(File photo) A passenger waits for a flight at Heathrow. The Liverpool episode has led to calls for passengers to be weighed at check-in along with their baggage.

London - There was more than the usual amount of tension in Liverpool airport's departure lounge: easyJet's morning flight to Geneva could not take off because it was too heavily loaded.

As passengers mentally weighed each other, the airline had to explain that some of them would have to stay behind.

A spokeswoman said the payload included “an exceptionally high proportion of male passengers and more hold luggage than usual”.

Every aircraft type has strict rules about the total weight it can carry, depending on factors such as the length of the runway, the air temperature and the distance to be flown. To compute the weight limits, airlines have the option of weighing each passenger and their baggage.

But British airlines instead use an estimate of how much each passenger weighs.

The rules issued by Europe's Joint Aviation Authorities instruct the airlines to assume that each male passenger weighs 88kg, and each female 70kg (children of either gender score 35kg). There were 135 men and only 19 women on the easyJet aicraft at Liverpool. As a result, the estimated weight was more than one ton higher than it would have been had the genders been balanced.

The airline denied passengers had to organise an impromptu whip-round to persuade four men to get off.

The Liverpool Echo quoted a passenger, Simon Lay, as saying that the airline's compensation offer proved insufficiently attractive.

He claimed that passengers organised a cash collection to double the reward, adding: “I put two quid in. I saw other people throwing in fivers.”

Lay said the unofficial bid to entice enough people to offload proved successful and the aircraft departed for Switzerland soon afterwards.

The episode has led to calls for passengers to be weighed at check-in along with their baggage. At present, airlines pay close attention to the weight of checked-in baggage but not to the weight of passengers.

“DaveyJ” tweeted: “This is why fat people should pay an extra charge on flights.”

But airlines fear it would prove impractical and extremely unpopular. - The Independent