How Safe is Flying? Detailed Statistics

I understand that statistics are not enough for you to overcome your fear of flying, but I have to show you some proof to back up everything else I tell you on this website. To overcome your fear you must understand WHY and HOW flying is safe, and this is where this website will really help you

Everybody tells you that flying is statistically safer than almost any other mode of transport. But is this true? YES IT IS! As proof, here are a few statistics and charts;

  • A US National Safety Council study showed flying to be 22 times safer than travelling by car
  • 21,000 people (on average) die on the road in the US in a 6-month period. This is approximately the same amount of all commercial air travel fatalities WORLDWIDE in 40 years
  • More than 3million people fly EVERY DAY.
  • A Boeing aircraft takes off or lands every 2 seconds somewhere in the world – all day, every day!

Below is a chart showing a direct comparison between different modes of transport in the US. As you can see, more people died while riding a bike than on an airliner. These statistics are from 2000;

US Transportation Fatalities 2000 – Source: NTSB

This next chart shows a comparison betweeen the number of airplane accidents and the actual number of departures. You can see how safety has dramatically improved since the early days. This graphic comes from the Boeing Website.

Why Am I Still Nervous?

Many of you will look at these facts, but still believe flying to be unsafe. Despite me telling you that 1 plane in 5 million crashes, the only number you can focus on is the 1.

Try to start analysing risk in everything you do. There is a risk when you cross the road, walk up the stairs, drive a car, or any other activity. Why does flying seem like more of a risk than any of these things?

The answer is usually related to the feeling of having no control. The fear of flying is an emotional response, and it’s this that must be changed.

An expert in dealing with changing your emotional response is Tom Bunn and his SOAR Fear of Flying Program.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    I read where if you lose the engines you can glide 30 minutes however what happens when you are over the Atlantic or Pacific?

    • says

      Yes, 30 minutes is the approx time an aircraft at cruising altitude can ‘glide’ before landing. But, on transatlantic routes an aircraft is often more than 30 mins away from an airport.

      Firstly, it is important to concentrate on how unlikely it is for an aircraft to lose ALL engines. Jet engines are incredibly reliable, and rarely fail. So, for more than one engine to do so is almost impossible!

      There are stringent rules regarding which planes are permitted to cross the Atlantic regarding maintenance checks and suchlike. Therefore, aircraft that operate transatlantic routes are possibly the safest.

      If, however, in the HIGHLY UNLIKELY event of complete engine failure over the Atlantic the aircraft can land on water – and is designed to do so.

      There are plenty of examples of aircraft landing safely on water, the most recent of which is the ‘ditching’ of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in New York. Despite claims that the Captain performed a miracle landing, ALL pilots are trained in how to ditch an aircraft. Only a tiny minority will ever have to utilise that training though.

      In summary, it is VERY rare to lose all engine power, and if it does the aircraft can land perfectly safely on water.

  2. craig dickson says

    you can glide for 30 mins depending what aircraft your on, but if your over water , see ya xx

    hope this helps. stick to europe..

  3. Laurent says

    Hello,
    I became a fearful flyer over the years even though I have flown countless times far distances. Somehow hearing that flying is the safest mode of transportation isn’t enough for me: i need proof. And when I say proof, I mean not biased statistics from Boeing counting fatalities per “passenger miles”. Another example of not convincing stats are the ones presented up above on this web page. It says that more people died in car accidents each year that on plane accidents but of course they don’t mention that so many more people use cars than planes everyday. What would be interesting is to present stats comparing accidents proportionally. For instance, out of all the trips done by car each year (and I bet its more that the number of flights) how many fatal accidents? and out of all the commercial flights per year how many accidents. If you go on wikipedia they present some stats from the english department of transportation showing that on a per trip basis, air travel is less safe than driving.

  4. Harry says

    Hey there, i do understand the facts, and i trust them, i know numbers work. Even though, my grandfather was in the RAF, all those times and hours he spent flying, not once did he have a hiccup, not once has my uncle ever had a problem, and he flies on a weekly, commercial basis, never has any of my family EVER had a problem with flying. Im 17, i watch TV, i blame Air Crash Investigation tbh.

  5. says

    i think the fear of flying is your chances of survival in case of an incident. I would be interested in seeing the statistics of number of automobile crashes:fatality rate vs commercial airline crash:fatality rate.

  6. says

    It’s not so much plane malfunction that worries me, it’s all the idiot foreign suicide bombers out there. I don’t trust that the security is up to par. All the US marshalls in the world can’t stop a bomb on board. There is WAY too much that slips through the cracks.

