03/04/2013 04:12 BST | Updated 03/04/2013 06:33 BST

Samoa Air Start Selling Plane Tickets By Passenger Weight On International Flights

A tiny airline is offering a new reason to lose weight before your next trip - tickets sold not by the seat, but by the kilogram.

Samoa Air planned today to start pricing its first international flights based on the weight of its passengers and their bags.

Depending on the flight, each kilogram (2.2 pounds) costs 93 cents (62p) to 1.06 US dollars (70p).

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That means the average American man weighing 195 pounds with a 35 pound bag would pay 97 dollars (£64) to go one-way between Apia, Samoa, and Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Competitors typically charge 130 dollars (£82) to 140 dollars (£93) for similar routes.

The weight-based pricing is not new to the airline, which launched in June. It has been using the model since November, but in January the US Department of Transportation approved its international route between American Samoa and Samoa.

The airline's chief executive, Chris Langton, said that "planes are run by weight and not by seat, and travellers should be educated on this important issue.

"The plane can only carry a certain amount of weight and that weight needs to be paid. There is no other way."

Mr Langton, a pilot himself, said when he flew for other airlines, he brought up the idea to his bosses to charge by weight, but they considered it too sensitive an issue to address.

Travellers in the region are already weighed before they fly because the planes used between the islands are small, said David Vaeafe, executive director of the American Samoa Visitors Bureau.

Samoa Air's fleet includes two nine-passenger planes for commercial routes and a three-passenger plane for an air taxi service.

Mr Langton said passengers who need more room will be given one row on the plane to ensure comfort.

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The new pricing system would make Samoa Air the first to charge strictly by weight, a change that Mr Vaeafe said is "in many ways... a fair concept for passengers".

He said: "For example, a 12- or 13-year-old passenger, who is small in size and weight, won't have to pay an adult fare, based on airline fares that anyone 12 years and older does pay the adult fare."

Mr Langton said the airline has received mixed responses from overseas travellers since it began promoting the pricing on its website and Facebook page.

He said some passengers have been surprised, but no one has refused to be weighed yet.

Health officials in American Samoa were among the first to contact the airline when the pricing structure was announced.

"They want to ride on the awareness this is raising and use it as a medium to address obesity issues," he said.

Islands in the Pacific have the highest rates of obesity in the world. According to a World Health Organisation study, 86% of Samoans are overweight, the fourth worst among all nations.

In comparison, the same study found that 69% of Americans were overweight, 61% of Australians, and 22% of Japanese.