Is American Airlines Safe? (Yes, It Is.)

American Airlines (AA) is one of the largest operators in the world. In 2021, AA served 165.7 million passengers and had over 19% of the U.S. domestic market share, larger than any other airline. Together with its regional airline partner American Eagle, on any given day AA has over 6,800 flights to more than 350 destinations in approximately 55 countries.  

Some may ask, is American Airlines safe? The short answer is yes, the airline is safe. If you’re willing to find out why then please keep reading.

Is American Airlines Safe? (Yes, It Is.)

American Airlines Shaping Airline Safety

Examining the safety record of a legacy airline such as American Airlines (AA) requires some consideration for how very long the airline has been in operation. AAs’ history goes all the way back to 1930, and even earlier. At that time, commercial air travel was in its infancy and growing rapidly. Most of the technology and industry maturity that yields our very safe and efficient commercial travel system of today were far off in the future.

The early pioneering airlines such as American Airlines literally had to fund and participate in the research, creation, and establishment of the various and diverse components of the air travel network, including electronic navigation aids, airport lighting, radio communications, air traffic control, airport design and standards. weather observation and reporting. and aircraft and propulsion design. These advancements, unfortunately, had to come at a cost in human lives from accidents due to weather, air traffic errors, and mechanical failures.

 It was not until “lessons learned” from the massive amount of military aviation activity during World War II could be implemented that the airline industry and governments were able to slowly develop the very safe air travel system we enjoy today.

The end of World War II also saw the influx of literally thousands of well-trained, experienced pilots and aircraft mechanics into the world’s airlines. This trend continued as the Cold War of the 1950s to the late 1990s continuously produced high levels of well-qualified military veteran pilots and other aviation professionals. 

American Airlines was responsible for many “firsts” in the airline industry. In 1936, American was the first airline to fly the innovative Douglas DC-3 in commercial airline service. In 1937, American flew its one-millionth passenger and by the end of the 1930s, American was the top U.S. air carrier based on revenue passenger miles. In 1962, American was one of the first airlines to fly the new, all-jet Boeing 727, introducing the Jet Age to the world and dramatically increasing international and especially intercontinental travel.  

American Airlines MD-80

Airline Safety Factors

Four broad factors affect airline safety. These include:

Human Factors (pilot error, crew coordination, training, physical factors, and operating procedures)
Mechanical Failure (FAA standards, effective procedures, training, and due diligence when beginning to use new aircraft, components, and systems)
Weather (including developing effective policies and procedures to avoid the hazards of adverse weather)
Miscellaneous (Air Traffic Control, Wildlife, Airport Operations, and terrorism/criminal activity.

All airlines have a direct duty and responsibility to their customers/passengers for eliminating or mitigating hazards from the first three factors, and training and company culture can help mitigate hazards posed by the elements of the fourth factor.

American Airlines, as a major carrier, has the vast resources and skilled employees necessary to address airline safety in depth. In fact, given the pervasive safety culture in the aviation industry, the major U.S. carriers make significant contributions to overall airline safety every day.

American Airlines Has a Modern Fleet

As you might expect, AA’s aircraft fleet is the largest in the world, with over 880 Boeing and Airbus aircraft. American Airlines has the youngest fleet age of any major U.S. carrier, with an average age of 11 years.

American Airlines Is Certified by the Federal Aviation Administration 

American Airlines is authorized to operate scheduled commercial passenger air service under Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 121 Certification, which outlines the rules and requirements the company must adhere to in order to act as a scheduled airline.

In October 2021 Associated Press (AP) news story reported that the U.S. Department of Transportation, which the FAA falls under, Inspector General’s office had issued a report that stated:” reports of potentially unsafe maintenance practices have raised concerns about the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) oversight of American Airlines.” The AP story also said that senior lawmakers on the House Transportation Committee asked the inspector general in 2018 to review the FAA’s oversight of maintenance issues at American. No further statements on this action were issued. 

American Airlines Incidents, Accidents, and Allegations

Given the sheer size, scope, and volume of American Airiness operations, it is understandable that a variety of safety incidents are bound to occur over time. For many decades AA was the sole U.S. carrier into Latin America and other underserved international markets. As the safety standards in many of these locations were not up to the same levels as the developed world, there was a higher level of accidents and incidents as compared to operating in North America, Western Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and other parts of Asia.

American Airlines’ last fatal accident occurred in November 2002, when an A300 crashed shortly after takeoff from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. The cited cause of the accident was pilot error, with secondary causes cited being training and an aircraft component design flaw. It should be noted that there has been a significant increase in the safety performance of all major U.S. carriers in the last twelve years, which individually have not experienced a fatal accident in that airline category since 2009.

During one week in 2012 American Airlines (AA) experienced three separate incidents of a row of seats on three different flights of Boeing 757 aircraft. AA inspected all seat clamps in its fleet of 757s at that time.

Another recent safety issue that has arisen is the number of incidents of intoxicated pilots, which was experienced by major U.S. large carriers American, United, and Delta airlines.

American Airlines’ COVID-19 Safety

American Airlines was the very first airline to achieve STAR Accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) for its entire fleet of aircraft and customer lounges. The STAR Accreditation recognizes the airline uses proper and effective cleaning and disinfection procedures and techniques.

American Airlines underwent a detailed inspection by GBAC experts to achieve the certification. The airline had to demonstrate thorough execution of a cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention plan that minimizes infectious viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, a strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

At the same time, American Airlines was criticized in July 2020 for not implementing a “safer” back-to-front boarding process to minimize person-to-person contact.

American Airlines 777

Summary: Is Flying with American Airlines Safe?

As a pioneering legacy major air carrier, American Airlines has a demonstrated record of many decades of safe and efficient flight operations. The airline safely transports literally hundreds of millions of passengers each year, on over two million flights annually across the globe, with very few incidents.

As a major U.S. carrier, American Airlines has contributed immeasurably to the large safe and efficient airline system we enjoy today. Given American Airlines’ sheer size and long years of operation, it is a very safe airline to fly.

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