      • gj13 says

        Well let’s see there was that shoe bomber guy … such a credit to his cause …

        I’m thinking if a couple of folks tried to hijack a plane today he better have a bomb, otherwise every individual on the plane would rush them and stomp them to death prior to shoving them in the toilet.

  7. Anon says

    I don’t think the people commenting on here with a negative attitude is doing anyone any favours. What is the point in actually locating this website, just to comment on it when you have no interest in it at all anyway.
    Get a life.

    • Sharon says

      I agree, I think that the negativity is coming from people who obviously have no problem with flying and don’t really care if other people do.This is a fantastic website, thank you, been after something like this for a while. I miss enjoying a flight and really want to again.

  8. c says

    Why is that ‘anon” because you don’t like people to talk? Maybe you should get a life and let people live ahole.

    Anywayz, I for one feel flying is so much not safer than driving. If you take that driving is say 60 times more dangerous than planes, but then that people drive 95% of the time more than planes, it starts to put a hole in the ‘planes are safer’ argument. Also, I have been in 3 big car crashes in my life and survived every single one of them. There is not a person on earth that has lived through 3 big plane crashes. In a car you have crumple zones, air bags, shatterproof glass, protected fuel tank. On a plane you have a rinky dink seat belt and ton of explosive fuel on board along with a airframe created to be strong, but not tough to survive a good crash and protect the occupants, they literally just disintegrate.

    Please stop telling people flying is safe, cause in reality it really isn’t all that safe. At least with other modes of transportation you can have a good chance of surviving, but when at 30K feet and 400mph and a problem happens and the plane starts plummeting, its pretty easy to see how it will end.

    • says

      Hi C,

      So, you have survived 3 big car crashes?! How many plane crashes have you experieinced? I’m guessing zero as it’s very rare when it happens. I have never pretended that flying is 100% safe – but that’s because NOTHING IS.

      Statistics show that 80% survive plane crashes when they do happen and I have never heard of anyone who’s been involved in more than one. So, your argument is flawed, and by mentioning the 3 serious car crashes you have been involved in you are merely backing up that flying is safer.

      I operate approx 40 flights per month and have been doing so for 5 years and never had a serious problem. Further to this I have not once felt unsafe as I can see how safety is always the number 1 priority.

      So, take your misguided opinions elsewhere and stop trying to upset those that have come here for genuine advice on overcoming the fear of flying. If you choose not to fly, that’s your problem.

      • gj13 says

        Seeing all the comments from folks saying flying isn’t safe is actually making me feel safer about it. The reasoning being used seems skewed and disproportionate when it’s not coming out of my mouth LOL.

      • Anonymous says

        wow i have a fear of flying even though i never have flown, but my gosh when i read that it scared me, FEAR OF FLYING HELP thank you for putting c straight about things.
        i was staying in london near heathrow one time and a plane must have been landing every 5 mins, i was shocked really because when you think about it, if all those flights taking off and landing evry 5 mins at heathrow and you rarely hear of anything happening, every day day in day out, weeks months years which equalls that its a rather safe transport to pick!

  9. Sarah says

    C! It is all very well saying flying isnt safe and a very dangerous means of transportation. I for one am terrified of flying. I dose myself up on zanex, breathe into a paper bag and hyper ventilate the entire journey! I hate my fear so much! however I love to go on holiday and am looking to overcome this fear. By claiming flying is not safe you are sharing an unnecessary opinion to people who visit this site to help beat their fears. Many people are afraid of mice, spiders and even walking outside their home..you may say this is an irrational fear, however that person who suffers from a different anxiety may think your stupid for your fear of flying. You have survived three big car crashes, well I would think yourself very lucky, but you failed to say how many plane crashes you had been in???…Yes people drive everyday, but pilots are specially trained, not taking a test to see if their Nissan micra is parked correctly and the different colors of the traffic lights. People visit this site to overcome their fears, they are realistic that overcoming flying and taking the risk would be more beneficial to their lives as opposed to criticizing and sitting on their arse not going anywhere. And if by chance you do fly and do travel I would suggest you take you worthless opinions elsewhere! Thankyou…

  10. Dave says

    I also hate flying, i go through the same emotions everytime i get on a plane – and i have to fly a lot around the world for business. I get on, try to think positively but after a while i start looking out the window and wondering ‘what if’…etc. I recently took up flying lessons (yeah i know, crazy all things considered) in an effort to combat my fear of flying and to learn what is actually happening when a plane takes off and lands. It is really helping, and understanding how aircraft gets in the air and more importantly, stays there, really does help. When all is said and done, passenger planes are VERY safe and so technologically advanced now that they have systems to cope with pretty much every eventuality. Yes crashes to occur, but this statistic should put things into comparison…2.3 BILLION people flew safely in 2009, out of a total of 35 MILLION flights worldwide, only 18 resulted in fatal accidents. You literally have a greater chance of being kicked to death by a donkey…true!

