Stories tagged fatality

Apr
12
2008

Grounded!: American Airlines recently grounded over 300 planes for maintenance.  Did their actions actually put travellers at greater risk?
Grounded!: American Airlines recently grounded over 300 planes for maintenance. Did their actions actually put travellers at greater risk?Courtesy Eugenio Palisi

Over the past several days, American Airlines grounded its fleet of MD-80 aircraft, yanking 300 planes out of service, cancelling over 3,000 flights, and stranding tens of thousands of passengers. The purpose was to fix faulty wiring to reduce the risk of fire.

While we can all agree that safety is a good thing, especially in air travel, Iann Murray wonders if the trade-off was worth it. Writing in The National Review, he notes that many of the stranded passengers no doubt ended up driving to their destinations. And, since air travel is significantly safer than automobile travel, those passengers were at a much greater risk of death or injury than had they flown the planes -- even with the substandard wiring.

This was a case where there were no good choices -- reducing risk in one area (airplanes) meant increasing risk in another area (automobiles). However, given the very low risk of failure, the airline could have fixed a few planes each day, and not massively interrupted service. But then, they would have been taking a risk -- if there had been just one accident with the faulty planes, the airline would have been to blame. Accidents on the highway, however, are not their fault, even if their actions had put more drivers in peril.

There's a reason they call Economics the dismal science.