Air Travel Getting Safer, Cheaper

Despite airplane crashes like the one in the Black Sea that grab headlines, air travel is getting better.


Last time I wrote about airline safety was in November 2015, when a Russian airliner crashed in the Sinai Peninsula. Roughly a year later, another Russian plane has gone down—this time into the Black Sea. All 92 people on board, including many members of a famed Red Army Choir, were killed. The safety record of Russian-made and Russian-operated planes such as the TU-154, which was involved in this latest accident, is relatively poor. That said, things were much worse under communism, when the state-run Aeroflot was notoriously cavalier with the lives of its crew and passengers. According to the Aircraft Crashes Record Office, "8,231 passengers have died in Aeroflot crashes. Air France is next on its list, with 1,783, followed by Pan Am (1,645), American (1,442), United (1,211) and TWA (1,077)."

Mercifully, air travel overall is getting safer. Between a high point in 1972 and a low point in 2015, the total number of airline fatalities declined from 2,373 to 186—a reduction of 92 percent. Roughly over the same time period (1970-2014), the number of passengers carried globally increased from 310 million to 3.2 billion. Put differently, the chances of dying in an air crash declined from 1 in 210,000 in 1970 to 1 in 4.63 million in 2014. Today, flying is not only safer, but also cheaper. In the United States for example, average domestic round trip airfare fell from $607 in 1979 (the year of deregulation) to $377 in 2014 (both figures are in 2014 U.S. dollars). Between 1990 and 2013, the average international round-trip airfare fell from $1,248 to $1,175 (2013 U.S. dollars). In both cases, the average number of miles flown per trip has increased.

Things are getting better, in other words, but chose your airline carefully.

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  1. Guess what magazine is apparently in the pocket of Big Airline now. Or Big Superman.

  2. And Leon’s getting larger.

    1. ‘ There’s a sale at Penny’s ! ‘

  3. …and if you avoid Russian airlines, safety goes up 1000%

  4. It would be nice to choose my airline carefully if you had normalized the death per airline do deaths per passenger mile for each one…

    1. To, not do. Where’s the edit button?

      1. I have suffered zero deaths in four Transatlantic flights with British airways. Zero in several domestic flights along the eastern seaboard with American and United. I keep trying to figure out the ratio, but I keep getting Error:Div0 from the machine.

        1. The hazard of British Airways is that your teeth can mutate.

          1. Cheers!

        2. The zero should be in the numerator, not denominator.

          deaths (zero) per mile or per flight.

          Either way, a div by zero error won’t occur.

          In other words, your joke isn’t funny because you made a math error.

          1. I’m pretty sure the joke wasn’t funny because I’m not funny. My implied innumeracy has nothing to do with it.

            1. Now, *that’s* funny!

  5. The reduction in cost may be a result of a reduction in the amount of space alloted per passenger. Yet I’m not permitted to bring a measuring tape on board to verify. Thanks TSA!

    1. not permitted to bring a measuring tape on board

      I did not know that. Could be used as a garrote, or what?

      1. Actually, I was kidding about that. I never tried to take one on board.

        1. Wise guy, and wise man.

        2. Anything not specifically allowed is forbidden.

          1. Except when it comes to government and what the Constitution says.

  6. Mercifully, air travel overall is getting safer.

    “Mercifully’s got nothing to do with it.”

    1. You deserve a *golf clap* for that.

      1. Thanks, Swiss. Have a nice day!!

  7. I play the numbers. And since auto travel results in about 0.013 fatalities per million miles and air travel rounds to about 0.00 fatalities per million miles (3 deaths per 10 billion passenger-miles), I’ve got a plan for immortality. I’m getting myself a commercial passenger jet and I’m driving that bad-boy everywhere.

    Parking will probably be tough, but they have a kerosine pump down at the Circle-K on the corner – that’ll probably work to fill it up. That’s close enough to aviation kerosine, right? Jet-A has antifreeze… but I live in Florida, so that’s not an issue, at least not at sea level.

    Man, this is gonna be great! They are big enough to live in, so I’ll just fit it out like a single-wide! Then I really will be immortal! Heck, if I never drive it more than a billion miles, I’ll only have a one in three chance of dying! Why hasn’t anyone ever thought of this before!

    Suck my exhaust, bitches! I’m gonna be immortal!!

    1. There’s a flaw in your plan – what are you going to eat and drink? The mortality rate for anybody who eats or drinks anything whatsoever has held steady at 100% for millennia.

