If you’re an airplane white-knuckler or germaphobe, then this post is for you. One airline pilot has broken the silence to speak out about what really goes on up in the air — and whether flying is as dangerous as it seems.
It’s no wonder most people are afraid to fly. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, up to 6.5 percent of the population has experienced a fear of flying, called aviophobia. Headlines detailing horrific plane crashes and the spread of communicable disease in-flight certainly don’t help.
This prevalent anxiety taints the commercial air travel industry by making passengers tense, uncomfortable and unhappy. Passengers who pay good money to fly for business or pleasure spend the entire flight fretting about worst-case scenarios. Flight attendants are badgered and even harassed by passengers who demand special treatment.
What is really going on here? Airline pilot and host of AskThePilot.com, Patrick Smith, is fed up with the stigma surrounding air travel. He busts several common flight myths in his book Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel, including the “biggies” like flying dangers, germs and expenses.
According to Smith, flying is not as dangerous as the media has led us to believe. In the wake of major airline crashes, including Malaysia Airlines flights 370 and 17, passengers are panicking. Yet the truth is that flying is safer than ever before. Smith states, “Worldwide there are twice as many planes in the air as there were 25 years ago, yet the rate of fatal accidents, per miles flown, has been steadily falling.”
2013 was considered the “safest year in the history of modern commercial aviation” around the world. While 2014 won’t beat that record because of the aforementioned tragedies, the rising trend in commercial airline safety should not be affected.
What’s more, airlines aren’t out to take your money. It is easy to believe that plane tickets are expensive and are only getting pricier, but Smith clarifies this misconception with the facts: “The average cost of an airline ticket has declined about 50 percent over the past three decades. Fares have risen slightly over the past year or so, but they are still far below what they were 30 years ago.”
These truths are reassuring, but what about breathing funky, recirculated air? Smith cuts to the chase to put this rumor to rest: “Studies show that the air in a crowded cabin is less germ-laden than most other crowded spaces.”
It’s time we stop making air travel more complicated and frightening than it really is. Flying is not that dangerous. Airfare is cheaper than it was decades ago. The air on a plane is not going to kill you. Now go enjoy your trip.