    • Ckb says

      Hi, I’m 27 flew once when I was a child to AZ and just flew to Las Vegas this month and
      am planning to revisit in November. I went to the dr got Xanax and prayed the whole time, banking terrifies me and I just would like to know where you got the statistic for 2009? My dad used to be a mechanic for American Airlines and tells me it’s completly safe, however the idea of flying again in November literally makes me stomach turn. I would like to overcome this fear very much so. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  11. Jane says

    Hi

    The whole point of a fear of flying is that it is irrational. I know I have more chance of winning the lottery than being in a plane crash but I am still afraid. I do fly on average 20 times a year for work and I have stopped flying for pleasure. I have never had any sort of incident or even encountered turbulance which proves even more so that I have a fear/phobia and it is directed at flying (if you know what I mean) I am going to attend the fear of flying course run by BA, I have heard some fantastic reports and people really have completely overcome any fears they had.

    Jane

    • says

      Hi Jane,

      I’m aware that those with a more severe fear of flying have an irrational fear, and that statistics won’t necessarily help you a lot. However, there are many travellers with a mild anxiety about flying that need these statistics to help reassure them that it is safe to get on a plane.

      If you read this site you’ll find that I fully admit that I can only offer a certain level of help. Those with more severe phobias are recommended to order either the TakeOff Today Program or the SOAR Fear of Flying Course.

      Please feel free to share your story once you have completed the BA course. You’ll find that the start of the course will feature the information on this website (i.e. how flying works, why it is safe, and who is looking after your safety) before moving on.

      Do they offer a guaranteed course? The SOAR Course is the only one I’ve seen that offers full refunds if the participant does not overcome their fear.

  12. me says

    well im going mallorca in 3 weeks and it is a 2 hour flight and im flying with ryanair i have been told some nasty stories, help…….
    thankyou :)

  13. Rob says

    Hello,
    I first would like to state thank you for creating this website; And that I also do not have a phobia of flying, just a mild anxeity (something about being 30,000 feet in the air creeps me out.) But I found this and other sites to be helpful. People who come on to these sites to bash the statistics and other facts just have fears themselves and have no means to overcome them. Thanks for creating this site!

    -Rob

  14. Sharon says

    Thanks for this website. I have been hypnotised and was on valium last year, but neither worked, i used to love flying and i try to sit there and think rationally but for some reason it doesnt help. im the sort who sits there listening to every noise of the engine thinking theres something wrong and panics, i tell my husband that he has to get someone quick to tell me its ok but this still doesnt work!

  15. Olly says

    Hello great site, im about to get on an Air Asia Flight from KL Malaysia to London. When i was on a plane going to kl from london, i was over the Bay of Bengal and the plane really felt like it suddenly fell out the air and a guy who had a coffee in his hand next to me spilled it everywhere. Although we laughed about it after, i have a fear of flying and the experience really shook me up. My fear unfortunately is getting worse. I heard interesting stat about turbulence that i thought was quite interesting. Is it true that even if turbulence feels really bad for the passenger the plane hardly reads it at all, and what feels like a 1000 meter drop is nothing like the reality?

    Thanks for the website your doing a really good thing
    olly

    • says

      You are completely correct, the aircraft never moves as much as you think it is. In fact, if you were flying next to the aircraft you probably wouldn’t even be able to tell it was experiencing turbulence.

      If you compare it to speed bumps in the road it makes more sense. If you drive too fast over one, you are thrown about inside your car. In fact, if you are going fast enough you will leave your seat completely. The speed bump is tiny in comparison to the size of your car, but it feels huge when you are being thrown around your car!

      The same applies on an aircraft. Turbulence is bumpy air, but you are travelling at 500mph through it. The reason it feels worse is the fact you are not part of the aircraft, but travelling inside it. Therefore when the aircraft drops a few inches, it will move a split second before you. This results in a feeling of falling a lot further than you actually are.

      On my turbulence mini course page there is a video on turbulence that shows how little the altimeter (which measures the planes altitude) barely moves at all during turbulence. Click here to see it.

      Hope that helps, and thank you for your kind words. Enjoy your flight. Let us know how you get on.

  16. Andrew says

    Is United Airlines a safe one? I have to fly from Greece to Philadelphia in a few days and I’m literally freaking out.

