Awkward Travel Moments: Asking Friends Their Weight

My friend Mike has written about his travel experiences on the blog, including:

Mike is back to share one of the most awkward conversations he has had while planning a trip with friends, and will hopefully be posting more regularly going forward.


As I mentioned in my previous post about our stay at the Hyatt Olive 8, our family recently enjoyed a cruise to Alaska.

Before our trip, I was researching excursion options in Ketchikan and a floatplane trip to see bears stood out as a great idea. I really enjoy seeing and photographing wildlife and have never been on a floatplane. That’s a pretty solid twofer for me. So, we went ahead and booked the excursion.

propeller float plane view

A few months later, my friend’s wife decided she also wanted to do a flightseeing tour from the same company and since I was already in touch with them, she asked if I could get a quote.

The awkwardness begins

I was happy to follow through with the tour operator until the booking agent came back with an important but incredibly awkward question for me: “how much does she weigh?”

I know better than to run around asking women their weight. Hell, I don’t want to run around advertising my weight. But, I really needed the information because the pilot has to properly distribute the weight in the plane.

I envisioned this all working out something like this:

Being a millenial and preferring less direct interaction rather than more, I quickly decided I’d text the question instead of asking in person or over the phone. But, how would I ask?

I wrote that text at least 20 times. Here are some of the drafts:

  • Hey, the pilot needs your weight?
  • So, this is awkward, how much do you weigh?
  • What age did you lose your virginity? Just kidding, I only need to know your weight for the Alaska flight.
  • Let’s pretend I never asked this, but how much do you weigh?
  • Pretty much the top of the list of things I should never ask: what is your weight?
  • I’m positive my grandmother is rolling over in her grave for the following question: what is your weight?

My grandmother was an actual concern for me. She was a wonderful woman and spoiled me. But, she was very proper and a really tough woman when she needed to be. It’s been awhile since she’s passed, but there are times where her threats to haunt people (we think she was joking) replay in my head. This was definitely one of them.

I called my wife and asked what she thought. She conceded it was awkward but said I was blowing it out of proportion. And perhaps she was right.

But, she didn’t stand up and volunteer to ask anyone their weight either. So, I fretted about it some more.

Later that day, I was on the phone with my mom and mentioned it to her. She laughed about grandma’s threats to haunt us and then reminded me of the awkward situations grandma put us in over the years. I’d forgotten the time when she continued asking a server pointed questions about ALL of her piercings, even after the server politely made it clear to us some of the piercings were in more intimate areas.

My mom had a point. Even my mostly proper grandmother survived some awkward situations. So, I went ahead and asked about my friend’s weight and gave her the option of providing it directly to the tour company.

She had no issue telling me and it was ultimately a fairly anticlimactic end to the story. But, it sure felt like a big deal at the time.

More drama

While the weight issue wound up being anticlimactic, the floatplane was still a source of anxiety for some of us because shortly after paying our deposits for the tour, a similar flight from Ketchikan tragically crashed into the side of a mountain killing all 9 people aboard.

We considered cancelling but decided to stick with the tour. I’m really glad we did.

The flight

The flight was a blast. And I was surprised by how smooth the take off and landing were in the floatplane.

float plane arrivingview of ship from float plane

The scenery around the bear viewing area was spectacular.

beautiful alaska scenery

And while we only saw one bear, it was still fun watching it try to snag a few salmon out of the river.

bear climbing around bear fishing for salmon

For the flight back to Ketchikan, the weight distribution worked out well for me because the pilot wanted more weight at the front of the plane. She put me up in the copilot seat with a great vantage point (even if this picture is a terrible example).

copilot seat view

Have any of you been put in a similarly awkward situation when traveling?

Comments

  1. I’m sure they probably just need the weight within +/-20lb or so. I’m sure you and your wife could have guessed and that would have been fine.

