pago Pago with people participating on a “voluntary” basis. The survey is estimated to last four months.

Airline spokesperson Ann Botticelli recalled that it was three years ago that the Honolulu-based carrier “conducted a weight survey because we were burning more fuel than we were projecting.”

“Federal regulations require revalidation of the survey every three years, so we are undertaking a survey again,” she said from Honolulu, noting that the survey began last Thursday at both Honolulu and Pago Pago airports — before the flight departed from each of the two airports.

“The survey is completely voluntary. Passengers who participate will be weighed with their carry-on luggage. We will not collect names or other personal information,” she explained. “Each passenger will be asked to participate until we have a statistically significant number of data points — about 3,000 people — but passengers can opt out, or, if departure times are being impacted, a random program using every second, third or fourth passenger, can be employed to maintain on-time performance.”

Hawaiian currently operates two weekly flights between Honolulu and Pago Pago on Thursdays and Mondays. And these are the two days the survey is being carried out. The survey will also be conducted when the airline adds a third weekly flight, from June 11 to Aug. 27.

“In an industry like commercial aviation, safety is the top priority and the weighing is to ensure accuracy in the weight and balance of the aircraft and appropriate amounts of fuel being loaded on each flight,” said Botticelli, who is the airline’s senior president of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs.

The Honolulu-Pago Pago route is not the only market where the airline has conducted similar surveys.

“We did similar weight surveys in our Asian markets, where the projected fuel consumption was higher than actual consumption. We just completed the new triennial survey in Japan,” Botticelli explained.

Samoa News reported in 2016 that Hawaiian had just completed in 2015 the weight survey of the airline’s Asian markets — Japan and Korea.  At the time, several local residents and travelers appeared offended over the weight survey and questioned whether it was carried out on other routes the airline operates.

One of the biggest questions that was asked three years ago (and it resurfaced again last Friday) is why Hawaiian is weighing passengers.

“It is important to calculate accurate weight and balance, and therefore the center of gravity of an aircraft for safe, efficient flight,” according to information sheet provided by Hawaiian, which also states that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) establishes average weights for passengers, checked baggage, and carryon baggage for airlines to use when determining the weight and balance on an aircraft.

Additionally, the FAA uses data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), to determine the estimated weights of passengers. And that average weight is updated periodically, and changes seasonally.

(The NHANE is a program of studies designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which administers the program. “The survey is unique in that it combines interviews and physical examinations,” said CDC online

“Airlines may choose to conduct their own survey in markets in which they believe weights differ materially from FAA averages,” Hawaiian explained, and recalled that 3 years ago, in coordination with, and on the recommendation of the FAA, Hawaiian Airlines elected to conduct such a survey for selected routes including our Pago Pago service “because our projected fuel consumption was lower than the actual consumption, indicating a possible weight discrepancy.”

“We eliminated other possible factors that could explain the difference in fuel consumption such as weather, flight routing and wind before beginning the weight survey,” Botticelli points out.

Another question that has resurfaced, from three years ago, is whether Hawaiian Airlines will be assigning seats based on passenger weight. The airline’s reply, “No. Individual passenger weights are not relevant to us.”

Hawaiian estimates that it will take about four months for the survey, and again emphasized that “passengers can opt out of being weighed.”