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First 11 months of 2011 were safest for air travel on record

The global accident rate for January through November was 22% better than a year earlier. Also, business travelers surveyed pick Houston as the city they least like to visit, and flight attendants irked by Alec Baldwin want American to stop showing '30 Rock' on its flights.

December 19, 2011|By Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times

If you suffer from a fear of flying, here's something that might calm your nerves: The first 11 months of 2011 were the safest period for commercial air travel on record.

The global accident rate for January through November was 22% better than the same time last year and marked the safest period since a United Nations aviation agency began collecting data in 1945, according to the International Air Transport Assn., an airline trade group that issued a report based on the U.N. data.

Globally, there were 486 passenger and crew fatalities in the first 11 months of the year, down from 784 fatalities in the same period last year, according to the trade group. In the first 11 months of 2011, the accident rate was 2.16 per million passenger takeoffs, down from 2.78 per million in the same period last year.

The most common accidents this year were "runway excursions," which occur when airplanes veer off or overrun the runway. Such incidents represented 23% of all accidents in that period, according to the report.

Perry Flint, a spokesman for the trade group, said he didn't know why the first 11 months were so safe but added that several changes over the years have improved overall aviation safety.

For example, Flint said, manufacturers now build more reliable airplanes that include backup safety systems. He added that more countries are adopting international safety standards and annual safety audits.

"In general," he said, "the safety trend line is moving in the right direction."

Business travelers hate Houston, survey says

Imagine a business trip that starts with a delayed flight to Houston. On the flight you must sit in the middle seat next to a sick passenger or perhaps a crying baby. When you check into your hotel, your bed is a mess of bedbugs and dirty linen.

This horrific scenario emerged from an online survey of 3,756 business travelers who were asked to choose their least favorite city to visit and cite the top reasons they hate to travel.

But the source of the survey data might be biased on the subject. ON24, a San Francisco provider of virtual meetings and webcasting technology, conducted the survey to promote online meetings over face-to-face business trips.

When asked about their least favorite cities to visit for a convention or trade show, 49% of survey respondents picked Houston, and 42% chose Los Angeles.

Asked to list their top travel gripe, 53% of respondents chose sitting in an airplane middle seat, 51% said having their flight delayed and 43% chose getting stuck next to a sick passenger or a baby.

As for lodging, nearly 53% said they were concerned about sleeping in a room with bedbugs and 45% worried about dirty linen.

When asked what they dislike about trade shows and conventions, more than 60% cited boring presentations. Nearly 20% said they disliked a common trade show sight: attractive women who staff show exhibits, often known as "booth babes."

Flight attendants want '30 Rock' off American

Actor Alec Baldwin was thrown off an American Airlines flight this month after a fracas involving his cellphone. Now some flight attendants want his television show booted from the airline.

Baldwin was supposed to take a Dec. 6 flight from Los Angeles to New York but got kicked off the plane because he refused to stop playing a game on his cellphone as the flight was about to depart. He also slammed the door to the plane's bathroom. In a statement, the airline said he violated Federal Aviation Administration rules and "was extremely rude to the crew."

Baldwin, who stars in the NBC comedy "30 Rock," later made fun of the controversy when he appeared on "Saturday Night Live" dressed as an American Airlines pilot. He also vowed not to fly on American again.

But the airline's flight attendants are not laughing. Several members of the Assn. of Professional Flight Attendants have asked American to stop showing episodes of "30 Rock" on the airline's onboard entertainment systems until Baldwin apologizes.

For now, American says it will continue to show "30 Rock" on its flights.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

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