by Alan Ah Mu
APIA: WEDNESDAY 10 JULY 2013: Lose weight and get a discount airfare.
Fitness Firm gym and Samoa Air have combined to make that happen.
Gym owner Leaupepe Esera Polito realised his “6 Weeks Weight Loss Challenge” would benefit if he hooked up with the airline to organise an extra reward for his customers.
Samoa Air is world famous for being weight conscious as it charges each passenger an airfare based on their weight in kilos.
One thing the two companies know: Samoa has a big weight problem.
Of the 80-odd who sweat under Fitness Firm’s weight loss challenge, over 75% of them would fall into World Health Organisation’s categories of overweight, obese and morbidly obese, said Leaupepe.
“So this is a sneak peek of how our population is,” he said.
Overweight is the creation of overeating and inadequate exercise – which in turn results in non-communicable diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and gout which leads to kidney failure.
To survive kidney failure requires dialysis treatment which costs $75 000 a year per patient at National Kidney Foundation of Samoa, said Leaupepe.
Many disliked Samoa Air’s pay-by-weight fare system, but not Leaupepe, who admired Chief Executive Officer Chris Langton’s courage.
“It makes people start to think about their health,” said the gym owner.
Lost sometimes in the controversy was Langton’s reasoning that airlines have always charged fares based on weight.
But it was an assumed weight, based on an average national weight, which was not updated regularly and not specifically relevant to Samoa.
In effect airfares were based on incorrect information.
Apart from the safety aspects of this there was the issue of fairness since lighter passengers subsidised the fare of heavier ones.
As a pilot himself Leaupepe knows what Langton has said to be true: “Airlines sell weight not seats.”
Samoa Air knows exactly the weight their planes carry and so travel with them is safer, said Leaupepe.
He and Langton came to an arrangement.
For the morbidly obese Samoa Air cuts off $3 from their fare for every kilo they lose under the weight loss challenge; for the obese it’s $2 for every kilo lost, for the obese it’s $1 for every kilo lost.
“It’s a way of joining our two businesses,” said Langton of the deal.
“He benefits by getting new business referred to him by my business,” said Leaupepe.
Langton wants more health spread wider since, “People who are alive travel more.”