Are Budget Airlines Actually Safe?
Do low-cost airlines expect you to compromise safety for a great fare?
Round-trip flights to Europe for less than $200 may be music to many people’s ears, but most travelers likely know the consequences of such a cheap fare: a lack of legroom, sparse amenities, and a myriad of extra fees for baggage, seat selection and more. Still, need savvy travelers add safety risks to their list of caveats when flying on a budget airline?
While many travelers looking for a great flight deal may be willing to sacrifice comfort for affordability, few would be willing to give up their safety in pursuit of that great deal.
Luckily, they don’t have to. While budget airlines cut other corners to keep fares low, they do not — actually cannot — compromise the safety of their passengers in the process.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s list of U.S. Certificated Air Carriers shows that budget airlines like Spirit, Southwest, Allegiant, Frontier and Sun Country have all (of course) received the proper certifications.
“Every airline, whether it's a budget airline such as Spirit, or a legacy line such as United, must meet the safety regulations set by the FAA,” Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Les Dorr told Men’s Journal. “Since everyone meets the same standards, there is no airline that is safer than another.”
So while airlines like easyJet, Ryanair and Frontier may not stock the most gourmet snacks, their planes do need to meet the customary standards to which all airplanes are upheld, from staff training to plane maintenance.
Viral stories like that of an easyJet engineer allegedly patching up a plane’s engine with duct tape don't hold up: According to the Civil Aviation Authority, the tape seen being used in the photos is actually aluminum tape (also known as speed tape or metallic tape) which is very durable, expensive, and regularly used on aircrafts (budget or not) to make minor repairs. (And airlines aren't using tape to fix anything that would require more serious attention.)
Of course, terrible accidents happen, and no airline is free from the possibility of something going wrong. Budget airlines, however, are historically no more likely to have a crash than any other airline. According to Business Insider, airlines WestJet, Flybe, Virgin America and Jetstar are just a few of the low-cost airlines that have never suffered a fatal crash.
Additionally, The Telegraph explains that due to how young many budget airlines are, some aircraft could actually be safer than their mainstream counterparts. The newness of these budget airlines means their entire fleet might only be a few years old, while a legacy airline’s plane could have been around for decades.
Passengers concerned about the safety of a particular airline can also use resources like AirlineRatings to see exactly how each carrier stands up to safety regulations, as well as easily compare airlines. While longstanding and more expensive airlines like American Airlines, United and Delta clearly receive 7 out of 7 stars for safety, almost all budget carriers are rated with at least 5 out of 7 stars, making them perfectly safe for flight. Low cost carriers like Frontier, Flybe, JetBlue and Aer Lingus actually receive a full 7 stars as well.
So, the next time you spot an incredible deal on one of these low cost carriers, mourn the loss of your legroom and storage space, but don’t let safety fears keep you from taking that trip.