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The Worst Part of Flying on a Cape Air Cessna is Admitting Your True Weight

April 30, 2013 at 3:17 PM | by | ()

Last week, Jaunted contributor Christine headed down to the US Virgin Islands in a plane smaller than any she had ever been in before. This is her story.

Those who travel around the Caribbean often think nothing of boarding an island-hopping flight on a Cessna 402, but as a first timer I would be lying if I didn't admit the experience was a little daunting.

As I waited at the Cape Air counter in San Juan International Airport, my initial fear of flying from here to St. Croix in the tiny plane was quickly replaced by the pulse-quickening realization that passengers were required to provide their weight. This must be said aloud in front of a line of fellow travelers. Of course, I shaved 7 pounds off of my real weight, which earned me a double-take and an eye roll from the Cape Air attendant checking me in. I silently wondered if she had once worked summers guessing weights at an amusement park kiosk.

The weight issue was thankfully forgotten as I walked out toward the plane with the seven other passengers sharing the flight (the Cessna 402 can hold 9 passengers plus the pilot). A quick safety lesson came with the stern reminder to remain behind the wings of the plane at all times or else you'd have the prop to literally beat you back.

At the plane, all carry-on luggage and large handbags were tucked away into hidden compartments in the wings. It's here that the real humiliation began. All of us gathered together near the plane's door, where we were once again sized up and then called one-by-one into the plane by our weight and stature. Thankfully, I was the fifth one in, with only two very petite, older women and a kid behind me. Of course it's for a very good reason—to balance and weight the small aircraft—but knowing in advance would have saved some guessing and blushing.

As soon as we were all buckled into our very close quarters (if you've never been in a Cessna, picture being loaded into a minivan circa 1984 with 8 strangers), our phones were off, and the door was shut, the pilot began a series of checks, stuck his out the side window for a second size-up of the runway, and we were off.

It was around 5,000 feet that the pilot relaxed and started doing paperwork and passengers were cleared to chat and enjoy the view. It's exactly that view which completely makes the weigh-in worth it.

The flight only lasted about 40 minutes and was actually quite soothing. The best part of the trip—when compared to flying in the large jets we're all used to—is that it only took a few minutes for everyone to disembark, grab their bags, and head off into the airport. This is especially handy if you have to catch another flight with a tight connection.

All in all, I wouldn't hesitate to book another flight on a Cape Air Cessna, as long as I had enough time for a crash diet, or at least a master cleanse, first.

[Photos: cmb/Jaunted]

Archived Comments:

Experience may vary

I've heard similar stories over the years yet I've flown Cape Air out of STL to the tiny college town of IRK and vise versa a few times over the past few years and haven't had the same experience. You mention that they want folks in the back of the plane, but in all of my experiences the last row of the 402 has been off limits, in fact, sometimes a lucky passenger gets to sit in the co-pilots seat-- The super avgeek class! Sorry for your poor experience, when I think of my cape air flights I can't help but smile.

I can think of something even worse ......

I can think of something even worse than having to disclose your weight to a Cape Air ticketing agent. Perhaps dying in a fire crash because you and the other 8 passengers failed to disclose your accurate weight? Believe me, nobody cares how much you weigh and more importantly, they're not looking to embarrass you. What they DO care about is operating the aircraft in a safe manner and making sure that the passengers and crew make the flight safely. Just 'search' for what happens when a small plane like this tries to fly when it's overweight. I think you'll quickly see that embarrassing you was the last think on this Agents mind.