  17. says

    What a wonderful website! I just discovered and bookmarked it, so i am going to spend lots of time on it in the near future :) Well, here is my story. I LOVED flying! The first time I flew was 7 years ago when I was 20 y.o. The take off felt so unreal, I couldn’t stop smiling! I never even think for a second “what if..”, I was looking into window amazed by the beautiful sky and tried to see other airplanes in the distance. I especially loved flying during sunrise or sunset!

    4 years ago when my husband and I traveled to Europe we had a horrible flight back. I never had problems with Lufthansa – they have great reputation! But I got really scared this time… About an hour after take off all TV screens went dark. The flight attendant tried to say something using the microphone and it would just make weird noises like it was broken. Then the awful turbulence started… 20 min later it is still going on… then it stopped then in about 10 min started again… We had to wear seat belts 80% of the 12 hour flight! They finally fixed the TV monitors and the microphone only 1 hour before we landed!!!!!!!! They admitted something was wrong and apologized only after we landed. I still don’t know what the problem was… may be it was nothing serious and it just looked like it… But I remember asking for more wine (trying to get myself drunk and less nervous lol) and saying to myself: “Once we land I will NEVER step on another plain ever again”. Minutes felt like hours….

    My mom flies the same route 1-2 times a year and I always ask her “Was there lots of turbulence?” and she always says, no, there was hardly any…. So I don’t know why there was so much turbulence that time… I wonder if some electric/electronic problems could cause it.

    Sorry, I didn’t want to scare anyone, I just wanted to tell my story and explain how I got my fear of flying (and may be get some answers about what happened during that flight).

    After 4 years of not flying, we decided to have a nice well deserved vacation in Hawaii, so we will have to fly… That’s why I googled “is flying safe” to read some more about it and hopefully feel better because I knew there would be lots of articles and charts proving that flying is SAFE…

    • Olga S says

      From a topic “Turbulence” on this website:” Severe – Flight Attendants will be instructed to put their seatbelts on. To put this in perspective, I’ve experienced this once in thousands of flights!” THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I EXPERIENCED and now I am afraid of flying :( The Exits light up also I believe.. If this didn’t happen I would still enjoy flying.. :(

      • oliver o'keeffe says

        Hi Olga, just to let you know i have a fear of flying to. Most the time i take long flight to Asia from london flying over the Bay of Bengal and i have experienced several times turbulence that was Severe enough that the flight attendants had to put there seat belts on, its not a nice feeling because you feel like “if they are worried then my god i must have to be worried to”. Although in reality its just for there safety (bumping their heads that sort of thing). Also having scanned this website a bit and i am surprised how little other people have experienced such bad turbulence when for me its almost a yearly occurrence ( bad luck for me, by the way im fine and the only thing the turbulence did to me was scare me but all the flights landed and everyone was fine).

        I also found out on this GREAT WEBSITE that planes holding cargo (letters, parcels that sort of thing) and not humans will deliberately fly into bad weather so as not to lengthen their journey by flying around it (which is what airlines do). When i first heard this i was shocked. If a Fedex captain is ok with flying deliberately through bad weather then i think that puts bad turbulence on a commercial jet into perspective. All the best, keep flying.

        olly

      • says

        Hi Olga,

        With regards to exit lights, they only come on when the landing gear is down. You mention the monitors going off etc. This is not a serious problem and is NOT related to the flying of the aircraft at all. These things happen from time to time.

        Primary equipment (for example, flight deck communication, navigational equipment, autopilot etct etc) have AT LEAST one back up system if one fails – and usually more. Monitors – however – do not as they are not essential.

        On the other hand, we will not depart an airport if the PA system is not working, it would be fixed first. But, it is not a serious issue if it stops working mid-flight.

        With regards to the turbulence you encountered, it is nothing to worry about. Every now and then it can get quite rough, but pilots normally avoid this for your comfort. As Oliver mentions, a passenger aircraft will take more active steps to avoid bumps simply to keep you comfortable and allow you to continue walking around the aircraft without falling over. A FedEx pilot doesn’t care as he/she has no passengers to worry about!

        Turbulence can sometimes be uncomfortable, but as long as you have your seatbelt on it is not dangerous and will never cause damage to the aircraft.

    • says

      Cathay Pacific is safe. It’s a large, successful airline and has only experienced one fatal event in their history. This was in 1972 due to a bomb exploding onboard – back in the days when airport security was almost non-existent!

