On any given day, there are over 87,000 flights over the United States, the majority of them commercial flights by major and regional airlines. As of 2019, the Federal Aviation Administration estimates that at peak operational times there are 5,000 airplanes flying over the U.S. and nearly 2,800,000 passengers fly in and out of U.S. airports every day – that's over 1 billion passengers every year!
Southern California has become one of the world's busiest air travel hubs in the world. In 2018 Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was ranked the fourth busiest airport in the world based on total passenger traffic – almost 90 million passengers flew through LAX in 2018. Southern California is also home to many other airports –other international airports include John Wayne Airport (Orange County) and Ontario Airport (San Bernardino). Major regional airports include Hollywood Burbank and Long Beach airports, and there are numerous smaller airports serving mostly smaller private or charter aircraft.
Air Travel Safety
Fortunately, commercial air flight remains one of the safest means of travel. If you exclude sabotage or terrorism incidents, airplanes on a per-mile-traveled basis are far safer than travel by car, ferry, train, or bus. According to one study, for every billion passenger miles travelled by commercial air, just 0.07 people die. By comparison 7.2 people die for every billion miles traveled by car.
Despite a solid safety record and their rare occurrence, airline accidents still occur and when they do, it is almost always a deadly, catastrophic event. The Aviation Safety Network (ASN) reported the number of airline accidents and fatalities in 2018 increased over the previous year – it recorded a total of 15 fatal airliner accidents in 2018, resulting in 556 deaths, compared with 10 accidents and 44 lives lost in 2017, the safest year in aviation history.
The most common causes of airline crashes vary and may be multi-factorial, but include:
- Human error which may be due to factors such as exercising poor judgment in a given situation, inexperience, distraction, fatigue, or intoxication. Pilot error is the most common cause of fatal plane crashes, accounting for nearly 50% such accidents. Human error also includes actions (or inaction) by ground crews, air traffic controllers, and other airline employees.
- Mechanical or equipment failure/malfunction which may be due to a faulty or defective design in which case, the airplane manufacturer may be held responsible. In other cases, the failure or malfunction may be the result of wear and tear or improper/inadequate inspection and maintenance by the airline mechanics or ground crews. Mechanical and equipment failures account for just over 20% of fatal plane accidents.
- Weather and extreme environmental conditions – human error, airplane design, and mechanical failure may also play a role in these types of accidents.
- Terrorism and sabotage
Terrorism, Sabotage and Lapses in Security
In addition to accidents and crashes, airlines have come under scrutiny for lapses in security. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the federal government created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to improve travel safety. Airlines and airports have also dramatically increased safety measures and introduced many new technologies to keep travelers safe. Nevertheless, there have been numerous reported incidents of people successfully accessing prohibited or “sterile” areas at the airport, or crossing security checkpoints and boarding planes with prohibited or dangerous items, including knives and guns. There have been other incidents of people being able to sneak onto planes without a ticket. Such incidents demonstrate severe gaps or lapses in airport security and pose real danger to the public. They may be attributed to poor training or safety and security personnel, or inadequate systems or procedures.
A 2017 Office of Inspector General's report revealed that its investigators were successfully able to evade airport screeners and sneak banned items past TSA checkpoints in eight of 10 tests. Furthermore, in 2015, TSA agents failed to uncover 67 of 70 threats at airports across the country. It is the responsibility of the airport and security personnel to prevent such occurrences.
Altercations and assaults between airline passengers, and passengers and crew.
Over the past decade, in order to cut costs and increase profits, commercial airline carriers have reduced passenger space and amenities that were once taken for granted. Airlines have also increased the practice of overbooking flights which results in some passengers being ordered to give up their seats and rescheduling their flights. Not surprisingly such changes have increased tensions among passengers and crews leading to several high profile altercations in recent years, some captured and spread through social media. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), in 2017, there was 1 unruly passenger incident for every 1,053 flights and between 2007 and 2017 there were over 66,000 incidents reported to IATA. Such incidents threaten the safety of all those on a plane.
One of the most notable incidents in recent years involved the forcible dragging of a 69 year old physician off a United Airline plane by crew members after the man refused to give up his seat due to an overbooking. The physician suffered a broken nose, a concussion, and broken teeth. The airline was sued and eventually settled the case for a substantial sum. Other assaults, including sexual assaults, have occurred between passengers. A 2019 New York Times article describes several instances of sexual assault that occurred on commercial flights. The article notes that many incidents are probably underreported. In some instances, the airline may be held partly responsible for such incidents if they fail to take proper action.
One serious psychological consequence often associated with aviation accidents is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To read more about this, please click here.
How we can help
If you have been injured in an airplane accident, are the victim of an airline assault, or if someone you love was killed in an aviation disaster, you should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible to preserve your rights. The law limits the time in which you have to file a claim. Such cases are extremely complex and may involve numerous responsible parties and require expert analysis of numerous factors. Following the aftermath of an aviation tragedy, the airline and their insurers may attempt to quickly settle cases with victims or their families in order to avoid a lawsuit. Victims should not accept such offers without first consulting with an attorney as it may not be in their best interest or the offer may not be the full compensation they deserve. Our Los Angeles based law firm has the knowledge, resources, and trial experience needed to prevail in an airplane crash injury lawsuit or airplane crash wrongful death lawsuit and to help you to gain the maximum compensation for an aviation disaster, injury, or loss.
Contact Taschner Law today for a Free Consultation and see how we can help!