The end of 2016, as all other year ends before it, was a season of heavy air travel. Travelers planned trips to other parts of the country, or abroad, to visit family and friends, yet many worried and asked - how safe is air travel?
The world was deeply saddened by the recent crash of a LeMia Airlines flight near the Colombian City of Medellin, taking the lives of 71 passengers including members of a top Brazilian football team. Other crashes this year included Egypt Air flight 804 from Paris to Cairo, where 66 passengers perished in the Mediterranean in May and the Fly Dubai flight 981 that crashed in Russia, resulting in 62 deaths. It also seems like on every morning news broadcast there is a near miss on a runway or a plane that must be evacuated.
It is not surprising, with all the negative news regarding air travel, that more people are apprehensive when it comes to flying than any other form of travel. The fact is, however, that 2016 is on target to become one of the safest years on record for flying with fatalities at 50 percent of the past ten-year average.
There were over 3.5 billion booked flights in 2016 and if you divide that number by the number of fatalities, the ratio is one death per 12,867,647 travelers. Those odds show that air travel is the safest among all other forms of transportation. Everyday there are reports of car, truck and bus fatalities around the world but people are far more anxious when it comes to boarding a plane. With rapid technological advances in air travel it is likely that aircraft engineers will soon find a way to prevent airplane crashes in the future.
Passenger Plane Injuries
There are few statistics on injuries from passenger plane crashes as most large plane crashes are not survivable. The chances of being injured on a flight are more likely from a trip and fall, being struck by falling overhead luggage or hit by a food cart. In some of those cases the airline can be held liable for the injury, in other cases it could be the airline's employees, aircraft and component manufacturers or even, the FAA.
Common In-Flight Injury Causes
Luggage falling from overhead compartments causes approximately 4500 injuries per year, according to one estimate. Rolling food and beverage carts are another common cause of injury by hitting both seated and moving passengers. Passengers may also slip and fall on their way to the restroom.
Turbulence is another cause of injuries. It is not common cause, but turbulence does injure an average of 58 passengers per year, usually when it is unexpected and passengers are not buckled in and lifted out of their seats. Turbulence is considered an "act of God" and the airline is not responsible for injuries caused by it unless it can be proven that the flight crew knew it was coming and did not advise the passengers to buckle up. In another case the pilot may not have used proper vigilance to see the approaching turbulence. Most turbulence is no more than a bumpy ride but severe and sudden turbulence can launch an unsuspected passenger into the overhead bin causing head or neck injury.
Heightened Duty of Care
Airlines, along with buses, trains are categorized as "common carriers." The law imposes a heightened duty of care on such entities. They must be extremely vigilant and provide a level of protection that is augmented beyond acceptable to protect passengers from potential harm. This duty of care is extended to the airlines employees as well. This includes pilots, flight attendants, ground crew, maintenance workers and the airlines own safety inspectors. The airlines are not responsible for the actions of federal security and inspection personnel.
Passengers who are boarding, traveling onboard or disembarking are owed this heightened duty of care. Once the passengers are off the plane, the airlines responsibility ends.
Injured on an Airline?
If you are injured boarding, while on board or disembarking from a plane, you should contact a personal injury attorney who is experienced in travel related injuries. Some acts of negligence may include leaving a trip and fall hazard in the aisle, failure to properly latch an overhead luggage bin. An airline may also be negligent for failure to train employees properly or failing to implement policies that offer adequate protection. The best way to determine if negligence existed on the part of an airline is to retain a qualified airline injury attorney.