Budget airlines are a decent option for cheap travel, but they’re also known to be uncomfortable, they nickel and dime you for every little thing, and now, people are questioning the overall safety of these low-cost flights. These four tips will help you pick a budget or foreign airline that meets all the right safety standards.
Look, flying is pretty darn safe. The odds of you being involved in an incident are incredibly small, and the odds of you dying in said event are even smaller. But when 60 Minutes recently pointed out that the budget airline Allegiant had more than 100 major mechanical issues over two years (none fatal), it raised the question: “How safe are these budget airlines, really?” Well, if they meet certain safety regulations, they’re basically just as safe as any other airline. The trick is finding out which airline is doing things right. Travel writer Rosie Spinks at Quartz has a few recommendations:
- Check the aircraft type and age: Newer planes are going to be safer, and pilots will have been freshly trained on how to fly them safely upon delivery. Be wary of airlines and flights with older airplane models—like MD-80s, DC-9-40s, DC-10s, EMB-120s, and 737-200s—especially if you do a little research and find out they were purchased second-hand from foreign carriers.
- Check the European Union’s “blacklist”: This searchable list contains all of the airlines that are not allowed to operate in Europe. If it’s not allowed to operate there, it’s probably best avoided elsewhere.
- Check the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) scores: This organization audits aviation authorities all over the world, then give them a score from one to 10. Carriers with a high score are held accountable to safety standards, and carriers with lower scores may not be.
- See if they’re allied with another airline: Any smaller airline, be it a U.S.-based budget carrier or a foreign entity, that’s partnered with a larger American carrier is probably going to be okay. They have to submit to an FAA safety review.
Keep in mind, many budget and foreign airlines are perfectly safe—or at least as safe as larger carriers. But if you want some peace of mind, checking these four things should give you a better idea about how safe an airline really is.