    2. I look at the lottery in a similar way. The odds of winning with or without a ticket are statistically equal, so I don’t bother wasting money on a ticket, and then make plans how to spend my millions!

      1. Glad to see you (post) again.

        1. Agree. Good to see you posting again.

    3. but I live in Florida, so that’s not an issue, at least not at sea level.

      Last time I was in Florida, my flight out of Miami got delayed because the plane iced over in Tampa and the Tampa airport doesnt have a de-icing machine.

      So they had to park the plane in the sun and wait for nature.

      1. Now that’s funny!

        I posted a photo of the kids playing by the water at sunset on Christmas… it was a breezy 81 degrees.

        Having family up in the Duluth area makes that ever so fun. They were not happy with us, what with the blizzard bearing down on them.

        …. yup… it’s the simple things in life that make it worth living….

        1. It was 74 here in BG yesterday.

          My big problem that Florida trip was I didnt bring my heavy winter coat, just a reasonable coat, so I froze during the coldest Orange Bowl in history.

          Plus we lost.

  8. Life has a 100% mortality rate sooner or later.

    The trick is to act like you are already dead and live your life accordingly.

    1. That short-term perspective tends to end badly.

    2. I live every day like it’s my last day. Naked, curled up in the bathtub and sobbing.

      1. Me too, but in my version I have a drink in my hand and my dick is wet.

        1. You’re not supposed to be bathing in the moonshine, Suthen.

          1. How do you think it gets its shine?

  9. QANTAS. QANTAS never crashed. QANTAS.

    1. How many?

    2. Am I the only one who wanted to bludgeon both main characters of that film?

      1. Nope. But I’m always up for a good Tom Cruise beatdown.

        1. Might I recommend the five iron? It’s a classic implement

    3. Yeah, but how many people are dead from venomous bites and kangaroo gorings?

  10. “Put differently, the chances of dying in an air crash declined from 1 in 210,000 in 1970 to 1 in 4.63 million in 2014.”

    That was from before Trump was elected.

    Once Trump becomes President, planes will fall out of the sky, immigrants will be forced to hide in underground caves, women will stop loving their husbands and children, and America will lose Cher and Miley Cyrus to Canada.

    It’s gonna be like Y2K only for reals this time.

    1. I thought immigrants are going to fall out of the sky, planes will be hidden in underground caves, men will stop loving their wives, domestic partners and children, and America will definitely lose Cher and Miley to O’ Canada.

      1. I thought immigrants are going to fall out of the sky, planes will be hidden in underground caves, men will stop loving their wives, domestic partners and children,

        So an extraterrestrial invasion giving new meaning to the term ‘illegal alien’, necessitating subterranian hangers for refit and refueling, with a strong dose of a psychic assault to attempt to demoralize the populace by breaking the filial bonds?

      2. I may have lost track of the narrative, but it’s going to be end of everything good and holy.

        Michelle Obama says now that Trump has been elected, there’s no more hope. And if we can’t take Michelle Obama’s word for granted anymore, then what hope do we have left, really?

        Anyway, I hope the laws of gravity and aerodynamics hold up after Trump becomes President, but I can’t shake the feeling that makes me part of the problem.

        1. Unfortunately, the world ends when in a spate of repeals, Trump repeals the law of gravity – causing the earth’s spin to cast the fragments to the void.

        2. You forgot the female SJWs who lost their non-existent libidos.

        3. And if we can’t take Michelle Obama’s word for granted anymore, then what hope do we have left, really?


    2. Every day I see planes falling out of the sky*. Immigrant caves are nothing new**. The same with the unloving women.*** So the only change will be we’ll get rid of two obnoxious, self-degraded “celebrities”?

      *I work near the approach path to an airport.

      **These caves being artificial and running under the border.

      ***These women call themselves ‘Feminists’.

  11. If only more stories about fake hate crimes included this sentence, I’d feel better.

    “Mr Williams, 34, had been checked in to a ‘mental facility’, she said, and would be arrested upon his release.”…..crime.html

    1. Well, don’t leave us hanging!

      Were they in fact ‘n***** lovers’?

