The safest year on record for commercial airline passengers was 2017, with no recorded deaths from accidents. American air travellers did, however, endure some disturbing and bizarre incidents – and at least one rabbit perished.
The data comes from Dutch aviation consulting firm To70 and the Aviation Safety Network. US President Donald Trump has been quick to claim credit, for the global arrest in fatalities.
Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation. Good news – it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2018
No deaths occurred on commercial passenger jets, the means by which most travellers get around. However, there were 10 fatal non-commercial airliner incidents, resulting in the deaths of 44 people onboard and a further 35 on the ground. Comparatively, 2016 saw 303 people lose their lives in 16 accidents.
Despite the statistics, 2017 wasn’t exactly all rosy in the garden for commercial airline passengers. There were a number of high profile incidents – almost all on US flights – involving passengers and airline staff. In April one man was seriously injured when dragged from an aircraft by security guards.
UA v David Dao
United Airlines passenger Dr David Dao suffered a concussion, broken nose and lost two front teeth while being forcibly removed from a flight before take-off by security officers acting at the behest of United.
It all started when Dao refused to give up his seat to a member of the crew, after the flight was overbooked. Officers then swooped in, with the exchange captured on a fellow passenger’s phone soon going viral.
The footage shows cops dragging the doctor along the floor of the aircraft, as horrified passengers look on. The incident caused a public relations nightmare for United. However, it wasn’t to be its last in 2017.
AA v Mom
April was a bad month for US-based airlines and its passengers. American Airlines opened an investigation after video posted online by Surain Adyanthaya showed the aftermath of a confrontation by an airline employee and a young mother.
“OMG! AA Flight attendant violently took a stroller from a lady with her baby on my flight, hitting her and just missing the baby,” Adyanthaya wrote in a Facebook post. “Then he tried to fight a passenger who stood up for her. AA591 from SFO to DFW.”
The confrontation took place as the flight attendant attempted to remove a stroller from the mother, hitting her with it, in the process. The incident sparked a row onboard between at least one passenger and the attendant.
The pair squared up to each other with the attendant challenging the passenger to “Bring it on” to which the passenger replied “I’ll knock you out.”
Scorpion v UA passenger
Yet another incident from April, this one falls under the ‘bizarre’ category. The same day David Dao was being forcibly removed from a flight in Chicago, Canadians Richard and Linda Bell were returning to Calgary on a flight from Houston.
The couple were rudely interrupted when a stowaway scorpion fell on Richard Bell’s head stinging him in the process. “It fell on my hair – I grabbed it. I was hanging onto it by its tail,” Richard said at the time, though he initially didn’t realise what it was.
“A Mexican guy next to me said, ‘That’s a scorpion and it’s dangerous,’ so I dropped it on my plate. Then I went to go pick it up again and that’s when it stung me – it felt like a wasp sting,” he said.
He then flung it to the floor and another passenger finished it off with a quick stomp, after which a flight attendant disposed of its remains.
UA vs Giant Rabbit
It wasn’t just humans who had a bit of a rough time aboard US-based airlines. Once again in April United Airlines became embroiled in a scandal when a rabbit, predicted to become the biggest in the world, died on one its flights.
Simon, a 10-month-old continental giant rabbit, was being transported in the cargo section of the Boeing 767 from London Heathrow to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago when it allegedly froze to death after allegedly being mistakenly placed in a freezer by airline employees.
United Airlines denied it had anything to do with Simon’s untimely passing.