Simon Calder: Choose your airline carefully – and relax

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The Independent Online

Could the stormy skies in which British and Irish airlines have found themselves become even more turbulent? Until Flight International revealed passenger fatalities were running at 20 a week globally, it seemed unlikely.

British Airways, easyJet, BMI, Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair are already facing: a decline in passengers due to the economic downturn and the weak pound; prospective customers frightened by misleading headlines about the need for doctor's notes; and an airport experience that grows more stressful with every frisk. And in the court of climate change, the airlines stand permanently accused of destroying the Earth as they ferry more of us to the most agreeable parts of the planet.

Now, besides passport, tickets and money, we are expected to fret about the prospect of dying in an aircraft incident. Plenty of us need no such stimulus to worry about plane crashes; flying is, after all, the most unnatural of activities. Look: the first six months of this year saw 499 people die in crashes around the world.

But before you join the ranks of the "worried wanderers", consider whether you could possibly have been a passenger on any of the doomed airliners.

The only one I can identify is the Air France Airbus A330 lost over the Atlantic – the airline carries many Britons via its Paris hub. But most flights that British travellers take are on the aforementioned carriers, which between them have not suffered a single fatal accident in more than 20 years.

Even among the statistically least safe airlines – I'm thinking here of Cuba's national carrier, Cubana – the risks are so low that I would happily step aboard the Ilyushin Il-96 when it makes its maiden flight from Gatwick to Havana in one week's time.