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US travelers might be asked to be weighed before flying on airlines

The Federal Aviation Administration might be asking you to step on a scale before you board your next flight.

PHOENIX — How much do you weigh?

A question most people don't want to be asked, even when they're at the doctor's office about to set foot on that daunting scale. However, with the average adult's weight changing constantly, air carriers are encouraged by the FAA to conduct surveys about the heavy subject on a voluntary basis.

The Federal Aviation Administration might be asking you to step on a scale before you board your next flight. However, as Professor Ed Coleman with Embry Riddle Aeronautical University explains, that's standard procedure.

"What they do is, every so often the airlines are required to sample size the people getting on the airplane and figure out how much they weigh and figure out what they're carrying on," he said.

New guidance from the FAA may require some passengers to reveal their body weight! Technically, if a passenger does not wish to participate, the airline is supposed to pick another traveler at random, according to the guidance.

"The average passenger weight was in the 170 range for a long time, then they raised it up to the 190 range," Coleman added.

However, it's not quite as invasive as it sounds. Every three years the agency suggests air carriers recalculate passenger weight and baggage. The requirement is for the overall, safety and security of everyone on board.

"The FAA issued an Advisory Circular in May 2019, that stressed the importance that airline weight and balance programs accurately reflect current passenger weights. Operators are evaluating their programs to comply with this guidance. While weighing customers at the gate is an option, most operators will likely rely on updated methods for estimating passenger weights."

Under the pending requirements, airlines do mandatory surveys to set "standard average passenger weights" for crew members, baggage, and passengers through random sampling and volunteers. This action is something the FAA suggests air carriers do every three years, adding that passenger’s weight will remain confidential.

One doctor we spoke to, Donese Worden a member of the Arizona Naturopathic Medical Association (AzNMA) says, the random survey should be eye-opening for Americans when it comes to their health.

"The FAA has to continually do these surveys to see how much the obesity rate is increasing in America. This is just another reminder to us when 40% of American adults are overweight and 20% of children, we've got a real problem," she explained.

Currently, the weight of an average adult passenger and carry-on is below accurate estimates.

Airlines would have to increase the average weight for female passengers and carry-ons from 145 pounds to 179 pounds in the summer and from 150 pounds to 184 pounds in the winter, according to the standards, while the weight for men with bags will go up from 185 pounds in the summertime to 200 pounds and from 190 pounds to 205 pounds in the winter months, to accommodate for heavier packing.

At this point in the recommendation, it’s unclear when travelers may be expected to step on the scale at airports.

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