Are Budget Airlines Safe?
The word "budget" implies something made cheaply, without much concern for quality. This perception is something budget airlines constantly fight against. People are worried enough about flying without worrying that the giant metal canister they're hurtling through the air in is of the "budget" variety, apt to fall apart at any moment. But is there any truth to this concern?
No. Budget airlines are no less safe than any other airline. While they do cut corners to save money, they know that cutting corners on safety could completely ruin their business. Some of their cost-cutting measures even increase safety, such as the reliance on one type of aircraft across the fleet. Indeed, one of the oldest budget carriers, Southwest, has never had a major crash or passenger fatality.
That's not to say that all budget airlines are inherently safe or safer than other airlines. Indonesian budget airlines Adam Air was shut down by the government in 2008 due to safety concerns after a series of accidents [source: Associated Press]. Also in 2008, Southwest airlines was cited by the Federal Aviation Administration for continuing to fly planes without the proper inspections [source: Griffin and Bronstein]. And in 1996, a DC-9 flown by budget airline ValuJet crashed in the Florida Everglades, killing everyone aboard [source: Langewiesche]. It should be noted that it wasn't mechanical error or the fault of the pilot that brought down ValuJet Flight 592; however, financial problems related to the crash nearly drove ValuJet out of business, and eventually forced a merger with another airline.
The bottom line is this: Plane crashes happen. Airlines suffer from safety problems and budget airlines aren't more susceptible to them than other airlines.
To read more about airplanes and other flight related topics, follow the links below.
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- Air Transport Association. "Monthly Jet Fuel Cost and Consumption Report." Feb. 14, 2009. (Feb. 25, 2009) http://www.airlines.org/economics/energy/MonthlyJetFuel.htm
- Associated Press. "Indonesia closes low-cost airline." msnbc.com.March 18, 2008. (Feb. 26, 2009) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23688339/
- Boeing. "Commercial Airplanes." (Feb. 24, 2009) http://www.boeing.com/commercial/prices/
- Evening Standard. "Ryanair forces boy with broken leg to stand on flight from Italy." April 20, 2007. (Feb. 26, 2009) http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23393375-details/Ryanair%20forces%20boy%20with%20broken%20leg%20to%20stand%20on%20flight%20from%20Italy/article.do
- Freiberg, Kevin and Jackie. "Nuts! Southwest Airlines' Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success." Broadway Books, 1998.
- Griffin, Drew and Bronstein, Scott. "Records: Southwest Airlines flew 'unsafe' planes." CNN. March 7, 2008. (Feb. 26, 2009) http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/03/06/southwest.planes/index.html
- Langewiesche, William. "The Lessons of ValuJet 592." The Atlantic.March 1998. (Feb. 24, 2009) http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/98mar/valujet1.htm
- Payscale.com. "Salary Survey Report for Job: Airline Pilot, Copilot, or Flight Engineer." (Feb. 25, 2009) http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Airline_Pilot,_Copilot,_or_Flight_Engineer/Salary
- Peterson, Barbara. "Blue Streak: Inside JetBlue, the Upstart That Rocked an Industry." Portfolio, 2004.
- Peterson, Barbara Sturken and Glab, James. "Rapid Descent: Deregulation and the Shakeout in the Airlines." Simon & Schuster, 1994.
- Reed, Dan. "Can fuel hedges keep Southwest in the money?" USA Today. July 24, 2008. (Feb. 24, 2009) http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/travel/2008-07-23-southwest-jet-fuel_N.htm
- U.S. Dept. of Transportation. "Air Travel Consumer Report." December 2008. (Feb. 25, 2009)http://airconsumer.dot.gov/reports/2008/December/200812ATCR.pdf