Uzbekistan Airways announced on August 7 that it would begin weighing passengers with their hand bagged prior to boarding. The new procedure, an effort to ensure flight safety the company’s statement at the time said, would be confidential. The “special weighing machine…will only contain the corresponding passenger category (i.e. male/ female/ children).”
The airline said, “According to the rules of International Air Transport Association, airlines are obliged to carry out the regular procedures of preflight control passengers weighing with hand baggage to observe requirements for ensuring flight safety.”
The story got international attention, with pieces in the UK’s sensationalist Daily Mail, RT, USA Today, Fortune, the Telegraph and others. Eventually, on August 13, CNN picked up the story, and asked the IATA about the rule cited by Uzbekistan Airways. “An IATA spokesperson, however, tells CNN the organization isn’t aware of any such regulation.”Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
While the release made no comment on weight limits or what would happen if a passenger surpassed them, plenty of theories emerged. Some coverage, such as that of the Daily Mail, known for its alarmist style, focused on the possible discriminatory nature of such a regulation–the idea that heavier passengers would be barred from flying on busy flights or smaller aircraft.
USA Today pointed out that Uzbekistan Airways would not be the first airline to place scales between a passenger and their seat. In 2012, Samoa Air began charging passengers by weight for its turboprop island-hopping flights. Samoa Air gleefully adopted the slogan “A kilo is a kilo is a kilo!”
Fortune emphasized that Uzbekistan Airways passengers wouldn’t be charged more and couched the procedure as information gathering.
But rather than clarifying their intent or regulation, it seems Uzbekistan Airways has tried to erase the statement. When visited today, the link to the statement used by most outlets reporting on the story no longer references new procedures for weighing passengers or baggage. Instead the page carries a statement dated July 30 summarizing the first six months of 2015: “Uzbekistan Airways aircraft performed 11,575 flights. 1 million 235 thousand passengers were carried by Uzbekistan Airways. 18,3 thousand tons of freight including paid baggage and mail were transported.”
Google’s cached version of the same link, however, still reveals the original release.
The URL also provides an internet breadcrumb of the announcement, with the English version of the page still ending in “national-airline-uzbekistan-airways-has-introduced-procedure-preflight-weighing” despite the page no longer carrying any reference to the new procedure.
It is unclear now whether Uzbekistan Airways will be weighing passengers or not.
Uzbekistan Airways currently operates out of Tashkent International Airport and flies to 58 destinations using a fleet of 34 aircraft, a mix of Boeing, Airbus and Illyushin planes.