  2. As the pilot of small aircraft I have struggled with this question a lot. But weight/balance is critical to flight safety. So much so that if a piece of equipment is replaced, even if it’s just one of the radios, the aircraft must be reweighed and a new weight/balance certificate issued. So no, +/- 20 lbs is not acceptable. Not only will it affect the way the aircraft handles but will also affect fuel consumption. Engine failure mid-flight due to fuel starvation because a passenger was slightly embarrassed about their weight is a fantastic way to seriously piss off your pilot.

    I get past the potential awkwardness by reminding myself just how important weight figures are for insuring the safety of the flight, which as pilot is my responsibility. If someone balks at the question I simply explain to them why I need the information and what could happen if they “fudge” the figure, even just a little. To me it’s just a number – a very important number, but not for the reasons they think! If they continue to balk, they don’t go. They get upset and call me a dick. But I’d rather be a dick and alive, than affable and dead.

  3. Lucky, please get rid of the guest writers — this is not why we (used to) come to this site. You need weight on small planes for CG, just ask it. It’s not awkward, it’s necessary. Waste of a post.

  4. Lucky, keep the guest writers! It is SO refreshing to read other perspectives, and if a subject (yours or a guest’s) doesn’t interest me, I don’t read that story and I don’t comment, it’s that easy!

    To the whiners: The Internet is HUGE! Lots and lots of options! Also, there’s PORN! Check it out!

  5. @Mike,
    Not very uncommon for us Naval Costal Rangers of Norway / Norwegians in general.
    We have airports that you will find suitable for landing a radio-controlled micro aircraft, and that is our drop-off zone.
    We are usually asked for our weight upon check-in, however they barely weigh our bags, and being on patrol where the closest gas station is 100Ks/60 miles away, you would typically load your bag with all the junk you could eat. However bags and weapons are weighed in at 46kilograms pr.person (standard kit with ammo is approx.40 kilograms).
    Enjoy our every day issue.

  6. If it were truly life or death, they’d weigh the people before they got on the plane and not rely on self-reported data.

    And I never really understood the need to lie about weight. I look the way I look – if I tell you the number is 180, 190, or 200, I still look like me. Makes no sense. Do men or women think they look thinner because they subtract from the actual number?

  7. Lucky, have you ever heard the phrase ‘quality over quantity’? A few good posts a day will be much better than a host of rubbish ones from guest writers. Seems a bit desperate to me

  8. @Neil S.: Yes it’s truly life or death. The smaller the aircraft, the more critical weight/balance becomes as the passengers’ weight is a greater percentage (and therefore greater influence) on gross aircraft weight.

    It is, however, rarely practicable to have someone weigh themselves on the spot at the time of boarding. Flight planning is a relatively time consuming process and typically takes place several hours or even the night before a flight. Unless you happen to be planning the flight in the same immediate area at the same time as your passengers, and there happens to be a scale there, having them step on the scale in front of you isn’t practical.

  9. I used to live in the Maldives and whenever I took an internal flight, they always made us stand on the luggage weigher at check-in! And that was a prop plane, not a sea plane.

  10. No, weight questions are not a big deal, especially since it is for safety.

    Every person that flies private or chartered aircraft is familiar with this requirement.

    This could have been an amazing review, especially with the pictures. Can you please just focus on the flight next time, Mike? I think the whole “weight” thing really took away from the post.

  11. As an Alaskan, I understand how weight is important to small aircraft pilots. Small aircraft are a part of life up here for both tourists and the locals.

  12. Lucky- You are really hurting your brand with such subpar content from these guest writers. The only guest writer that I feel has the level of content that your blog requires is from Tiffany.

    This post is such drivel with blowing weight inquiries right out of proportion. It is filled with unneeded hyperbole and over reaction.

  13. This was a disappointing read. I’d like my 5 minutes back please. If Mike wants to write about traveling, then he should start his own blog.

    Lucky: concentrate on your core business here.

  14. I worked for an aviation company in skagway, also in SE Alaska. Everyday i had to ask people to get on the scale to figure out weights and balances. Trust me- It is so much better if you hop on let me grab a number and hop off. I got so tired of 125 lb women making a fuss over it. I see 100’s of weights a day, I don’t want to hear about your body issues and reinforcing the idea that self worth is tied to a number on a machine.

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