Are Europeans more paranoid about air travel?

I know this might seem like a stupid question, post 9-11, to think that anyone is more paranoid than Americans about air travel, but it’s not so much about terrorism. It’s about flying in general.

I was talking recently with a French friend about flying, and she said that she has a horrible fear of flying. I told it was funny, since I had actually met quite a few French people who were scared of flying (some, so much so that they were holding out for a train tunnel under the Atlantic to the US).

One thing my girlfriend and I have noted during our time here in France is that there are documentaries about airline crashes on a fairly regular basis. I mentioned that to my friend, and she said that that, along with constant coverage on the news of other crashes, probably has a lot to do with the reason more people are scared of air travel in Europe. I can’t remember her reasoning (I was a little drunk), but she said that she felt that Europeans in general were more scared of air travel (something to do with frequent crashes on flights across the Mediterranean).

Does anyone think this is true?

Not really. The massive boom in inter-European air travel should put the lie to that.

Having said that, the whole plane-as-a-bus mentality that I used to observe in the US is definitely not here, since until the last few years the prices were prohibitively high for most people.

It’s so difficult to talk about all Europe, since it’s so diverse, but I must say that I am much more paranoid since 9/11 than I was. But having said that, I know of only one person who won’t fly, and she’s a middle-aged Italian lady who never has flown. And yes, there are a fair few air crash documentaries in the UK too.

Sure, we have lots of plane-crash TV…but a lot of it seems to have American voiceovers :wink:
I’d say that a fear of flying certainly only affects a small minority. How you can statistically measure this, I don’t know. But if there was widespread fear, the airlines wouldn’t be raking it in.

We have plenty of plane crash TV here in America - there’s even a show called “Seconds to Disaster” or something that goes through disasters (all kinds, not just plane crashes - I watched one on the Mount Blanc tunnel fire) second by second by second. Disaster TV is alive and well here in the States.

Part of it might be that many Americans almost have to fly - we have shorter vacations, are more likely to have family spread out across a huge country, and have truly crappy train service. Maybe if I had a month of vacation and a fabulous rail system I wouldn’t fly either.

True, we don’t have to fly in some situations. But a fortnight in Spain or Florida is the most popular holiday option. We think nothing of a weekend away in Prague or Rome or Krakow. The market for domestic flights (at least in Britain) is booming.

Okay, I can see a short hop from island to island. Probably faster and easier than a ferry. But when you live in a state that’s bigger than the entire UK (and several other countries in Europe), it’s hard to understand domestic flights in a country. Sure, I’ve flown from say Albuquerque to Denver (though just to use Denver as a hub) but if I’m going to actually visit Denver I’m driving the whole way there, a good 450 miles or so. I’d never think of flying from, say, Las Cruces to Albuquerque, because it’d cost way more than the 60 bucks or so I spend on gas. Is it a function of population density and slower speeds that makes flying more appealing for a distance I’d be willing to drive (and could probably do in a day?) I guess it’s kinda like asking who flies from San Diego to San Francisco instead of driving without a business reason.

I’ve driven a couple of times in the US, and the miles seem to fly by a lot quicker there than here. There, a lot of the time you’re just thundering down near-empty highways, and before you know it you’re at the next city. Here, the traffic is heavy almost everywhere in daylight hours. Even in what is, by British standards, the middle of nowhere (i.e. more than 50 miles from a major conurbation), you can be snarled up in a miles-long traffic jam.

Flying is still about twice as expensive as driving, point to point, maybe more, but for people whose time is at all valuable it makes sense.

Mainly density - our motorways in the UK are very high speed, but when you come close to a city, you’re in for serious delays. That said, it’s probably also cultural - how long does your 450 mile trip to Denvr take you? Maybe 9 hours with an average 50mph? See, almost nobody in the UK would drive for 9 hours anywhere (my wife took 7.5 hours to get to Cornwall this weekend due to traffic - it’s only about 300 miles - and she and her friends were going crazy). I know I can get to Scotland from here in about 4.5 hours on a good day - but it would be A Big Deal and my Scottish friends would look at me like I’m crazy.

FWIW my impression of the media climate here in Germany is that flying isn’t painted as dangerous - if anything there are more reports on the problem of fear of flying as a livelihood-threatening problem for some professionals (Lufthansa-affiliated anti-fear-of-flying seminars manage to get good media exposure) than about dangers of flying (at least in an European context).

More like 6 to 7 hours averaging 80 MPH. Probably eat a meal somewhere in the middle, so the exact time will vary (probably either Raton, a little south of the border, or in Pueblo, about an hour north of the border.)

