Overweight Plane

How then is it that a flight, fully loaded with passengers, luggage and fuel, needs to get three tons, yes THREE TONS, off of the plane prior to take off. Yes, this happened because my parents were on a flight with this problem just the other day.

First they were told that the longer a plane sits on the ground in a warm climate, it expands, and becomes heavier (raise eyebrow here).

Then the pilot apologized because apparently someone messed up their calculations since the configuration of this particular plane was not typical to this route…was this the first time the plane was in use? No, because it had traveled from SFO – HOU – PHX just that morning.

At least they were making someone accountable – whether that person knew it or not. I guess they thought removing only five passengers and their luggage and then proceeding to dump fuel is a good idea.

How can the airline board flight, an overbooked flight at that, and then have this happen? This raises several questions:

  • Isn’t the purpose of scales to control the weight on a plane? Or just to ensure the airlines charge passengers fees?
  • Would there be enough fuel for the flight? I am sure airlines are very aware of the price of fuel and try to only fuel up their planes for what is required to make that particular journey. Why was that plane so overloaded with fuel in the first place that dumping it would make a dent in the weight of the plane. And would that affect the plane to get from point A to point B.
  • When they dump the fuel, with passengers still on the plane, where does it go? Does this cause a fire hazard? I’m sure it’s not being spewed on the runway but is it going to cause a flammable situation? To dump fuel is one thing, to lighten tons of weight is another. That’s a lot of fuel. Can it be reused? Dumped?

My parents had thought this was a one time thing but I had a story of my own to share. A few years ago I was with colleagues and we were waiting to board a flight from LGA to DFW. The flight was over that weight limit as well. They would only board passengers who had to catch connecting flights out of DFW.

It was a business trip and there were three of us, with many presentation materials. Since our final destination was DFW, we made arrangements to fly out of JFK on the next available flight. 

This crew knew the flight was going to be over the weight limits before they boarded the flight but they did not board by row. Instead they boarded by destination. The crew announced various onward destinations where passengers on this flight were headed and only allowed those passengers to board. If you were only traveling to DFW, you were denied boarding.

Have you ever been on an overweight plane? How did they alleviate the weight? Share your story in the comments below.

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