Entries in FAA (12)


AirTran Tops List of Safest US Airlines, but Who's Counting?

Comstock/Thinkstock Images(NEW YORK) -- It's easy enough to name the nation's seven safest airlines. It's hard, however, to say what good these lists are if your goal, as a traveler, is to avoid dying.

Consider the case of the passengers on the Southwest flight earlier this month who heard a loud bang and looked up to see daylight coming through the ceiling of their Boeing 737. If, before belting in, they had consulted the latest safety rankings, they'd have seen that Southwest's record is exemplary. On an incidents-per-flight basis, Southwest ranks as the safest of the major U.S. carriers and second-safest overall, coming in just behind much smaller, top-ranked AirTran Airways. (Southwest is in the process of acquiring AirTran.)

Knowing Southwest's safety ranking would have availed the passengers on the pop-top flight absolutely zip. That doesn't mean there aren't steps you can take to help ensure your safety in the air -- only that studying rankings isn't one of them.

The most popular rankings compare a carrier's number of flights against its number of safety "incidents." As determined by the FAA, "incidents are events that do not meet the aircraft damage or personal injury thresholds" of more serious "accidents." For example, a midair collision between a plane and a bird would likely qualify as an incident. A collision in the air between a plane and another plane would be an accident.

For leading U.S. carriers, there are a whole lot of flights, few incidents and even fewer accidents. So, while it's possible to say mathematically that Southwest outranks US Airways, the difference between Southwest's 0.0000203 and US Airways' 0.0000212 is…small.

You'd think that Christopher White, spokesperson for AirTran, would like to do a little boasting about his carrier's safety supremacy, but he, too, emphasizes that the top carriers are interchangeable when it comes to safety. "Everyone is 'safest,'" he says. "Today's aviation system in America is the best in the world. At AirTran, we do have a couple of things going for us: We have an extremely young fleet, the youngest all-Boeing fleet in the U.S. Newer planes give you less to worry about, fewer mechanical issues." AirTran also has scored highly for overall customer satisfaction.

So, what can you the traveler do to help ensure your safety? Quite a lot, say experts. Advises Bill Voss, head of the Flight Safety Foundation in Arlington, Va., "Look for airlines that have passed what's called an IOSA Audit, which goes above and beyond most regulatory requirements for safety." The International Air Transport Association (IATA) names airlines that have passed this audit. "Second, look to see if your carrier is part of a larger, global alliance, because airlines are very discerning about who can join these." As examples he cites the STAR and OneWorld alliances.

Airline industry analyst and consultant Robert Mann of Port Washington, New York says the best thing the traveler can do is to be "situationally aware"—in other words, keep your eyes and ears open, and if you see something that disturbs you, act on it.

Furthermore, if you do see something that strikes you as wrong, call it to the attention of the crew. The worst that can happen, he says, is that you'll mention your concern to the flight attendant, who'll pass it up to the captain, who'll send word back, "Thank you, but it's not a safety issue."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


UC Berkeley Study: Passengers Pay Half of $32.9 Billion in Flight Delay Costs

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BERKELEY) -- A study released Monday by the University of California, Berkeley found that domestic flight delays cost $32.9 billion, with $16.7 billion of that cost falling onto the lap of passengers through lost time and expenses.

"This is the most comprehensive study done to date analyzing the monetary cost of airline flight delays," said Mark Hansen, UC Berkeley civil and environmental engineering professor and lead researcher on the study. 

The study, which was commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration, analyzed data from 2007 that was intended to calculate the financial impact of flight delays on both airlines and passengers, the cost of lost demand, and the collective impact of these costs on the U.S. economy, according to UC Berkeley.

Study results ultimately showed that "decreased delays directly correlate with increased costs."  The $16.7 billion costs carried by airline passengers was calculated  "based on lost passenger time due to flight delays, cancellations and missed connections, plus expenses such as food and accommodations that are incurred from being away from home for additional time," said UC Berkeley researchers. "The FAA commissioned the research because previous studies had discrepant numbers in some key areas of concern."

"The significance of this study is its use of innovative techniques to quantify the total cost of congestion to the aviation industry, the economy and society," said David K. Chin, director of performance analysis and strategy at the FAA's Strategy and Performance Business Unit. "These innovations created new economic measures for airline schedule padding, passenger delay impact and lost productivity," said Chin.

According to the report, "not all delays can or should be eliminated, especially delays due to mechanical failures and severe weather that are necessary to protect passenger safety."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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