Heck, I could drive to Vegas in about 12 hours. But with Southwest’s fares and the price of gas these days, a flight might be cheaper. It’d be no more than about $200 roundtrip, and about that much for gas. But a city like Las Vegas is a special case.

On pure petrol costs, flying can prove cheapest of all, and this is where European domestic flights are making money. Several times I’ve had to head up to Glasgow for a day or two. Planned ahead, the flight plus driving to & parking at the airport works out at about £60. The train would be £70, and petrol at current prices somewhere near to £100. Given that all would be similar door-to-door times, it’s hardly surprising which option I go for. Also the point I’d make about driving in Britain is that even if you make good time, driving on constantly-busy roads is far more tiring than on clear highways.

As an aside, after the Helios crash last year, Bild (Germany’s best-selling tabloid) carried a piece telling people how to land a Boeing 737 by themselves…


I’m a licensed pilot and I’m almost certain I couldn’t land a B737 on my own. The average, non-pilot tabloid reader…?

Of course, if you’re the last man (or woman) standing on board what have you got to loose, ay?

Following their instructions, nobody could. They had a picture (sorry, not the original piece, and in German only) of the “dashboard” with numbers on it. The actual instructions were along the lines of “use the compass (6) to find a straight stretch of road at least 1,5 km in length”. :slight_smile:

Sorry for the hijack, btw.

… and, lest I be misunderstood, I know that even the most detailed and accurate instructions probably wouldn’t enable a layperson to land an airplane so that you could walk away from it.

I know my dad doesn’t like flying (to the point where he needs a large brandy and a valium before setting foot on a plane) but that’s because of bad *personal * experiences he had in the 1970s.

IIRC on a flight to India, the landing gear failed and the plane skidded on the runway. Another time he was flying into Austria and the plane skidded on black ice on the runway, and a third time there was a near miss with another plane coming in to land at the same time, and his plane had to make a very sharp ascent.

Still, it doesn’t stop him flying two or 3 times a year (with brandy and valium, of course).

I personally am not a great flyer…I get on planes and fly, but I certainly don’t enjoy it and mutter “I am going to die, I am going to die” as I enter every single tin machine that I envision will be crashing in a fireball. Still, if someone were to offer me a free plane ticket to Europe, I’ll be there.

As far as Europeans paranoid about flying? Well, my experience with Germans says, “no way!” I don’t know a single German who has even uttered a single word about fear of flying…and living in Las Vegas, almost every person I know in Germany (who can afford it) has come to visit me here.

I have always said you can go to any village, in the most remote part of the earth, and find at least one American - and one German - in the one and only hotel.

I could land a 737. Just point it at the ground and hope it doesn’t hit too hard.

Oh, you wanted a good landing?

Heh. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven from L.A. to Bellingham, WA (and Birch Bay, both near the Canadian border). About 1,200 miles. Nineteen to twenty hours. And about half of the trips were without stopping overnight. Not exactly nothing, but not really a big deal either.

I don’t think I know anyone - at least in my age bracket - who’s seriously afraid of flying. Tunnel phobia seems to be more of an issue - no joke - and that can be a problem for those who want to use trains.

But there seems to be more options available for European travel. I used to ski the Alps on an annual basis, and there’d be intense debate in our little group of the preferable way of travelling from Denmark to Northern France.

Driving isn’t that bad, 13-16 hours - once you hit the Autobahn, you can really put away the miles. Takes a relatively comfortable car and drivers that can stay on top of things at 100 MPH at 2 AM. And tire chains for the last few miles. The big plus is that it’s one single mode of transport. If you’re carrying your skis and boots, not changing transports is really a plus.

With the advent of busses that convert to sleeper mode (for those who can adjust their need for personal space down to about zero), bus transport became even more of a competitor.

The train is another serious competitor - sleeper cabins are nice, you walk around, there’s a bar and a restaurant car and the transit time is comparable to that of the car. And most people live within a comfortable drive from a station. But you need a bus or somesuch to get from the last station to the actual resort, trains being notoriously unsuitable for Alpine conditions.

Or the last option: Flying. Short time in transit, but long trips to and from airports at either end. Plus lugging skis and boots through an airport is somehow twice as annoying as doing the same at a railroad station - no idea why.

I guess the point I’m meandering towards is that at least on mainland Europe, you have options besides flying and that people may choose those for other reasons that fear of flying. I’d pick a 3 hour train ride over flying any day of the week. If I can arrange an overnight train (with sleeper) instead of an early flight, I’m happy.