Flying Again After the Tragedy of MH370

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Malaysia has attracted international attention with the unprecedented disappearance of flight MH370. The story has been headline news around the world for many days, and at the time of writing this, it remains an unsolved mystery.

There is no question that tragedies hit home a lot more strongly when you feel closer to the event, whether through physical proximity, knowing someone who is directly involved, or just having some other less tangible link to the event. My wife took immediate interest in the flight’s reported loss because she was flying on the same night and felt so nervous before her flight that she was moved to express those feelings on her Facebook page. My eldest son identified more closely with the disappearance because he had recently taken the same Malaysia Airlines flight to Beijing.

Many expats get on planes regularly and any airline incident tends to grab their attention. In the years when I had responsibility for the Asia-Pacific region, I spent a lot of my life in airplanes. I once calculated I cumulatively spent four weeks a year in the air… and then, of course, there was the time spent travelling to and from airports. All of us who spent a lot of time in the air followed every plane accident with great interest. Two of my colleagues died in two different plane accidents while I worked for American Express, so it was easy to periodically feel nervous about getting on a plane. On one occasion, I awoke with a premonition of disaster and decided to cancel my flight booking and rented a car to my next destination a few hundred kilometres away. I succeeded in arriving about four hours after the flight safely arrived, so the next time I had a premonition of disaster, I ignored it.

I suppose that many people have some fear of flying because accidents get such a huge amount of publicity. The fact that more people die on Malaysian roads in a couple of months than in all the plane accidents around the world in a year combined does nothing to offset this fear.

After discounting my own premonition as a risk management tool, the only effort I made to minimise the risk was avoiding airlines which had poor safety records. Malaysia Airlines, of course, has an impressive safety record, and it is indeed unfortunate that the current incident will undoubtedly cause some people to switch to other airlines at a time when they are struggling to become profitable.

For those of you who drive regularly, don’t overlook the high accident rate on the roads and take care out there.

Source: The Expat Magazine April 2014

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