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Travelers concerned about flying due to multiple airline mishaps

The busy Memorial Day weekend saw a number of new incidents in the air.
A Virgin Airlines plane
Posted at 5:14 PM, May 28, 2024

There was panic and confusion aboard a Spirit Airlines flight on Sunday when the Florida-bound flight from Jamaica turned around, with the crew warning of a possible emergency water landing due to an apparent mechanical problem.

The plane landed safely back at Jamaica's Montego Bay Airport, but it was just one of several incidents over Memorial Day weekend, which TSA reported was the busiest in history.

A United Airlines flight leaving Chicago's O'Hare Airport aborted takeoff Monday after an engine fire, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

And a Southwest Airlines flight was diverted midflight from Denver to Tampa after flight attendants reported a “possible smell of smoke in the cabin," according to a Southwest spokesperson.

These are just the latest in a string of airplane safety incidents, from a door plug blowing off an Alaska Airlines flight in January, to planes skidding off runways, and terrifying turbulence, most recently aboard a Qatar airways flight from Doha to Dublin on Sunday, injuring 12 people.

A Qatar Airways plane lands

Europe

12 people injured after Qatar Airways plane hits turbulence on flight to Dublin

AP via Scripps News
6:31 AM, May 28, 2024

“The number of problems has increased, not because it's less safe, but because there's more [travel],” said aviation consultant Kit Darby. Airlines for America, the trade group for U.S. airlines, predicts a record-setting 271 million passengers will travel this summer, over 6% more than last year.

“There's not really something that points to a basic problem in the industry or with a particular plane or a particular airline,” Darby said. “Nothing really stands out other than a series of turbulence-related accidents, which are amazingly easy to control, but they are somewhat under the control of the passenger. If you wear your seat belt, you’re not going to be injured.”

There are more than 16 million flights a year in the U.S., according to the FAA.

Darby says maintenance and manufacturing are stronger than ever, but adds people do make mistakes, which is why companies are constantly reassessing protocols.

“An aborted takeoff is an example of the system working,” said Darby, referring to the United Airlines incident in Chicago. “Between the pilots and the air traffic controllers and other pilots, we're all looking out for each other. And nobody's going to let an accident happen if they can prevent it.”

Congress also passed a $105 billion bill last week funding the FAA for another five years, requiring more investment in runway safety technology, hiring more air traffic controllers, and implementing 25-hour cockpit voice recorders.