Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

Air travel: safety vs comfort

The Economist notes that not a single airline appears in both the Air Transport Rating Agency's list of the ten safest airlines in the world and the 2011 Skytrax World Airline Awards for front-line product and service standards. The lists are:
Top ten for safety (ATRA, alphabetical) Top ten for service standards (Skytrax)
Air France-KLM
AMR Corporation (American Airlines, American Eagles)
British Airways
Continental Airlines
Delta Airlines
Japan Airlines
Southwest Airlines
United Airlines
US Airways
1 Qatar Airways
2 Singapore Airlines
3 Asiana Airlines
4 Cathay Pacific Airways
5 Thai Airways International
6 Etihad Airways
7 Air New Zealand
8 Qantas Airways
9 Turkish Airlines
10 Emirates
I've used most of the companies in the left-hand column but only Turkish Airlines in the right-hand column. As a consumer, I must say that the safety record of the comfortable airlines doesn't strike me as particularly awful, whereas I would go to some extra cost and scheduling inconvenience to fly Turkish Arlines rather than any of the supposedly safer options simply because I know I will arrive in better shape. (I also had a lovely transatlantic flight once with Jet Airways, an Indian company which I am surprised not to see in the right-hand column.)

The geographical difference is especially striking above, with all the comfortable airlines (apart from Asiana) on or near the great circle between Istanbul and Wellington, and the safe but uncomfortable airlines based in the US, Europe and Japan (interesting that Japan is the geographical outlier on one list and Korea on the other). It's difficult to avoid the conclusion that standards of customer service have been driven down over the years in Europe and America. Europeans and Americans should travel more with Asian airlines and see how different things could be.

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