Travelers at Helsinki Airport may have been a bit shocked this week to see scales before they boarded their planes.
But according to Finnair, the airline that had 180 of its passengers weigh in before take off, there’s a compelling reason for the airline to do research into just how much its human cargo weighs, the BBC repored.
“Airlines know what the aircraft weighs, what the check-in luggage weighs, but not what passengers weigh,” Päivyt Tallqvist, communications director at Finnair, told BBC.
It wasn’t just passengers they were weighing, though: Finnair also weighed each of the volunteers’ carry-on luggage and whatever bulky clothing they may have been wearing, hoping to get a better sense of the load each plane has to bear, BBC reported.
Mercifully, passengers were allowed to opt out of the weigh in if they felt uncomfortable with it, according to the Huffington Post.
Tallqvist told the Huffington Post that only Finnair staff could see the scale, so the entire event was more of a science experiment than a public spectacle.
Finnair decided to weigh its passengers because 2009 estimates of passenger weights from the European Aviation Safety Agency — which the airline had been using — aren’t the most accurate, according to the Independent.
For example, men who fly first class tend to be heavier than the men stuck in cramped economy seats, ESEA estimates reveal. But women who choose to fly first class tend to be lighter than their economy counterparts, ESEA data shows, according to the Independent. Carry-ons also tend to be lighter in the summer months, and men are more likely to pack a heavy carry-on bag.
Despite those differences, Finnair had been relying on broad, generalized ESEA data to make calculations about fuel consumption and more, the Huffington Post reported.
Finnair hopes that its experiment can give the airline a better sense of its passengers’ weight and how those weights impact its planes, according to CNBC.
“We have a strong safety culture at Finnair, and are also a very data-driven organization, so we want to ensure we have the best possible data in use in aircraft performance and loading calculations,” a Finnair representative told CBNC.
Finnair told the Huffington Post it plans to weigh 2,000 more passengers into next year to complete the research.