  18. Bernardo says

    Hi there, Great website!. I used to love flying and do lots of it but once flying back from Sao Paulo to London using Swiss Air, the turblence was horrible (at least in my mind) that I could not sleep the whole journey (12 hours). I was stressed and nervous for the whole journey (for everyone else it seemed very normal). Ever since, flying around Just europe became unbearable. I pretty much close my eyes and concentrate on the sound of the engines for the whole journey. Luckily the flights were short as I was not eating or drinking anything and Plus I got medicine that would normally send me sleeping for hours but would not work due to the adrenaline. This is already a problem as I need to fly regularly. The major problem is that I am flying on the 13 december to Sao Paulo with AIR FRANCE. Forget about number 13 and Air france, I do not know how I would bare the 12 hours journey. I tried everything to get over the stress, so I took 6 flights in the last 2 weeks within europe and I thought by the end I will get over it but NO it kept getting worse and worse!. For my situation Flying is a MUST! but the nervousness and the stress is hell!….can anyone help please? I am considering taking some psychiatric help.

  19. Adam says

    Howdy, great site!

    I have had a fear of flying for years and have avoided flying or going on holidays for almost 5 years. Its really tragic but that is the reality of ppl who have a fear of flying.

    People who do not have a fear of flying do not understand what it is like. To be honest if you look at statistics flying is pretty safe, and i really beleive that getting hit by a bus is more likely to happen. Im soon going on a long journey that i dont really want to do but have to to combat this phobia. Im going from Sydney Australia to Paris, im thinking of going with SIngapore airlines or maybe Thai? Any words of advice with those two airlines and their safety? I will possibly be taking the a380 from Singapore to Paris, is it true that turbulence isnt as noticeable on this aircraft as much as other smaller planes?

    Thank you.

  20. melly says

    HI I am taking a six hour trip on virgin america being they are a new airline doe sthat mean they are not as safe as older ones and are the planes safe even tho they are new couldnt their be a defect that hasnt been found out yet.I have a major fear of flying and i am raveling with a 2 yr old and want to be on the safest flight as possible thanks!

    • says

      With a new airline, it’s often difficult to assess there safety due to the obvious fact that they have not previously been operating.

      However, in Virgin America’s case, safety standards can be compared to already existing airlines. You have probably heard of Virgin Atlantic, but if not, they are a huge airline based in the UK with an impeccable safety record. The airline was started by a hugely successful British entrepreneur (Richard Branson) who is now working hard on Virgin Galactic selling tickets to space for $200,000!

      The reason I’m telling you all this is simple. Despite Virgin America being a relatively new airline, they are operating under the Virgin brand which is huge, reputable, and very successful. Safety is not an issue.

      With regards to your comments on new aircraft being less safe, that is definitely not the case. Newer aircraft are far more advanced than older models, and they are tested extensively before operating a commercial flight. I noticed that the airline operates the Airbus 320 family. These are the same aircraft I’ve been flying on every day for the last 5 years and I can assure you they are fantastic machines.

      Your 2 year old is in perfectly safe hands. Hope that helps.

  21. larry says

    I never fkew until about 3 years ago and now I’m on a plane at least once a mont if not more… The travel bug deff set in with me… I was TERRIFIED on my first flight… and was actually in tears until we got to cruising alltitude… but now I cant get enough to me there is nothing in life more exciting than taking off HMMMM … Sometimes on long haul flights I actually pray for turbulancre to aleviate the boredom .. turbulance can be quite fun :)

  22. Sharon C. says

    Is Spirt Air safe? I want to visit children in Cartagana, Colombia and they had a short route, only about 3 hours from Ft. Lauderdale. I hate flying and I don’t know how I will do once I am up there. I have been once and it made me sick. I know that this phobia is irrational but the fear is still there. I don’t want to be so terrified of the return trip back that I don’t enjoy myself with the children, which is what happened on my other trip!!

    • says

      I’ve never really heard of Spirit Airlines as I’m based in the UK. However, I have done some research for you and in their 30 year history they have never had an incident. On that basis, they are a safe airline to fly with.

      The airline have a fleet of Airbus aircraft – some of the most technologically advanced, and environmentally friendly aircraft available at this time.

      It seems they have been in trouble with some somewhat ‘cheeky’ advertising campaigns, and they have recently upset their pilots (they went on strike this year after 4years of unsuccessful negotiations over pay and conditions). Wikipedia reports that they are the lowest paid Airbus pilots in the US. But, what’s important to remember is that a pilot will never endanger the lives of others over his/her pay.

      Hope that helps, you’ll be fine.

  23. Bobby says

    Hi,

    Im currently a student going to South Africa with my college with South African airways. are they safe?

    Really worryed about the plane crashing!

    Thanks

  24. S.L says

    HI, great website! I’ll be flying to South Korea from U.S. by Korean Air this weekend. It will be tough 16 hours since I hate flying and I am pregnant on the top of that!!! How safe is Korean Air and any tips you can give me….??