The safety of air travel is something every traveler thinks about whether they are going home for the holidays, or heading off for an adventure on foreign shores. The short answer to the question “Is air travel safe?” is that there is not a one-size fits all answer. However, if you are nervous about flying, consider the fact that over 102,000 flights take off and land without incident every day of the year. While the overwhelming majority of flights are safe, the safety of any particular flight must be considered on a case-by-case basis. So, how safe is air travel? Well, there are many variables that come into play that include the air safety record, mechanics of the airframe, weather/geography, terrorism, and the potpourri of “anything can happen.”
Air Safety Record
When it comes to the safety of air travel, Qantas sets the gold standard for air carriers around the world. The company’s safety record boils down to their stringent maintenance requirements, pilot training, and flight crew preparedness. These essential elements come together to create a safe and smooth flight for passengers. However, not all airlines hold themselves to the stringent standards Qantas sets for itself.
Many start-ups and low-cost carriers cut corners when it comes to maintenance. Moreover, many utilize older airframes that are nearing the end of their safe operational lifespan. Many times, it is not worth the risk to save a few dollars on the fare. It is always a good idea to review an airline’s FAA safety record before purchasing a ticket on a new or low-cost carrier.
Airplanes are some of the most complex machines on the planet. As with any machine, the intricate network of parts can wear out and fail. Even new airplanes aren’t immune to mechanical and technical failures. It wasn’t long ago that Boeing’s amazing new composite Dreamliner’s were grounded due to severe flaws in the design of the aircraft’s lithium-ion batteries. If you are ever concerned about the particular airframe listed on your ticket, you can always look up the safety history of the airframe online.
Weather & Geography
It snows in Denver and hurricanes like to vacation in Miami. Weather patterns and climatic conditions can have a significant impact on air safety. Is air travel safe when these factors come into play? The answer is yes and no. The FAA and airports will ground flights if the weather gets too dangerous. However, these closures can take time to go into effect. If your flight is still in the air, you could be in for an icy or dicey landing.
Geographic factors should also be considered when selecting a flight. Flying over mountains or across vast oceans presents challenges and risks for every airline. If a mid-air emergency happens in these regions, help can be many hundreds of miles away. Fortunately, mid-air emergencies over these areas are exceedingly rare.
Air Travel Tips for Terror and the Unexpected
Terror in the air isn’t something that began on 9/11. Hijackings happened with alarming regularity throughout the 1960’s up to about 2010 when they began to taper off. Stronger security measures and alert personnel have thwarted many hijacking attempts. The risk of terrorism is low in the United States, Europe, South America, and large swaths of Asia. Exceptions to consider are countries such as Turkey and Ukraine, and regions such as North Africa where political instability or active conflict can pose a risk to air travelers. Any travel that involves flying from, or over territories where conflict is a risk. For this reason, it is best to read through the US State Department’s list of Travel Advisories for any country you plan to visit or be near.
Seasoned travelers are well aware that travel plans are fluid. A remote location, an aging airframe, or a sudden political upheaval is all it takes to disrupt a journey. When unexpected events transpire, they can add a new layer of complexity to a travel itinerary. They can also add a layer of risk. As such, it’s important to stay up-to-date on current events in the region you are traveling to/from. It’s the most effective way to navigate unexpected events and keep yourself out of harm’s way.
How safe is air travel? It’s safe 99.9% of the time. As with any mode of travel, thorough research of the carrier, the region, and current air travel tips are the best ways to ensure that your air travel is safe and pleasant.