    2. I love the smell of narrative collapse in the morning. It’s the smell of victory!

  12. Things have gotten better, but I will say that that from a libertarian perspective some things are worth examining. The FAA works at a snails pace implementing or approving anything new. I am a pilot and I fly personally and for an airline as my job. There are technologies that I can use when flying personally in a 50 year old Cessna, or that a corporate jet operator can use, but not the airlines. I understand that we need standardization and certification, but these processes take time and great expense, which delays getting the technologies into operation. The certification standards are stifling even for small aircraft, as partially evidenced by the nearly half million dollar price tag for a new Cessna 172. And here, I’m just taking this from a pilot and airplane standpoint. There are many more facets which a regulated by the FAA like the airports, air traffic control, and so on. I am hoping under the new administration there will be some streamlining of the FAA. Not gonna hold my breath.

    1. My cousin who is aiming for ATP also noted that the hours requirements to become a pilot recently tripled. How much cost effect is that having on airlines? Shortage of pilots?

      1. Well, the hours to become first officer used to be stupid low; 250 hours total time. Pay and quality of life were also stupid low, about $25,000 first year as a regional airline first officer, about 30k a year after that. If you haven’t seen the documentary Flying Cheap, watch it! I lived it. Back in about 2012 the required time changed to 750/1,000/1,500 hours depending on your training background. This did come from the government, but I wonder what insurance comonies would have stipulated. I think they were kind of in the dark as to what was really going on til the Buffalo crash, but that is just *my* opinion. They Buffalo crash really illuminated some shady practices in the industry. I honestly feel like safety has been made a priority with the airlines, particularly the regionals, since the Buffalo crash. (Applause) I just wish the FAA could expedite getting technologies on the airplanes, to the airports, and to ATC sooner. PS don’t ever lose your pilot medical. It takes FOREVER to get back because the FAA works so slowly.

        1. I agree safety first, but at some point your spending exponentially to increase safety marginally. And the cost of just building the additional hours sounds exponential. An additional 1000 hours costs 200k if you were to just rent a plane?

          1. There are lots of jobs for low hour pilots like I mentioned above. The flight school I worked at is begging for instructors and charter pilots. A person could buy a used but air worthy Cessna 150 with an automotive fuel Supplemental type cetrrficate and operate it for less than 50 bucks hour, too. If that person got a safety pilot and split the time you could feasibly being gaining experience at less than 20 bucks an hour if one were to forgo getting a newbie job, and just pay for their hours straight up….which I do know of one I divudal who is doing that, but with a Vans RV-4. And, shoot, if the airlines wanted they could go procure some of those Cessna 150s and put their students through a training syllabus. I’m also amenable to to seeing more sim time being counted towards the hours required. That is one option the industry is looking at. But sims are where things get sticky…what will the FAA allow? A full motion, level D sim costs millions to buy and thousands an hour to operate. Will the FAA allow lower level sims or Flight Training Device (non motion sims) time?

            1. Yeah, I agree. Sort of what my cousin is doing, timesharing a Decathlon, and working at a charter company while working on his commercial. Then plans to build hours with them.

      2. As for causing a shortage of pilots, the poor pay and quality of life I think did that. The old way with 250 hours meant someone could basically go through training and if the regional airlines were hiring a lot, that person would go straight from training to being a regional first officer with 250 hours. Not much experience. But the bigger point to me is that person would skip flight instrucing, flying freight, flying medical charters, flying small passenger charter in things like Piper navajos, Cessna Caravans, etc. Those jobs need pilots, too. Particularly the flight instructing world. You need instructors to make new pilots. Under the old way,the 250 hour rule, people would skip instructing altogether and go straight to the airlines. I saw first hand what that did to flight schools in terms of instructor nu,bers and instructions tor experience–decimated. Now people will instruct for a while, and thus the industry has a steady flow of pilots. If we go back to the 250 hour way, the instructor pool would get decimated literally overnight. If that happened, airlines would have to buy fleets of Cessnas and put flight instructors on their payroll (at a liable wage, mind you.) Ok, so that’s fine, too, but air lines will have to pay one way or another to get pilots. As long as we don’t go back to the old way, I’m happy.

  13. The reduction is cost in the last few years is probably due to lower fuel prices. However, given the number of customers for air travel has increased 10x, why is air travel still relatively expensive? Lack of supply due to regulation?

    According to DOT domestic air fare has increased 23% in the last 20 years.

    1. Look for bottlenecks. I suspect the big one is the availability of gates, especially at hub airports.

  14. Call me when it’s less rapey.

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  17. …and if you avoid Russian airlines, safety goes up 1000%

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