Air travel has never seemed safer. While there are the occasional incidents, they are few and far between. When I put my daughter on a plane, I’m more concerned about her getting an aisle seat than about her arriving at her destination. I worry about her comfort, not her safety. That’s my sense of the current state of flying, and I suspect most other travelers feel the same.
But that complacency is amiss, according to a group that has an especially deep understanding of the underpinnings of air safety.
Aircraft Engineers International, which represents more than 40,000 licensed aircraft-maintenance engineers in 30 countries, this week issued a news release warning that the industry’s safety standards are dangerously lax. Referring to the 2014 AirAsia crash in the Java Sea, as well as Spanair (2008) and Turkish Airlines (2009) crashes, as avoidable accidents, the group charged the airlines with allowing cost considerations to trump safety:
The public must be made aware that aviation today is driven by cost. Cost, not safety, is paramount. Pilots and Engineers are often placed under increasing pressure to accept second best, in order to ensure aircraft meet unrealistic flight schedules. The consequences of which are more incidents and ultimately more avoidable accidents.
Among the specific lapses contributing to the accidents, according to AEI:
- Failure to report defects
- Inadequate maintenance
- Inadequate crew training
- Ineffective regulatory oversight
It’s an unsettling charge, and one the airlines are sure to reject. At the heart of the engineers’ concern is an indisputable fact: The airlines are focused, sometimes obsessively, on managing costs. But at what point does cost-consciousness begin to degrade safety-consciousness? The airlines promise they haven’t crossed that line; the engineers say they have. And the traveling public is left to choose which source to trust.
My inclination is to go with the engineers. They are, after all, trained and licensed as engineers. And they have less of a financial stake in their position than the airlines have in theirs.
Until they give the green light, I’ll be a bit more worried when my loved ones fly.
Reader Reality Check
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This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.