Air Travel – Still Safe Despite Rare Accidents

Posted on: March 12th, 2014 by paul

The mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370 has drawn attention to the safety of air travel. Accidents involving aircraft produce international headlines that automobile, bicycle, and pedestrian fatalities rarely create. Although tragedies involving aircraft are much less common than other forms of transport, the perspective formed by the media leads to the belief that air travel is unsafe. Despite catastrophic events such as Flight MH 370 and Asiana Flight 214 in July of 2013, air travel is still the safest form of transportation.


Automobile Safety

Contrary to popular belief, transportation by automobile is one of the most dangerous modes of travel. The increasing amount of automobile accidents in recent years can be attributed to the use of handheld devices while driving. There is a false sense of perception of safety associated with traveling in automobiles as opposed to air travel due to the control drivers have over their actions. However, it is important to note that although travelers turn over their fate to the hands of their pilots, they must consider how highly trained, educated, regulated, and prepared these professionals are before they get into the cockpit. This is a stark contrast to what drivers may face regarding oncoming traffic.

Pedestrian/Cycling/Motorcycle Safety

In 2013, the United States National Safety Council reported the odd of being involved in a fatal accident for each popular form of transportation:

Cycling  1 in 4982

Motorcycle  1 in 902

Pedestrian 1 in 749

Car 1 in 415

Air Travel 1 in 7229

These odds can be deceptive because they only interpret one particular form of looking at the stats. Various other factors should be considered such as percentage of accidents that are fatal compared to the number of actual accidents. Another interesting note reported by Politifact states that commercial flights post only .003 deaths per 100 million passenger miles with bus travel has a much higher rate of .05 deaths per 100 million passenger miles. Again, take these facts with a grain of salt because the average flight is a greater distance than the average bus or car trip meaning that the odds must be adjusted for number of trips as opposed to gross mileage.


The sinking of the Costa Concordia in January of 2012 brought to light the safety of traveling on cruise lines. Before this disaster there were only 16 deaths due to cruise line accidents between 2005 and 2011. That number was more than doubled by that single accident causing numbers to be inflated. The numbers for fatalities on cruise lines is not regulated like airlines. The website Cruise Junkie reports the number of deaths since 2000 at 644. Considering the frequency of this mode of travel, cruises continue to be a very safe transportation choice.


Any way the numbers are broken down, air travel presents itself as the safest form of travel. Even though the media sensationalizes any incident regarding aircraft, the frequency and number of fatalities related to air travel are much lower than every other popular form of transportation.

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