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The question everyone wants to ask but is afraid to: So how safe is this airline?
For better or worse, there is no real answer.
The Virginia-based Flight Safety Foundation which prides itself on being independent and impartial, candidly admits that since there are so few U.S. airplane fatalities, there really is no recognized way to determine which airline is safer than another. The statistical sample is too small.
It’s possible to look up such intriguing data as fatal events by airlines, most recent crashes, and airlines without fatal events at AirSafe.com, which does a great job in serving the public relative to this kind of information. They also have some solid service-oriented articles like fear of flying advice and top ten airline safety tips (you really need to listen to the preflight boarding announcements like locating the nearest exit).
But even with the data, there’s still no actual grading as to whether, say, Southwest is statistically a safer airline to fly than Delta.
Todd Curtis who runs Airsafe has devised a complex formula that records incidents with at least one passenger death since 1970, Then determines that airline’s number of flights in that specific time period, divides that by the number of flights and somehow arrives at a rough estimate of the airlines “fatal events rate.”
Perfectly accurate but rather useless information because there are so many other factors at play like the condition of the airport the airline uses, fleet size, training and equipment.
Travelers concerned about international airlines can access the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment program which FAA spokesperson, Les Dorr, says lists countries as either Category 1, meaning they “fully meet all the international standards, or Category 2, which means that they’re deficient in some area.”
In case you’re wondering, Current Category 2 countries on the list include Bangladesh, Croatia and Guyana.
There is no shortage of opinions about this issue. Many fliers think it’s outrageous that safety rankings are not available. They are for the trucking industry!
For now, Flight Safety Foundation’s Emily McGee, says to “look for airlines that are members of the International Air Transport Association and are certified to fly internationally by the FAA and European regulators”
And do locate the nearest exit.