In what we presume was an ill-judged crack at gallows humor, a Dutch airline tweeted on Wednesday the seats least likely to survive in the case of an airplane crash. The tweet was posted from KLM’s regional Twitter account based in India in response to a trivia question, The Washington Post reports.
It was taken down just 12 hours later and replaced with an apology, saying the "post was based on a publicly available aviation fact, and isn't a @KLM opinion. It was never our intention to hurt anyone's sentiments.”
The original tweet used information based on an investigation conducted by TIME magazine in 2015 – itself based on numbers recorded in the Federal Aviation Administration’s CSRTG Aircraft Accident Database – which found slight differences in survival rates depending on seat location. It also included a graphic of a single seat atop a white cloud with the message “Seats at the back are the safest!”
While it is true the study reported lower fatality rates in the rear (32 percent) than either in the middle (39 percent) or front (38 percent) of the plane, the results were based on just 17 crashes between 1985 and 2000. Fortunately, plane crashes are so rare (and even rarer today than in 2000) that there just isn’t very much data to pull from.
The tweet also neglected to mention this little nugget: "We found that survival was random in several accidents – those who perished were scattered irregularly between survivors," Emily Barone wrote for TIME magazine. "It’s for this reason that the FAA and other airline safety experts say there is no safest seat on the plane."
So, there’s no need to panic next time you are issued seat number 20D. Indeed, there's some truth to the idea that you're more likely to die on the way to the airport than on the flight itself. While the odds of your plane being involved in an accident is just one in 1.2 million and the odds of actually dying in a crash are an even tinier at one in 11 million, your odds of dying in a car accident are one in 5,000.
But in the US, at least, you are much more likely to die from a heart attack than from any transport-related injuries. After all, heart disease was responsible for 23.5 percent deaths in 2017.