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There’s no better feeling than scoring a cheap flight.
But does flying with a budget airline like Spirit Airlines mean you’re sacrificing when it comes to safety?
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there’s no need to worry. If they’re allowed to fly, budget airlines are just as safe as any other airline.
“Every airline, whether it’s a budget airline such as Spirit, or a legacy line such as United, must meet the safety regulations set by the FAA,” Les Dorr, Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson, told Men’s Journal. “Since everyone meets the same standards, there is no airline that is safer than another.”
There’s no question that budget airlines cut corners to deliver us lower prices. But the good news is, they can’t cut on safety. The FAA requires that all planes pass inspections that cover their structure, performance, equipment, maintenance, design, construction and loading conditions.
Airplane safety aside, what about security? Because the Transportation Security Administration regulates airport security, it doesn’t matter which airline you choose—you’ll go through the same screening.
“The TSA requires that all airlines that use gates at an airport, low-budget or not, have to adhere to TSA passenger and luggage screenings,” according to Mo McGowan, former Assistant Administrator for the Transportation Security Administration’s Office of Security Operations.
The TSA also requires all airplanes to have reinforced cockpit doors, and, according to McGowan, the probability of having an air marshal aboard is the same for all flights, no matter the airline.
These budget airlines pass along savings to consumers by creating efficiencies and cutting some of the frills you get on other flights—think generous legroom, snacks and seat assignments. They also reduce costs by filling airplanes with more seats and using just one type of airplane. They aren’t, however, saving on safety mechanisms.
“In places like North America and Europe, where there’s a well-regulated airline industry, they are not going to let any airlines get away with sub-standard safety practices. The major budget carriers have very good safety records. In fact, many of them have never had a crash before,” Max Leitschuh, a transportation analyst for iJET International, told the International Business Times.
Indeed, according to the most recent annual safety index produced by the Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Center in Germany, several “low-cost” airlines were safer than American Airlines. JetBlue, WestJet, EasyJet, Southwest, Ryanair and Jetstar all earned higher marks for safety this year.
On the most basic level, it makes good business sense for budget airlines to be as safe as possible. A crash can have devastating consequences for an airline’s brand—no amount of cost savings can make up for the lost revenue after a crash.
“If you think safety is expensive, try an accident,” British budget airline Easyjet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou told The Guardian. “You can be worth nothing just because of one mistake.”
No matter which airline you choose, there’s one safety variable to be aware of—where you sit on the plane. Popular Mechanics looked at data from every commercial jet accident between 1971 and 2007. What they found, based on the National Transportation Safety Board accident reports, was that people sitting in the back of the plane were roughly 40 percent more likely to survive than those in the front.