A fiery crash scares Americans a lot more than an invisible virus, but it shouldn’t.
In a public relations exercise to reassure the public about flying on the Boeing 737 MAX when it is reintroduced in a few weeks, American Airlines has begun offering employees flights that take off and land at the same airport. The odds of them dying in a crash were infinitesimal even before the model’s safety overhaul. Their chances of catching Covid, and even dying from it, are higher.
Late last year a survey by Bank of America found that almost two-thirds of Americans would wait at least six months to fly on the plane after it is reintroduced. That is a higher proportion than those in a Franklin Templeton-Gallup survey who felt unsafe flying because of Covid-19 this summer.
Yet on Thursday alone the U.S. death toll from Covid-19 was the equivalent of 16 fully loaded 737 MAX jets. Deaths in just one-and-a-half hours were the same as total U.S. air fatalities since 2002.
A study by MIT Sloan professor Arnold Barnett showed that the odds of catching Covid on a short-haul flight if the middle seat is vacant are 1 in 7,700. If passengers feel comfortable with that then it really doesn’t matter what jetliner they are on.