Travelling on the former MH370 flight. Help?
March 25, 2014 3:16 AM   Subscribe

So I am travelling on the flight that used to be called MH370 (now MH318) in April. Apparently its number was changed to 318 because 8 is a lucky number in China. I notice however that the plane is close to empty even at this point. Does anyone have stats or advice about why I shouldn't be worried? Does lightning ever strike twice?
posted by vizsla to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
To paraphrase Wilde, to lose one plane may be regarded as misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. That flight is probably the best inspected plane in the air, piloted by a hyper-vigilant crew.
posted by zamboni at 3:23 AM on March 25, 2014 [9 favorites]

There have been tons of successful international 777 flights since MH370 was lost. I'd be more worried about tripping over something than the plane crashing.
posted by planetesimal at 3:34 AM on March 25, 2014 [13 favorites]

I hate to tell you this but... the thing about extremely rare occurrences with unknown causes is that they are as close to completely unpredictable as you can get. What unpredictability means is that you can't foresee it to the point that it's actually difficult to estimate the odds of something happening. That doesn't mean you need to worry, because even if nothing had changed after the flight... the chance of you dying in a plane crash is so small it makes you wonder why anybody worries about it happening to them.

Of the ~6 billion passengers that flew in the world over 2013, 176 died in crashes. That's how many people die in traffic accidents in the US every 2 days.

You are more likely to die on a plane while in flight of a medical condition, than you are to die due to a crash. You are more likely to die in a car accident on the way to or from the airport. If you grew up in the USA, you are more likely to play in the NBA All Star game, than you are to die in a commercial plane crash. If you're a male and grew up outside of it, you're more likely to play in the World Cup that to die in a plane crash.

Oh, and lighting strikes twice all the time - it's just a really poor analogy for rare occurrences. :)
posted by jedrek at 3:56 AM on March 25, 2014 [24 favorites]

Does lightning ever strike twice? Yes, all the time.

But you're not travelling on the plane that crashed, you're travelling on a different one.
posted by devnull at 4:02 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the supportive and interesting answers. They make a lot of sense. I still wonder why the flight is so empty when the price is about half what it is usually and Malaysia Airlines is a five star airline. Are people superstitious? Or is there some other reason?
posted by vizsla at 4:08 AM on March 25, 2014

People look for patterns. Some friends of mine flew into New York (transatlantic) on Sept 11th about three years ago and they said that plane was half empty too.
posted by corvine at 4:14 AM on March 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

The best thing about an empty flight (if you're flying coach, that is) is you can get a row to yourself to stretch out.
posted by planetesimal at 4:16 AM on March 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

They're not marking the price down because they think it's a shabbily-organised and dangerous journey, so they'd better knock a few dollars off.

It's as you say - people are suspicious, and cautious. I flew in and out of the US a few times shortly after 9/11 and there was a LOT of room on those flights, despite the fact security was tighter than it had been in years, and everyone was hyper-vigilant.
posted by penguin pie at 4:17 AM on March 25, 2014

Sorry, I gotta be the voice of dissent here.

Usually I'd agree with Zamboni, the recent incident should imply that Malaysia Airlines is super alert at the moment and is being extra careful in regards to their equipment. Unfortunately, an incident yesterday seems to suggest that this doesn't seem to be the case.

Two screwups like this ESPECIALLY when Malaysia Airlines should be on heightened alert about anything implies negligence or severe procedural infrastructure problems to me. I'd book somewhere else.
posted by C^3 at 4:21 AM on March 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

Well, if someone on board the plane caused it to crash, they're dead now, so the chances of someone crashing the plane are lower now, if anything.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 5:34 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

[Folks, please don't turn this into a discussion of MH370, subsequent incidents or media coverage of such, thanks.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 5:38 AM on March 25, 2014

Lightning: the probability of it striking the same place is higher than the probability of it striking any random point on the earth at that time.

Planes: the opposite. The probability of the same flight path having another issue is lower than that of any random flight having a crash (and the probability of a planecrash is pretty low!) Why: the reasons listed above, i.e. airline being extra careful, hijackers already dead, etc.

Are people superstitious: VERY! Humans are also well known to be terrible at estimating risks - particularly over-exaggerating the likelihood of very rare occurances.
posted by Ashlyth at 5:41 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think as long as there's a question as to why MH370 went down, people will be wary of flying Malaysia Airlines and, even if they do fly it, they still won't risk flying the same run for awhile as long as it's as simple as choosing an alternative airline.

