A bleak future for overseas travel? | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

A bleak future for overseas travel?

Jessica Flanagan explores whether recent air disasters will change the face of travel worldwide.

The incomprehensibly sad and tragic accidents that have happened in the last 14 months have shaken the world over and really thrown into question just how safe flying as a mode of transport truly is. Take away the easy option of flying and suddenly we are left with a dwindling chance of seeing the world and all of its stunning corners. But can the recent news reports have any impact on worldwide tourist industries, and will airlines, hotels and governments suffer from this possible decline?


2012 and 2013 each saw two airplane disasters, unlike the unforgivably high number of six in 2014 alone. Whereas 376 were killed within the two previous years together, 2014 accounted for a total of at least 992 deaths due to air disasters. With the continuous development in aviation technology, how can this sudden and unjustifiable increase be explained? Some could be put down to poor weather, others to poorly made decisions on the part of the pilots. However, some have simply been left labelled as unexplained freak accidents.

Horror and suspicion were rife amongst the world on the 8th of March last year when the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared. The story haunted grieving families as well as news networks when experts and officials failed to discover what had happened to this aircraft. The despair was to be relived under 6 months later when the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was brought down in Ukraine. Suddenly the wound was raw again and the world was left guessing for the second time about how truly safe it was to fly internationally in current times.

14561647578_25a3a8b85e_zThe more recent incident took place on the 24th March this year, when all 148 on-board were presumed dead following a crash in the French Alps. This specific disaster sent shock waves across the world; not only because of the tragic number of deaths, which included several young children, but because of the revelations that would appear across news stations in the following days. When stepping onto a plane, you entrust numerous people with different duties; that the customs and baggage people will not put anything dangerous into the storage area, that the cabin crew will look after you well, that the passenger sat behind you won’t kick your seat for the entirety of the journey and also that the pilot and cockpit crew will deliver you to your destination safely. According to reports, this final wish from those on board Germanwing Airbus A320 could not be fully fulfilled as the co-pilot decided to selfishly end the lives of all on board. A feeling of tragedy, confusion and despair was once again felt worldwide.

So what effect will these recent and inexplicably regular air disasters have on the travel economy? Will seasoned travellers think twice before booking their next excursion to see another part of this beautiful world we live in? Will business people hesitate to jump on a plane to attend meetings further afield and instead opt for a simpler conference call to discuss the agenda? Will airlines suffer due to the lack of confidence people will no doubt have in this form of transport? And ultimately, will countries see a rise in their citizens choosing to holiday at home?


Although I would like to consider myself a seasoned traveller, I’m afraid it would be an exaggeration of the truth to say that I am filled with confidence and excitement to step on board my next flight in a month’s time.

Previously, I wouldn’t have bat an eyelid in regards to the possibility of not successfully reaching my destination safely and in one piece. My main concerns would have been whether the amount of liquids I was carrying exceeded 100ml and which precious mascara I would ultimately (and grudgingly) have to leave with the customs at the Heathrow airport. Now, the harrowing truth of the last 14 months of air disasters will consume my thoughts upon boarding. Perhaps I am the sceptic amongst the group and am foolish to over think what have on majority been accidents in this latter period. Whether sceptical, unnecessary, perturbed or irrational my thoughts are regarding the issue, I’m afraid that all I can do is applaud those who do not share my anxiety.

Will more be swapping the shores of Sicily and Santorini for St. Ives and Skegness?

If I am not the only one who has been slightly shaken by recent tragedies and made to think twice about boarding a plane, does this mean we are to see an increase amongst tourism within Britain? Will more be swapping the shores of Sicily and Santorini for St. Ives and Skegness? Hopping into Dad’s car and ploughing down the M25 will no doubt seem less nerve-wracking than jumping onto a vessel that will imminently be cruising at a casual 40,000 feet above sea level. The Instagram snaps may not reach as many likes as the white sandy beaches of a tropical island would have but this surely does not compare to the safe knowledge of settled nerves regarding the chosen mode of transportation.

Or is all of this simply an unnecessary worry? In 2005, the world was witness to a shocking total of 8 plane crashes and since 1998, the least amount of plane crashes in a year has been 2. However, these frightful numbers did not put a pause on our gap years. They did not make us hesitate when Mum and Dad offered up a couple of weeks in Barbados (wishful thinking) or when all of our school friends were going on a ski trip and we didn’t want to miss out.

Maybe all of this anxiety, which has been brewing since the disappearance of Malaysia Airline flight MH370 last March, is irrational and unfounded. More flights than ever before are departing each day and 2014 saw the record broken for more than 100,000 flights leaving daily. Although the 6 air disasters that happened in 2014 are no less devastating, the number has suddenly become a miniscule probability when considering the millions of flights that would have successfully landed in that same year. I daren’t bring up the topic of fate, however, it seems unreasonable to approach travelling, if not life with the motto of “it could happen to me”. Although the terrible tragedies have been mourned for greatly, I think it would be a sad repercussion for budding travellers to be put off seeing the world as a result.

Perhaps the solution surrounding the problem lies in our choice of airline and their catalogue of planes. The safe haven of a British Airways double-deck Airbus-A380 can surely make even the most frightened flyer forget that they are 40,000 miles up in the air; thanks to the on-board spas, bars and lay-flat beds. These novelties would of course provide distraction rather than guaranteed safe arrival. However, nerves would no doubt be settled in the knowledge that we are soaring thousands of miles above land in more than a budget tin can.

Seeing the world and all of its wonders is one of life’s precious opportunities

Ultimately, I believe these types of decisions to be personal ones. The world will not suddenly decide to suspend their interest in travel due to the fact that freak air accidents are being more widely publicised through media outlets. No doubt individuals may have growing fears or anxieties regarding stepping aboard an aircraft, however, I cannot foresee these worries lasting forever or having a damaging effect on the industry. Seeing the world and all of its wonders is one of life’s precious opportunities. I believe we should seize these when they arise and not be consumed and abolished by the rare disasters of recent times.

Travel Editor 2014 - 2015 Travel Writer 2013 - 2014 Graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2015, with a BA Hons degree in Political Science and Philosophy.


16th June 2015 at 1:00 pm

Images from

David Leiser, Disparkys, Global Panorama and Dan Paluska