Do you research an airline's safety reputation before booking a flight?
I could overhear the American guy in the boarding queue behind me as we waited to get on our plane. "If it ain't Boeing," he was saying to his friend, "I ain't going."
I peered out through the airport window at the plane sitting on the tarmac. Boeing. A 767. Looked like the guy would be going.
That whole "if it ain't Boeing, I ain't going" is a neat little slogan, but for some overly cautious travellers it remains true: if the plane isn't made by Boeing, they don't want to get on board. It's a brand people trust to be safe, after all - you don't even need to think about the record of the company operating the aircraft.
But it's not foolproof. I've thought about that overheard conversation pretty frequently in the past week or so, obviously, ever since a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 disappeared from the skies. You can take all the precautions you like, but sometimes things go wrong, even when flying in the safest plane and with one of the world's safer operators.
That American guy would have boarded flight MH370.
I would have boarded MH370 too, without doubt. In fact I would have boarded far dodgier aircraft operated by far dodgier companies, and there's no doubt I have done plenty of times in the past as well.
For me, safety isn't a huge concern when I'm booking travel. I like to think of that old analogy, that you're more likely to have an accident on the way to the airport than you are once you board the plane - even if the plane is from the 70s and looks like its wings are about to fall off.
I don't obsess about safety to the point where I'll check the make of the plane I'm flying. In fact I don't even check the safety record of the company I'm flying with. It sounds quite blasé, but for me the defining factor of an airline booking is the price of the ticket.
While some experts claim Malaysia Airlines' brand won't be damaged, I can't see how it won't take a hit from this incident. Flyers of any airline will be a little nervous now. Even worse for Malaysia, if potential customers are pondering who to book their flight with, hovering between tabs on their internet browser, ready to click "confirm", it's unlikely they're going to go with the team that lost an entire 777.
But I'm not particularly concerned. If it's cheap, I'll go with anyone.
I'll fly One-Engine Airlines if the price is right. I've never really looked too deeply into safety records, but after having a quick Google just now, it turns out I've flown with some of the world's dodgiest: the likes of Avianca, Egypt Air and Kenya Airways, who all have quite worrying safety records. But I'd go with them again.
I've flown with plenty more companies, too, that have had the potential for danger, or at least ones that don't exactly inspire confidence in the passenger. I've flown Yangon Airways in Myanmar; I've gone domestic with Ethiopian Airlines; I've taken a ride with Aerotucan in Mexico; I've boarded an Aeroflot flight in Russia.
Each journey has brought with it its own particular brand of scary, but in the grand scheme of things the flights have been fine, and I've arrived safely in my destination.
It's a risk, I guess. These planes I've gone with aren't Boeing - they're not Airbus, either. They're unheard-of aircraft being run by sometimes notorious operators, but I'll still take a punt on them, because I'm happy to take on the slim odds of trouble in the air compared to the very good odds of me having more money to spend on things like accommodation and beer when you go with the cheap airline.
That, for me, is the defining factor in booking a flight: price. I don't care if it's Boeing. If it's cheap, I'm going.
Do safety records matter to you when you fly? What's the dodgiest airline you've flown with? Have you had any close calls in the air? Post your comments below.
- FFX Aus