Hawaiian Airlines will continue its policy of assigning seats only at the airport on flights between Honolulu and American Samoa, after federal complaints that the practice targets Samoans because of their weight were denied.
The airline began the policy earlier in October, after noticing their planes were burning more fuel than projected on the 2,600 flight route between Honolulu and American Samoa. A six-month voluntary survey in which passengers were weighed before boarding found that on average, each person and their luggage weighed 30 pounds more than expected.
As a result of the survey, the airline took away the offer of pre-selecting seats on that flight, and assigned seats when travelers checked in to make sure the weight is evenly distributed on the plane.
The policy has become sensitive issue to people of Samoan descent, who argue the move is discriminatory. According to the CIA world fact book, American Samoa has the highest rate of adult obesity.
“What they’re saying is Samoans are obese,” Atimua Migi told the Associated Press earlier this month.
“That’s an entirely in correct assumption,” Jon Snook, Hawaiian Airlines’ chief operating officer, responded.
Six complaints were filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation calling the policy discriminatory because it only applies to the flight between Honolulu and American Samoa. The complaints were denied, according to a transportation department spokesperson, who told the AP the policy is, “not on its face discriminatory.”
According to the airline, weight surveys on other flight routes did not find any evidence of excess weight.
Hawaiian Airlines’ move is not the first such policy Samoans have had to encounter—in 2013, Samoa Air started charging passengers by weight.
Correction: The original wording of this article implied Hawaiian Airlines was assigning seats to passengers based on their individual weight. The airlines’ policy keeps open one seat on each row which is either left empty of filled by a child under 13.
I'm a US Marine Corps veteran who wanted to take his 84 year old disabled mother to Maui for a vacation. I have heart condition and my mother is on oxygen, in addition to a series of other ailments which prevent her from taking most trips. We booked a flight with Hawaiian Airlines through a travel agent who informed the airlines of our need for wheelchair service in addition to a letter for an oxygen concentrator. Upon arrival at the San Francisco ticket counter for Hawaiian Airlines we had already paid for our baggage and checked in so they put our bags on a flight to Maui, then we were told that the letter which we had printed on United Airlines stationary was not acceptable to Hawaiian Airlines. We had arrived for our flight approximately two and a half hours prior to departure figuring that we would be able to take care of any situation which might arise.
In the early stages of the interaction, the person at the ticket counter required us to take apart the concentrator to get numbers off the battery of which we accommodated, in addition to providing them the numbers off of the backup battery which was at the bottom of a carry on. We were told that there is no way that they can accept that because it was on United Airlines stationary. The doctor's authorization on United Airlines stationary has been used with Delta Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines without any problems.
There was no mention of an additional requirement for the doctor's signature on the required documents letter or HA form to be within 10 days of travel. We were informed by the ticket agent that there's nothing they can do and that we need to get this letter from the doctor authorizing the use of the oxygen concentrator on his stationary or preferably the Hawaiian Airlines waiver which can be acquired on the Hawaiian Airlines website. Once this form is filled out by the doctor, to have him fax it to us and then they can reschedule our flight for the following day. Although there would be a $200 per ticket charge for changing our flight times. [ (+) $400]
We had already turned our car in at a park and fly hotel in the area so we were pretty much stuck at the airport. The hotel being customer service oriented was very understanding and provided us our vehicle and a ride back to the hotel in addition to a discount on the hotel for the next night. After speaking with the doctor we acquired the HA form (we were told this is the best option) which he filled out and faxed it to us at our hotel. Finally, we met ALL, the HA requirements (hoops), and we were thinking that we would be experiencing the Aloha Spirit within 24 hours. WRONG!!! Not with the customer service provided by Hawaiian Airlines in San Francisco. We arrived the following day at about the same time at the HA ticket counter with a Hawaiian Airlines waiver for an oxygen concentrator, having jumped through all the Hoops that HA had asked us to do.
At that point the ticket agent which was aware of our situation from the previous day, told us that they could not accept that because it was not the original. Huh, REALLY?? After explaining to the ticket agent how a fax machine works and that the original was in the doctor's office we were then told that they needed detailed O2 (oxygen) titration levels for the entire trip. We told them we have no idea except that it was at 3 L per minute. Fortunately a nurse standing at the next ticket counter explained it to the ticket agent, who responded, "Huh? OKAY."
The next hoop we were required to jump through was that at the bottom of the form next to the doctor's signature he failed to put the date. We reminded her that it was yesterday that they required us to get this form and, her response was once again, "I'm sorry there's nothing I can do" after pleading with her and explain to her how important this trip was for my elderly mother and that this was possibly the last opportunity that she would have to travel, she called her supervisor once again and the response from the supervisor, was seemingly that default response of, "I'm sorry there's nothing that we can do" we were told that we needed to contact our doctor, have him put the date on it and send us back a fax. We reminded the ticket agent that this was Saturday and that we were unable to contact the doctor until Monday which would put us on a flight for Tuesday but there would be a $200 charge for a changing of the reservation.
It seems that the Hawaiian Airlines personnel training is very non-customer service oriented but that they are willing to do many changes in your reservation at $200 a change. I can imagine that the reason that they need this money is because of the decline in travel by customers who have actually booked flights through Hawaiian Airlines and then become disgruntled because of the way in which that they were treated by the customer service people at the ticket counter in San Francisco.