The bottom line is "who the hell knows?". We don't know what happened or why. So what happened can't be prevented. But it's just as likely to happen on that run on that airline as long as it's not something specific to the culture of Malaysian Airlines like some kind of constant negligence that cause the crash.

But this, so far, is an anomaly. It's only subsequent incidents that establishes a pattern.
posted by inturnaround at 5:49 AM on March 25, 2014

Are people superstitious? Or is there some other reason?

Since a lot of the passengers on KL to Beijing routes seem to be Chinese, and the Chinese seem particularly upset at how Malaysian Airlines has handled the PR aspects of the current situation, I imagine this might be causing Chinese passengers to look for other carriers.
posted by aught at 6:30 AM on March 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

You're far more likely to die in a horrible car crash on the way to the airport than to ever die in a plane crash.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:10 AM on March 25, 2014

What you should consider first and foremost is the statistical type information that other repliers have mentioned. And with that in mind, you should note that the information cited by C^3 about a recent diversion is irrelevant without context. For example, it may not be an uncommon occurrence for generators to fail. It may be not be uncommon occurrence for airplanes to divert due to mechanical issues. It may be that normally airlines keep flying on backup generators but that out of an abundance of caution Malaysian Airlines diverted to Hong Kong. It would be unwise to draw any conclusions from that report without further information.
posted by Dansaman at 9:09 AM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

"Are people superstitious?"

It kind of sounds like you answered your own question... =)

"Apparently its number was changed to 318 because 8 is a lucky number in China."

Seriously, if this flight is open and half-price I'd jump on it in a heartbeat. Although I don't know if I would expect five-star service...the crew might be a little skittish. But otherwise fly and enjoy, man.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:58 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

"The massive coverage given to the Malaysian air disaster highlights, paradoxically, the fact that air safety has improved remarkably in the past couple of decades."

Really. It's incredibly safe to travel by air. The type of incident that may have befallen Flight 370 is baffling partly because it happened at the very safest point of flight -- high-altitude cruising. There's nothing up there to hit, for one thing. The autopilot is usually running the plane. (The pilots are there in case something goes wrong, but it seldom does.)

Sometimes an incident can point to a problem in an airline, or in a particular class of plane. So far, we don't know what caused this incident, so there's no reason to change your evaluation of any part of this journey.

Essentially, you are fooling your own rational thought process by using the fallacy of misleading vividness. This is understandable and very human. But it doesn't make it rational.
posted by dhartung at 11:52 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks everybody. So many good answers from a number of different perspectives. I'm feeling pretty comfortable again right now. I'm hoping that the incident identified by C^3 was just a precaution taken for a fairly routine event. It wasn't even listed on The Aviation Herald where Malaysia Airlines looks to have been otherwise incident-free for a number of years (except for a gear collapse in 2009 with no injuries).
posted by vizsla at 2:16 PM on March 25, 2014

Malaysia Airlines is having financial trouble, some people might be worried that their tickets might not be honoured due to bankruptcy, etc.
posted by Hither at 7:18 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Re: I still wonder why the flight is so empty when the price is about half what it is usually

"Eleven Chinese travel agents told Reuters that bookings between China and Malaysia had fallen severely, and that many people have cancelled their trips [...]." Source: Reuters

"Chinese tourist arrivals in Malaysia have dropped since the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 saga, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz told Parliament today, adding that Putrajaya has suspended its Visit Malaysia 2014 campaign." Source: msn news

"[...] a survey on Sina of more than 38,400 respondents found that the incident influenced 77 percent of them regarding whether or not they would be likely to travel to Malaysia in the future. According to a much smaller poll by Caijing, 52 percent of respondents said they would have gone to Malaysia in the past, but have now changed their minds." Source: Jing Daily
posted by travelwithcats at 5:15 AM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't be worried about flying on the plane.

As to why travelers to China might be avoiding Malaysia Airlines--after the obscenely ham-fisted way that MA has mis-handled information day after day after day, and man-handled grieving families--I am surprised that the plane is "close to empty" as opposed to "completely empty".
posted by blueberry at 10:56 AM on March 30, 2014

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