The recent Malaysia Airlines disasters have prompted many to claim they'll never fly again. Here's why they should.
1. Because there are 10,065 planes in the sky right now
The website flightradar24.com is mind boggling. It shows every plane that is in the sky right now and illustrates just how unlikely it is that yours will crash.
2. Because it's amazing
That flying happens at all still has the capacity to amaze. You bomb along the runway in a giant metal tube until suddenly it takes off, and stays up there for hours. How do they do that?!
3. The views aren't bad, either
Months of training + $36,228 + 1 in 20 chance of dying + risk of frostbite to extremities = view from Everest (8,848 metres)
Two-hour wait in departures + $36 + 1 in 11,000,000 chance of dying + risk of ears popping = view from far higher
4. You might get these flight attendants
Or this one
5. Or one of these jokers
The following amusing announcements have been heard from airline captains or cabin crew:
"It's customary after a long-haul flight to ask for volunteers to clean the toilets. If you wish to volunteer, please stand up before the fasten seat-belt sign has been switched off."
"Good morning ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to inform you that this is my first flight... [long pause while passengers look at one another]... of the day"
"In the event of a sudden drop in cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop down. If you are travelling with someone who needs help, put your own mask on first, then help your husband'."
"Ladies and gentlemen, we would like to inform you that we have on board someone very special today. He's an 89-year-old gentleman making his very first flight. So on leaving the plane would you please shake hands with your pilot"
"Ladies and gentlemen, if you would care to take a look at your inflight magazine and check out our route on the large map in the centre pages, you will see that we have just crossed the fold in the middle..."
6. Flying has never been cheaper
Research suggests that average fares at Europe's biggest low-cost airlines increased since last year. But if you compare the ticket prices of today with those of a generation ago, we're definitely better off. In 1989, for example, the lowest fare to Venice on a scheduled airline was $310 return. Charters were cheaper - from $154 return - but they mostly flew to Treviso, and probably only on two days a week. Today, you can fly in and out of Venice with Ryanair for as little as $119 return - despite the introduction of departure taxes, and including hold baggage. Also in 1989, a return to Nice cost $261 on the newly privatised BA. Today you can book the same ticket with the same airline from $161 - including baggage.
7. Even turbulence isn't dangerous
The most terrifying part of the journey for any nervous flier. But planes are no more likely to fall from the sky during turbulence, even when it is bad enough to be classified as "severe". Steve Allright, a BA pilot, said: "In a flying career of over 10,000 hours, I have experienced severe turbulence for about five minutes in total," he said. "It is extremely uncomfortable but not dangerous. The aircraft may be deviating in altitude by up to 30 metres or so, up as well as down, but nothing like the thousands of feet you hear some people talking about when it comes to turbulence."
8. Nor is lightning
“An individual jet liner is struck about once every two years, on average,” explains Patrick Smith, pilot and author of Cockpit Confidential, a book on “everything you need to know about air travel”. “Once in a while there’s exterior damage – a superficial entry or exit wound – or minor injury to the plane’s electrical systems, but a strike typically leaves little or no evidence.” You might not even notice it, he says.
9. In fact, you're more likely to be struck by lightning than die in a plane crash
According to the Civil Aviation Authority, the fatality rate per billion kilometres travelled by plane is 0.003. That compares to 0.27 by rail, 2.57 by car, and 106.67 by motorbike. It adds that there is one fatality for every 287m passengers carried by UK airlines. By way of comparison, the chances of being struck by lightning are 19 million to 1, it claims.
10. You're also more likely to die from falling out of bed
The simple act of going to bed is more perilous than flying. Indeed, 20 people perish each year in Britain, on average, falling from their mattress.
11. It really is one of the world's safest forms of travel
Another way to illustrate how safe it is to fly is the MicroMort, a unit of measurement devised by Ronald A. Howard, a Stanford University professor, to assess the comparative dangers associated with different activities. One MicroMort (MM) is equal to a one-in-a-million chance of death. For example, there were 551 recorded homicides in England and Wales in 2012/13, against a population of around 56 million, therefore the chances of being murdered in the next year is around 10MM.
To increase the risk of death by roughly one MM, you must travel the following distances:
- 9,656 kilometres in a train
- 1,609 kilometres in a passenger jet
- 370 kilometres in a car
- 27 kilometres on foot
- 16.1 kilometres by bicycle
- 9.65 kilometres by motorbike
12. Even if you are in a plane crash, you'll probably survive
A US government study found there were 568 plane crashes in the US between 1993 and 2000, involving a total of 53,487 passengers and crew. Of these, 51,207 – or over 90 per cent survived. Even on the 26 crashes deemed the worst, the study found that more than half the passengers and crew survived.
13. Even on one of Europe's smallest and scariest runways, there's never been an accident
14. It's one of the only places on Earth you can really switch off
Wi-fi access is becoming more common, but on board a flight is still one of the few places in the world where you will not be disturbed by your boss/loan manager/mother-in-law.
15. In-flight food has never been so good
With Heston Blumenthal, Alain Ducasse, Nobu Matsuhisa, Neil Perry and Tom Aikens having all been employed by airlines, and the chances of being served something awful is really slim.
16. Nor has entertainment
The first in-flight film, shown on board an Aeromarine Airways flight in 1921, was "Howdy Chicago", a promotional video about the Windy City. Even by the Sixties, the offerings were pretty paltry. According to a 1964 report in the Lewiston Evening Journal: "The stewardess hangs a screen at the head of the aisle - one for the first class, one for tourist. The cabin is darkened and the movie begins to unreel from a projection hole near the ceiling. Each passenger is equipped with earphones for the sound. The sound is the least effective part of the system; I found it difficult to catch the British accents in Murder Ahoy. Film bookings may be a problem as time goes on. Frequent travellers are already switching reservations to avoid seeing the same film twice, and with Hollywood's continued emphasis on the sexy and the sensational, it is not easy to find enough attractions to appeal to the family trade".
Today we can watch hundreds of movies and TV programmes at the touch of a button.
17. Planes are no longer bastions of sexism
A 1936 New York Times article described the ideal air hostess as "petite; weight 100 to 118 pounds; height 5 feet to 5 feet 4 inches; age 20 to 26 years. Add to that the rigid physical examination each must undergo four times every year, and you are assured of the bloom that goes with perfect health." Three decades later, in 1966, a New York Times classified ad for stewardesses at Eastern Airlines listed these requirements: "A high school graduate, single (widows and divorcees with no children considered), 20 years of age (girls 19 1/2 may apply for future consideration). 5'2" but no more than 5'9", weight 105 to 135 in proportion to height and have at least 20/40 vision without glasses." The occasional charity calendar excluded, things have changed for the better.
18. Even Ryanair has upped its game
The airline everyone loves to hate has finally pulled its socks up, and has made a decent fist of improving its reputation, cutting some fees and becoming less stingy when it comes to baggage allowances.
19. And the airport's aren't half bad when it comes to entertainment
Modern air travellers can pet a "therapy dog" (Miami), attend a yoga session (Dallas Fort Worth), get a massage (New Delhi), or go for a swim (Changi), while they wait for their flight.
20. Because there's no other feasible way to see everything the world has to offer
Unless you've as much spare time as Graham Hughes - the man who visited every country in the world without taking a flight - you simply cannot visit every country in the world without taking a flight.
21. And you might get a free upgrade
Having flown business class once in my life, I can assure you it is even more wonderful than people will have you believe. And free upgrades DO happen. Just follow our guide to find out how to increase your chances.
The Telegraph, London