KLM India tweets advice on seat fatality rate in plane crashes

If you ever wondered where to sit in a plane to survive a possible crash, wonder no more. Good-guy KLM India has provided the answer. The now-deleted post shared on the regional Twitter account of the Dutch airline KLM in India on July 17, 2019, presented seat fatality range indicating which seats in an aircraft are the safest, and which, well, are not so promising.

Citing a study published in the Time magazine, KLM India’s tweet, which included hashtags #TuesdayTrivia, #Aircraft and #Facts, stated that “the fatality rate” is the highest for seats in the middle of a plane, “marginally lesser” for those in the front and “least for seats at the rear third of a plane”.

The post was accompanied with an image of a single aircraft seat resting on a cloud in the sky with the words “Seats at the back of a plane are the safest!” above it.

Screenshot of the original Tweet

This particular tweet was a follow-up to a trivia question posed by the airline about the safest seats on a plane, as various media sources report. Twitter users who replied with the correct answer were promised an opportunity to win some KLM goods.

The tweets were deleted the next day, July 18, 2019, followed by an apology, which stressed that the information in the post “was based on a publically available aviation fact” and was not KLM’s opinion. The posts have been blasted on social media as insensitive, with one Twitter user even suggesting the airline’s account had been hacked.

KLM went on to express its remorse for the misstep in a statement issued to USA Today, adding that it will review its Twitter protocol “to better ensure appropriate content”.

The article “This is the safest place to sit on a plane” (2015), published in the Time magazine, focused on data from a particular study of aircraft accidents dating to 1985. The researchers found that in terms of row position, the middle seats in the back of a plane, specifically, had the highest survival rate (28%), while the seats on the aisle in the middle third of the cabin had the lowest (44%).

Regarding broad sections of the plane, analysts found that “the seats in the back third of the aircraft had a 32 percent fatality rate, compared with 39 percent in the middle third and 38 percent in the front third”, the magazine said.

But according to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), such studies are not reliable. “Many people have tried and failed to produce a scientifically defensible answer to this question,” FAA communications manager Lynn Lunsford was quoted as saying in an email to The Washington Post. “There are too many variables, and this is the important one — so few accidents — that a simple answer is probably not statistically defensible”.


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