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December 16, 2016

What Airlines Not To Fly This Holiday Season

by: Mary F. Schiavo

As the holidays approach, our thoughts (or more likely the thoughts of our college-age children on winter break) may turn to exploring the far-flung corners of the world. As your family plans its travel, you would be wise to make a list and check it twice—against the European Union list of banned carriers and the FAA list of nations which fail to meet the international safety standards of aviation. Checking these two lists may be the most important thing you do before you travel.

In the last few weeks, two carriers on these lists suffered tragic, fatal plane crashes. In Colombia, a charter plane operated by LaMia Airlines killed 73 people, and in Pakistan, the crash of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) took the lives of 47. LaMia is based in Venezuela and Bolivia, countries the FAA has determined do not meet international safety standards. At the time of writing, LaMia's operating certificate was suspended by Bolivian authorities. PIA is on the EU list of banned airlines.

Why do you have to rely on the EU list? Unlike the EU, the United States does not ban carriers themselves. The U.S. only warns passengers which nations fail to meet aviation safety standards. Of course, this means you should not fly on carriers registered or inspected (or rather not inspected) in those countries. The EU updates its list fairly regularly, so it’s important to review it each and every time you fly. You can read more about this in my previous blog on banned airlines. 

The EU list of banned carries may be accessed here.

The FAA list of countries with inadequate aviation safety may be accessed here. As of the date of this writing, the FAA said these countries do not meet aviation standards:

  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Curacao
  • Ghana
  • Guyana
  • St. Maarten
  • Thailand
  • Uruguay

Air safety statistics and regulations suggest the following:

Choose scheduled, commercial air carrier service over air charter, on-demand or air taxi service. Private charter planes, air taxi and on-demand air service have accident rates from 3 to as many as 100 times greater than scheduled service. The safety regulations and inspections are tougher on scheduled service.

Choose jet over prop. Propeller planes have a far worse track record in icy and wintry conditions.

Choose nonstop over connecting. Takeoff and landing are the riskiest parts of the flight and account for more than 90% of crashes. Choose early morning over later in the day. “Get there itis” and pilot fatigue occurs more often later in the day.

Choose major developed nations' carriers over those of developing countries. The quality of a nation’s regulators and inspection regime is the key.

Buy your tickets in the United States. All of your tickets, even for foreign segments on foreign carriers, should be purchased in the United States. That simple step gives you the protections of U.S. laws and jurisdiction. While our court system may not be perfect, if something goes wrong, U.S. courts are far better at resolving airline issues than anywhere else. When it comes to seeking justice, there’s no place like home.