Yeah, But What About Those Peanuts?

If you avoid plane travel because you think it is unreliable and unsafe, these encouraging facts might change your mind.

If traveling last year piqued your nostalgia for the buildup to war in Iraq, one-hit-wonders about milkshakes, and Florida Marlins baseball, there was a reason: 2009 was the best year for airline punctuality since 2003.

It was also the best year since 2002 in terms of lost baggage (meaning fewer bags lost), according to the report, from the Transportation Department.

That’s an impressive statistic, especially considering the tense environment in which we fly. True, the underwear-incending terrorist wannabe of Detroit – whose name does not merit mention here – did not put thumb to Bic until Christmas Day; this probably caused and will continue to cause a spike in delays for some time. Nevertheless, from check-in to security to boarding to take off to flight to touchdown to baggage claim, the expectation is often that at least one thing will go awry. We summon our inner Buddhas and go with the flow, awaiting the inevitable delay or other such inconvenience, rolling our eyes and mumbling that “this is the world we live in” when it happens. When we consider that nearly 80 per cent of commercial flights were on time, it’s a refreshing strike against the notion that airlines (and federal security) cannot adapt to the times.

There is still plenty of room for improvement, but these results should encourage anyone with his finger on the “purchase ticket” button. People love to complain about air travel; it gives nervous travelers something in common to vent about, and it gives hacky comedians a steady paycheck. When negative events do happen, to us or in the news, it simply supports the rampant confirmation bias in our minds. But the rate of punctuality and baggage delivery, coupled with the fact that you are five times more likely to die from an apocalyptic asteroid than in a plane crash, should give you one less excuse to put off that long-distance vacation.

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