Judging Airlines on What's Really Important

By: Roger Sheppard
By: Roger Sheppard

It's not just about on-time records and legroom

This is Thanksgiving weekend, traditionally the busiest travel period of the year.

Tens of millions of Americans will take to the highways and the skies to visit family hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Recently, there have been reports about the high level of dis-satisfaction that many Americans have with the airlines and what a poor record of "on-time" arrivals the airlines have had this year.

Having spent my fair share of time waiting for flights that never get off the ground or planes that are over-sold or passengers who don't have a clue about how to get through security, or what they ought not pack in their carry-on bag, I understand what everyone is upset about.

But there's one detail missing amid all of this angst over delayed flights and lousy or non-existent airline food.

It is this: Airline travel continues to be very safe in this country.

If I'm not mistaken, there has not been a fatal crash of a commercial U.S. passenger plane since August 2006, when a plane attempted to take off from a runway that was too short in Lexington, Kentucky, killing 49 of the 50 people on board. Prior to that, it had been many months or perhaps more than a year since any fatalities occurred involving a domestic, commercial plane.

Certainly, one plane crash is one plane crash too many.

But everyday, there are hundreds of thousands of people in the air over America.

I still consider it a bit of a miracle that all of those planes, carrying all of those people, to all of those different place, arrive pretty much on schedule and without incident, day after day after day.

Sure, it's a hassle when a plane is late or when a mechanical problem delays your departure.

But while we judge airlines for their on-time records or percentage of lost luggage, let's also factor in their safety record.

I would hate for an airline worker to cut a corner on safety in a mis-guided effort to help a plane roll out on time.

So the next time your flight is delayed, or you're stuck at an airport waiting for someone to arrive two hours late, just be thankful when things work out safely. And remember, many people would have been glad to have met a loved one late, rather than not at all.





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