A group of sumo wrestlers ended up being put on a 'special flight' because their enormous combined weight was deemed potentially unsafe on a plane.
Japan Airlines had to put on an "unusual special flight" to accommodate the sportsmen as they travel from Tokyo and Osaka to Amami Ōshima.
Sumo is a popular traditional sport in Japan where it has been practiced for centuries and is highly regarded – there are even a number of non-Japanese sumo wrestlers now that the tradition has become popular globally. The aim of the game is to force the opponent out of the circular ring in an intense full-body wrestling bout.
While sumo wrestlers can fight in weight classes it’s usual for the most successful to be very large individuals with a high muscle mass and so a remarkably high weight. This added mass is great for the sport of sumo… but less for airlines.
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Japan Airlines calculated that the group of wrestlers – who were travelling to the Special National Sports Festival on Amami Ōshima Island – weighed an average of 264.55lbs. That’s just shy of 19 stone per person or 120kg which is around 45kg (7st 14lbs) heavier than the airline’s average passenger.
Authorities grew worried that the added weight meant that the two Boeing 737-800s would not be able to carry the required amount of fuel to safely transport the enormous sportsmen to their destination. So, the airline decided to add an additional flight to the schedule.
"It is extremely unusual for us to operate special flights due to the weight restrictions on this aircraft," an airline representative told local outlet Minami-Nippon Shimbun. There is the added concern that Amami Airport is difficult to land and depart from for larger airplanes.
To make sure the weight of the sumo wrestlers was safely distributed, Japan Airlines has reportedly booked in an extra flight for 27 members of the sumo group. The combined weight of the 27 sumo. wrestlers when based on the average would be a huge 7,142.85lbs or 510st. Fourteen of the wrestlers first flew from Osaka to Tokyo to catch the special flight.
A massive 460 sumo wrestlers in total have landed on the island to attend the sporting festival. Extra weight which is not taken into consideration can reduce the safety of a flight and so it’s important that airlines take extra steps to protect passengers and transport everyone.
Japan Airlines isn't the only aircraft carrier to worry about the increased weight of passengers. Earlier this year, New Zealand Airlines asked passengers to volunteer to be weighed before boarding a select number of flights.
The data collected would not be shared with other passengers, but would help the airline to re-calculate average passenger weight to decide on the safest way to distribute holidaymakers within its planes.
The survey of weight continued from May until July 2023. Alastair James, Air New Zealand's load control improvement specialist, said: "We weigh everything that goes on the aircraft – from the cargo, to the meals, to the luggage in the hold. For customers, crew and cabin bags, we use average weights, which we get from doing this survey."
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