Today's edition is all about the indusrty we love to hate...the commercial airline industry (or as I like to call it, the world’s collective punching bag). But I’d like you to help me change that. The numbers don’t lie. According to published data, if you fly every day, you will die in a plane in roughly 19,000 years. The odds of dying in an airline accident, according to the National Safety Council, are so low it’s shocking. Over your lifetime, your odds of being unintentionally poisoned are about 1 and 113 vs. losing your life on an airplane, which is about 1 and 8,500. The bottom line...flying is the safest mode of transportation. And let's face it, who wants to walk to Texas? But, it's important that the flying public understand more about the process, the technology and the people involved to help us have a stress-free commercial flying experience. Some of these thoughts may seem obvious, but its a good refresher. I have found that usually the simplest answer is the best.
Lost or "Mishandled" Baggage
Statistically speaking, the airline is not going to lose your checked luggage. Airlines "mishandle" about 7 bags per 1,000 people per year. I find that to be pretty amazing, consdiering the volume of luggage they handle daily. In all my years of flying, my luggage was delayed a few days once, and yes it was annoying. Want to avoid that potential hassle? Don’t check your luggage. Have it shipped, use only carry on or buy clothes when you get there then donate them before you leave. If you have to check your luggage, then avoid tight connections. Your checked bags travel faster through airports than you do, but even they can be lost or miss their connection.
The airlines don’t like their planes flying in bad weather. They, like you, don’t like weather-related incidents like crashing. They don’t like delaying or losing their employees or their passengers. When your flight IS delayed or cancelled due to bad weather, I say have a party. I know it sucks...but rejoice the airline has decided to value your life over profit and stayed on the ground until the weather imporves...which it always does. Keep in mind that it's not just about the weather at your departure airport. It’s also about the weather enroute and the weather in the destination in which you are expecting to land.
What appears to be bad news because it has delayed your departure, is actually good! I love it when my airline discovers a problem with its equipment before it leaves the ground. A mechanical problem, once detected, can be resolved. A repair can be made, and you can be on your way. If a mechanical problem is discovered in the air, a plane usually lands without incident. Yes, you may not like being in an unscheduled place for a period of time, but it’s better than the alternative.
These delays can also cause you a delay in flying. This is primarily the responsibility of the airports involved. Too many planes trying to take off and land need space and excellent planning...so if you run an airport...get it together. And airlines, you need to continue to help, too. Because when we the flying public runs late, we don’t really care that it is the airports fault. You, the airline, are going to bare the brunt of the public shaming on Twitter.
Crew issues is another reason planes are late and for this, I put the responsibility squarely on the airline. If you run an airline, then you already know this. Get your crew there, rested and ready to go. We bought a ticket to fly with you, and the general understanding is that YOU are going to hold up your end of the deal...we can’t fly the plane by ourselves.
Big Airline vs Small
If you are concerned about abnormal problems with flying, then to help hedge your bets, fly with an airline large enough to handle problems quickly. More problems arise when an airline cannot recover quickly from an abnormal situation. Larger airlines have more planes, more available crew and more resources to get you to where they said they would within an acceptable amount of time. What do I mean by large airline? Southwest is a big airline and they have about 713 planes in their fleet, while a smaller airline like Jet Blue has 223 planes in their fleet.
I have said on so many occasions, if you want to increase the likelihood of successfully flying commercially, then we have to do our part...play the game if you will. Check in online, print your boarding pass or have it available on a fully charged mobile device. Get to the airport early: 90 minutes for domestic, two and half hours for international. Check your bags. Tag your checked luggage inside and out. Wear comfortable but upscale clothing. Leave the flip flops at home. Do not wear excessive perfumes. Look, act and smell like the passanger you want sitting next to YOU. Know what you can and cannot bring onto an airplane. Be nice to people and save the stressed out, pushy attitude for your analyst's office.
These are my opinions, so take them for what they are worth. But I assure you, I want your commercial flying experience to be as pleasant as possible. More specific information and videos about US carriers and international carriers that fly in and out of the US can be found within the travel company video index. Have a fantastic flight!
I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. As the host of the nationally syndicated television television for PBS and the Create channel, Beyond Your Backyard, I travel (on average) 25 weeks per year. I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet cool people, experience new places, eat delicious food and work with the best production crew in the world. Hopefully, through this blog, you will join me on my travels and be reminded just how exciting it is to be alive!