A Quick Note about Southwest

I’ve mentioned before that with some frequency people ask me about whether various airlines that they’ll be flying are safe.  Sometimes these are obscure airlines in other countries, sometimes these are smaller airlines here.  My answer is always the same:  nearly all airlines are safe, though Nigeria and Indonesia have a rather poor record.  Even given those countries’ track records, you are far, far better off flying between Lagos and Abuja than driving that same route.

Interesting, then, that in the past week we’ve had two airlines around the world run into safety issues.  Adam Air in Indonesia (see note above) and Southwest.  I bring this up for two reasons:

— You basically have no way of knowing how the airplane you are about to fly on has been maintained.  Except for the two countries listed above (and, one could argue, any of the so-called Category 2 countries listed here) , we’re taking it for granted that oversight is strong.  Except in the case of Southwest, we were duped.

— Even an airline with a comparably terrible safety record (China Airlines in the late 1990s, any of the now-shut-down Nigerian airlines), you are still much safer than you are in a car.  People weigh their risks in a strange way and because they feel they have control in a car, they feel the risks are less.  They couldn’t be more wrong.

I’m glad to see that mainstream media outlets have not blown the Southwest thing out of proportion.  It is, obviously, perfectly safe to fly them, as it is perfectly safe to fly any airline in the US.  You’ll likely see some local news stories asking the safety question.  They are ridiculous.  Southwest will face some public backlash for 3 days, and that will be the last of it.  On time arrival should be your only concern when you fly, not the safety record of the airline.

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