AirAsia Flight QZ8501 and Air Travel Disasters For 2014

If you travel for business or leisure, you need to read this air
travel safety review. For those that manage travel or involved within
the travel industry, our review will assist you to advise and guide
travellers in the wake of a series of air travel catastrophes. By the
end of this review, you will have a clear, informed start point to
educate and manage yourself/others when it comes to air travel safety in

The most recent air travel disaster involving AirAsia Flight QZ8501
is the latest in a series of aircraft crashes throughout 2014. Despite
last year being touted as one of the safest years in aviation history,
2014 has seen 7 notable, disastrous crashes resulting in significant
loss of life.

The events surrounding the total disappearance of AirAsia Flight
QZ8501 are still unknown at this stage, and will take months before the
pieces are put together, if at all. Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 has
shown us all that it is not a simple, straightforward or guaranteed
process when it comes to a missing aircraft.

Recent events have contributed to providers and management being a
little more ‘prepared’ for such incidents, and management a little more
capable each time. Although this is certainly not universal nor
guaranteed. Emergency call centres, response management teams, etc have
all been established for AirAsia Flight QZ8501. It is important to
remember though, that this is a “low cost carrier” as referred to by the
aviation industry, meaning the operate with low overheads and less
‘management’ or costs when compared to other airlines. So some of the
provisions are very last minute and untested. AirAsia cancelled a
pre-scheduled, popular flight from Melbourne to Bali on Boxing Day,
informing travellers by SMS. So there are also cultural factors to
consider too. Indonesia’s aviation safety rating and maritime response
capabilities are not rated within the top echelons on the international
scale either. Australia has jumped at the opportunity to assist, but
they have been unsuccessful in locating the last aircraft they assured
they could find also.

Experts and commentators abound at this time, as they have in recent
months. The question we should all be asking, where were they in
preventing these incidents or is the industry/providers listening to
these inputs? Many are just aimed at prolonging the news cycle or
getting more air time, so the volume and commentary should not be
confused with the magnitude and complexity of the issue either.

Aircraft can still disappear in 2014. Emergency services and experts
still can’t locate them once they disappear and an entire aircraft with
passengers can cause untold heartache to loved ones and family when
their fate and the circumstances around their demise is unsolved. This
does not mean air travel as a whole has become more dangerous.

Before any individual, travel manager or business decides on altering
or reviewing their air travel choices, they need to consider the facts,
evidence and overall inputs as part of methodical hazard identification
process, with specific control measures to manage or mitigate risk.
There are far more flights, travellers, routes and ‘safe journeys’ in
2014 than the year before and significantly more than 10 years ago.
Don’t forget that. While there are questionable and outright dangerous
pilots, aircraft, routes and environmental conditions, there is no one
standard for all and results will not surprisingly vary based on these
key elements. This means that an incident in one location, with a
specific pilot, aircraft, weather, etc doesn’t mean the whole industry
or world is not at risk. Most airline safety ratings are totally
useless. They look at economic factors, profitability, service
standards, etc in order to create more of a “good job” index than a real
safety rating result. Don’t be mislead by these false data points
either. If you follow a consistent, relevant travel safety review and
hazard identification process, you will still typically find that air
travel is still comparably “safe”, but not totally devoid of risk. While
there are a few control and risk management elements you can apply, for
the most part you are still in the hands of the airline, pilot,
aircraft, environmental factors and any higher beliefs you may have. You
can’t impose control measures on them all.

A question we have always asked ourselves and that of clients, is
saving $50 for a flight the only factor in your decision making process?
This is not to say that cheap is unsafe, but delay, loss, opportune
cost, etc are certainly increased with “cheaper” when referring to air
travel. More and more businesses and travel managers will be both
accountable for this choice, and will need to review the practicalities
of such decision processes compared with legal and safety obligations
for travellers.

If you travel for business or leisure, you need to understand this
air travel safety review. For those that manage travel or involved
within the travel industry, you won’t be predisposed to snap decisions
but more evidence based travel management and planning. You should now
have a clear, informed start point to educate and manage yourself/others
when it comes to air travel safety in 2015.
Our sympathies and respect to the families and friends of those
suspected lost on AirAsia Flight QZ8501, and all those souls lost in
2014 to air travel disasters.

For More Intelligent Travel, Visit Intelligent Travel.


About Tony Ridley
Travel health, safety, security and risk management expert.

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