Airline ticket – for what?

Passengers come in many categories. For instance, with or without flight anxiety, where the latter is in minority. Then there are some, today probably in majority, from both those categories, looking for the cheapest possible fare, with no concern for flight safety, assuming everything you can fly with is just as safe. That’s a reasonable assumption, considering the fact that there are (almost) never any airline disasters. It’s also reasonable to say that there are almost never an accident, there being 100.000 (pre-pandemic) flights per day, and less than one accident in every 3-month period.

Then there are some, probably, but not only, consisting of those slightly scared of flying. Those who, for various reasons, carefully pick who they want to fly with. The reason can be previous good experiences, loyalties of different kinds – but sometimes a vague feeling that it is somewhat safer to choose a major airline of some kind, often a flag carrier in case there is one. Those passengers are facing a problem.

On the ticket, considered well worth a slightly higher price, is the name of United, Lufthansa, SAS or whatever is prestigious and safe. Will one bord an aircraft from one of those companies. Sometimes – but not always. Many flights are performed in the name of those companies, but with subcontracted smaller companies or sometimes by low-cost companies by their own creation with a totally different economic backbone, simply because budget airlines has pressed the aviation industry into economic hardship.

The sad truth is that flight safety cost money. Less money – less flight safety one might say, most likely exaggerating the problem. But, as one example only, there was an accident a few years back, where a company called Colgan Air was used by Continental on some routes, with Continentals name on the ticket. Colgan Air was a budget operator and none of the pilots were educated enough on how to handle a stall. Consequently they plummeted to the ground, killed everyone on board and one on the ground. It turned out that the co-pilot had very little experience and the Captain on top of that fatigued by a pressed flight schedule. After the accident (always ‘after’) regulations were changed regarding minimum flight experience for new pilots and maximum duty time, where USA now has somewhat stricter rules than many parts of the world, including Europe.

Was this a fraud? Next of kin thought so and sued Continental for just that. As a frustrated pilot commented when this matter is brought forward; ”You pay for a Bentley – and get a Lada”. No matter how one sees this, you can today not always be sure of in whose care you have ended up when you sit there at 35.000 feet with a ticket for which you paid a few extra dollars. No goods declaration, and private efforts to find out is hampered by the fact that aircraft rotations may come at short notice. Some companies go to the extent of painting their leased capacity in their own colors, making the operation even more dubious.

In all fairness it has to be mentioned that regular airlines have extra costs not related to flight safety since they feel responsibility for the whole travel package, incl. re-bookings and hotel nights in case of irregularities. Something you have to live without when you go low-cost. On the other hand there is no fraud. If is says LionAir, Asiana, Norwegian or Ryanair on the ticket, it will say so in original also on the side of the aircraft when you board. Is one exposed to any higher risk, one might ask. (The threats when ticket prices does not cover production costs, and where savings are made, has been discussed in almost boring detail in previous articles in this blog.) The easiest way to find out is to wait for next disaster and read the accident report.

Should it happen to any of the above mentioned small companies repainted i big companies nice colors, the discussion of fraud is bound to re-surface.


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