Southwest Is Making Their Flights Safer but Even Without This Change You’re Still Much Better Off in a Plane Than a Car

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I’ve mentioned this before, but I am not my usual calm, best, sunny self when flying in a plane.  That’s because I’m usually somewhere between mildly uncomfortable to extremely terrified when in flight.  It’s a bit of a dilemma for a person who loves to travel.  I know this fear is irrational.  But…is it really?  A plane goes down and that’s it.  Lights out.

Sitting by the window helps.  I like knowing I’ll be able to see what’s happening as we careen toward the ground.  That moment the captain turns off the fasten seatbelt sign also helps.  What doesn’t help is when someone says the thing that everyone likes to repeat when chatting with a person who has a fear of flying.  “But you’re so much safer in a plane than in a car.”  I know that’s true statistically.  But…I can’t think of many car accidents that involve 150 people plunging into the ocean.

Ok, I’m done with the morbidity, promise!

Here’s something reassuring though – Southwest is investing in a safety device that will work to prevent the malfunction that caused the Lion Air crash in October of 2018.  All of their planes will be outfitted with this device – what a relief.  This is truly an airline that seems to care about their passengers, and they also have an exceptional loyalty program.  Not only will you never pay checked bag fees, change fees, or cancellation fees, but you can earn a Southwest Companion Pass.

Once you have it, you can get nearly 2-for-1 flights (cash or points flights) for up to 2 years!  And now is a great time to earn it because all 4 Southwest cards have increased sign-up bonuses.

Southwest Has a Reputation for Innovation and Focusing on Their Customer’s Experience

In October, Lion Air, an airline that operates out of Indonesia, experienced a tragedy when one of their Boeing 737 MAX planes crashed shortly after take off.  Just 13 minutes after departing, the plane’s sensors malfunctioned.  Specifically, the control panel failed to display the correct altitude of the plane.  Sensors on the plane respond automatically by pushing the plane’s nose down when the altitude is out of synch.  This resulted in the plane diving into the ocean.  Out of the 189 people onboard there were no survivors.  Plane crashes are such an infrequent event.  And it’s rare that you hear of stories like this, but when you do, they make an impact.

Here’s How Southwest is Making Their Fleet Safer

So how is Southwest working to make their fleet safer?  In the aftermath of this accident, they are installing a new safety device in all of their Boeing 737 MAX planes.  This device is called an Angle of Attack (AOA) indicator, and it prevents the exact problem that caused the pilots operating the Lion Air plane to crash.  The AOA is a backup system that provides a cross-check whenever the sensors indicate the plane’s nose is pointed too high.  Essentially, this system is designed to prevent the plane from stalling.

This is a relief for anyone who followed the Lion Air crash closely enough to understand that Southwest has the same planes in their fleet.  Now they will be a bit safer.

Air Travel Is Safer Than Car Travel, Seriously!

While I’m admittedly a nervous flyer, someone who waits for the pilot to announce how long the flight time is before even thinking about relaxing, it does help to look at the statistics.  All of the data points to the same conclusion – air travel is absolutely the safest way to travel.  Here are a few things to remember that make me feel better:

  1.   Pilots must go through years of training in order to gain a commercial license.  Pilots are trained professionals who have a co-pilot sitting next to them for extra assurance.  That’s who’s flying your plane.  When you’re driving on the highway, you could be in a lane next to someone who got their license 3 months ago and is simultaneously texting their friends.
  2.   Air traffic control has you covered.  There’s a team of professionals who are watching the weather, the flight paths of other planes and keeping in constant communication with the flight team.  Their whole purpose is to keep your flight safe.  The closest thing you have in a car is Google maps or your passengers who may or may not be paying attention.
  3.   As technology continues to improve, planes are continuously becoming safer.  Airlines invest a lot of money in technology to make their aircraft safer.  Take what Southwest is doing for example.  These initiatives to improve airplane safety are as much financially motivated as they are benevolent.  When you’re driving down the road, there’s no telling when the semi-truck next to you will have a tire blowout or swing into your lane causing a serious accident.  You don’t have to worry about that when you’re in an airplane.

Do you think this additional safety measure will make a difference when you’re booking a flight?  Honestly, this is going to make me even more of a loyal Southwest customer.  Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Tom Heise
1 year ago

Add me to your blog
Good article

Tom Heise
1 year ago

Great post

All-Purpose Guru
1 year ago

A backup AOA indicator is not what will save lives; training as to what to do when the AOA indicators FAIL is what will.

The Lion Air crash could have easily been averted had the pilots been informed to disable the automatic trim system; indeed, the previous pilots of that same aircraft (flown the day before) did exactly that when they had the same problem with the airplane.

There are two problems here:

1) The software on the automatic trim system must be updated to reject bad data from its sensors, and when it detects anomalous behavior that can’t be rejected, the system should disable itself.

2) Pilots should be trained as to the operation of the automatic trim system and be trained in recognizing and disabling the system when it isn’t operating properly. The auto trim is a new system in the MAX 8 and its behavior obviously is not well understood by flight crews.

Bryan
1 year ago

SWA does have nice employees but for someone who flies 150 flights annually, I am more concerned about on time performance and functional wifi on the planes. SWA is terrible at both. I fly about 100 flights each year on SWA due to their flight schedule meeting my needs. They are no less expensive than Delta and most of the time they are at least 15 minutes late, which they can count as ontime since anything 15 min or less is considered ontime. After flying over 1,000 SWA flights, I see the many flaws they have and could fix but do not. No airline is perfect but SWA has slide down into the bottom of the rankings to me, since Herb retired. He was focused on their customers and the current management is focused only on profits, which are important, but the original SWA spirit has been missing for many years.

Sharon
1 year ago

I will not fly anyone but Southwest. Their crew is always nice, courteous, and helpful. The ticket agents will go out of their way to help with any problem. They are on time. They still give you free snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. I love Southwest!

Jason
1 year ago

Bags aren’t really free if the fare is so much more expensive than every other airline. I’ll stick with Delta who has better on time performance, a better safely record and has better customer service

Lisa
1 year ago

Love swa