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Japan Airlines Forced To Add Extra Flight After Sumo Wrestlers Make Aircraft Too Heavy

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Ultimately, 14 passengers were asked to join the new flight.

Japan Airlines (JAL) made a last-minute addition to its flight schedule on Thursday in a bid to deal with excess weight – not from extra baggage, but from a group of sumo wrestlers. According to CNN, the wrestlers were travelling from Tokyo and Osaka to attend a national sports festival on the island of Amami. But with each wrestler weighing in at about 256 pounds (120 kilograms), Japan’s flagship carrier was forced to lay on an extra flight to accommodate some of the country’s heaviest men. 

As per CNN, two groups of the 27 total athletes were supposed to take off on separate flights on October 12 – one from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (HND) and another from Osaka’s Itami Airport (ITM), with the latter being a much smaller domestic airport. But with each wrestler weighing in at about 120 kilograms, the airline became concerned that the two Boeing 737-800s – each with a capacity of 165 passengers – wouldn’t be able to carry enough fuel to accommodate the weight. Notably, the airline calculates that the average passenger weighs about 155 pounds (70 kilograms), according to the outlet.

Further, an additional worry was that Amami Airport is challenging for large aircraft to land and take off from. Therefore, ultimately, 14 passengers were asked to join the new flight, with some having to fly from Osaka to Tokyo first. 

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“It is extremely unusual for us to operate special flights due to the weight restrictions on this aircraft,” a spokesperson for the airline told the regional newspaper the Minami-Nippon Shimbun, as per The Guardian

However, it was still a tight squeeze on the way back from the sports festival. Three high school sumo wrestlers, weighing 140, 130 and 110 kilograms (308, 268 and 242 pounds) respectively, said that they all sat next to each other on the flight back to Haneda from Fukuoka on October 15. “I think the middle seat was the toughest,” said one of the students,” as per CNN

Notably, sumo wrestlers can weigh two to three times the average adult, however, there is no minimum weight requirement to become a sumo wrestler.