Weight loss drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic have become so popular over the last year that there have been shortages.
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Airlines are consistently looking for ways to reduce plane weight to increase fuel efficiency.
The rise in popularity of weight loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy could benefit airlines.
One analyst estimated United would save $80 million a year if every passenger lost 10 pounds.
The recent boom of Ozempic, Wegovy, and other buzzy weight-loss drugs could do more than just help people lose weight — it could help the airline industry save money on fuel.
One consistent cost-saving focus of airlines has been to minimize the weight of each plane. The heavier an aircraft is, the harder the engines have to work, resulting in more fuel being needed for the plane to operate. Airlines have made food and drink carts lighter, installed lighter entertainment systems, switched to more lightweight seats, and even printed pamphlets and magazines on lighter paper, all to cut down on the overall weight of their planes.
The FAA mandates that airlines take the weight of crew members into account when calculating how heavy a plane is overall, and Korean airlines weighed its passengers before boarding for a period this year to collect data on passenger weights and comply with local laws. It’s unlikely, though, that most airlines would ever enforce mandatory weighing of passengers to comply with safety limits, two industry experts previously told Insider.
While it’s unclear how wide an impact the spread of weight-loss drugs will actually have on average passenger weights, Sheila Kahyaoglu, a Jefferies Financial analyst, estimated in a recent report on the implications of a “slimmer society” that airlines could save a significant amount of money if the average passenger lost weight.
Using United Airlines as a model, Kahyaoglu estimated that if each passenger weighed 10 pounds less on average, the weight savings would equal around 1,790 pounds per flight. Referencing a past example of the airline cutting down aircraft weight, she estimates that the airline would save 27.6 million gallons of fuel per year, or around $80 million worth going by the average price of fuel this year.
Insider reported in 2021 that the average weight of passengers had increased — American Airlines told Insider at the time that their average passenger was eight pounds heavier, at 182 pounds in summer and 187 pounds in winter. Both American and Southwest Airlines previously told Insider that they use data from the CDC to calculate passenger weight.
The most recent CDC data covers 2015-2018 (the same data available in 2021) and shows the average US male over the age of 20 weighs 199.8 pounds, while the average US woman weighs 170.8 pounds. Both averages had increased from the previous report.
The new class of game-changer weight-loss drugs, repurposed from diabetes treatment — semaglutide, which marketed as Ozempic for diabetes and Wegovy for weight loss, tirzepatide, and liraglutide — has gained mainstream attention over the past year, especially as some of the rich and famous have taken the drug (or denied that they’ve taken it). Elon Musk said he lost 20 pounds through a combination of Wegovy and intermittent fasting. Boris Johnson, Amy Schumer, Charles Barkley, and Sharon Osbourne, have all said they have taken semaglutide.
More recent CDC data covering the time since these new weight-loss drugs gained popularity hasn’t become available yet — time will tell how widespread the effect will be.