The Good News about Flying in 2010

Pity the poor air travelers–frequent flyers and leisure travelers alike.

Today we’re poked and prodded at airport security (oh, yes, I’ve been through one of those excruciatingly embarrassing pat downs); we pay for things we never used to (checked-baggage and more); and, we find ourselves squashed into planes that are seemingly more crowded than ever with fewer inches available for our legs and our backsides.

And yet, there are many things to be grateful for when flying (even the science itself; remember the Wright Brothers’ first successful flight took off in 1903) .

Here’s my short list (and please share below what you would put on your list):

1. Planes are Safer than Bedrooms

Flying remains very safe. I checked with one of my favorite websites, The Book of Odds (which I consulted for my scholarly publication entitled, “Your Chances of Being Bumped from a Plane vs. Dating a Supermodel”); according to past data, the chances that an airplane passenger will be involved in a plane crash in a year are 1 in 10,790,000. They’ve also documented that the odds a person will “die from a fall from bed in a year” are 1 in 478,300. Of course, if you really want to see your odds drop, check out your chance of being in an automobile accident. Moral: Be cautious while sleeping and buckle up on the drive to the airport.

2. Pilots and Flight Crews that Don’t Entertain You

Sure, I can laugh about flight attendants dancing to Lady Gaga, but I’d rather see it on YouTube instead of in my flight cabin. Give me a “boring” Capt. Sully over an “excitable” Steven Slater any time (Slater, of course, is the former JetBlue flight attendant who hurled expletives at passengers before grabbing a couple of beers and exiting via the emergency chute). By the way, the now-grounded Slater is a rapper these days. Sounds like he may have found his true calling.

3. Airlines Lose Fewer Bags

Alice Cooper might not agree. Reports say the ’70’s rocker recently had checked-baggage misplaced by British Airways (and I’m trying to imagine the reaction of the person who found it, since it contained props like bones and fake blood). But there is some good news. Airlines are losing fewer bags. According to the figures for Sept. 2010 (the most recent available as of this writing), U.S. carriers posted a “mishandled” baggage rate of 2.89 reports per 1,000 passengers, which was better than the rate for lost baggage in August (3.50 per 1,000) and a big improvement over the rate for the entire first nine months of the year.

4. Airlines Keep Flying

Remember ATA, Skybus and Aloha? Gone now, every one of them – no doubt flying in the Twilight Zone with the likes of TWA, Pan Am and Eastern. And for awhile there back in 2008, it looked exceedingly grim for many airlines. However, the carriers buckled down and with a combination of fuel hedging, capacity cutbacks and survival pricing, they stayed alive – and that’s so important for passengers since more airlines means more competitive pricing. Global tourist Farnoosh Brock told me recently, “Air travel shrinks the world like no other mode of transportation,” and she’s right. By the way, I like to call Farnoosh the “Martha Stewart of Travel” and you can hear this travel blogger’s great packing tips from her guest appearance on one of my recent Ask Rick Podcasts.

5. Airlines Still Have One Vital Freebie

Never mind all that noise from Ryanair – the Dublin-based carrier has yet to institute pay toilets. And without further comment, let me wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving – and as always, safe travels.

More from Rick Seaney:

Five Things Air Travelers Should be Thankful For

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Published: November 24, 2010