Five Things Air Travelers Should be Thankful For

WATCH High Flier

Okay, I'll start. What am I thankful for in the air travel industry this year? Safety.

#1: Plane Safety vs. The Bedroom

Planes are safer than your boudoir? Yes, I'll explain.

First of all, I fly a lot and I'm still here because I always buckle my seatbelt on the drive to the airport -- and, because overall, U.S. airlines have an excellent safety record.

Plus, as the Book of Odds (one of my favorite websites) points out, the chances that "an airplane passenger will be involved in a plane crash in a year" are 1 in 10,790,000 (based on 2008 data). Contrast that with the odds of a licensed driver being involved in a car accident in a single year, which is just a hair over 1 in 19.

Are you still a queasy flier? I just hope you're also staying out of the bedroom. The odds a person will "die from a fall from bed in a year" are 1 in 478,300 (2006 data).

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What else am I thankful for? Well, a tip of the hat goes to all the people who keep our aircraft in good shape and on course. I'll include the following:

#2: Non-Rapping Pilots and Cabin Crews

Yes, I got a laugh out of that rapping flight attendant and the crews that demonstrated flight safety instructions while dancing to Lady Gaga, but it's getting to be a bit much.

Give me a boring old-school pilot who tells me in his deep drawl when to look at "the magnificent view of the Grand Canyon" but otherwise keeps his mouth shut, or a flight attendant who's more interested in safety than celebrity.

In other words, give me a Capt. Sully over a Snookie or Situation wanna-be any time. Most of the folks flying our planes are consummate professionals, and I applaud the industry for its high standards.

Which reminds me -- did you hear that former JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater has a new gig? Yes, since hurling expletives at passengers, grabbing a couple of beers before exiting his aircraft via the emergency slide, he's now shilling for an iPhone app with a rap about a "Mile High Text Club." I think he's found a home.

#3: The Airlines Didn't Lose Your Wedding Gown

Of course, I never had a wedding gown to lose and you probably didn't either, but supermodel and all-around hot-young-celebrity-of-the-moment Miranda Kerr did, and she recently texted that American Airlines lost her bag: "Unfortunately the luggage had my wedding dress in it plus other things that I hold so dear."

Oh, Miranda; never pack valuables in a checked bag. Most airlines say this on their baggage policies and will not take responsibility for such losses (and besides, American has said they have yet to receive a bag claim form from the new Mrs. Orlando Bloom, which they need if they are going to track down her luggage).

Now, the good news: airlines are in fact losing fewer bags. According to the figures for September 2010 (the most recent available), U.S. carriers posted a "mishandled" baggage rate of 2.89 reports per 1,000 passengers, which was better than the rate for lost bags in August (3.50 per 1,000) and a big improvement over the rate for the entire first nine months of the year.

Of course, that could be because more of us aren't checking bags (are you listening, Miranda Kerr?) and as I always say, the airline can't lose a carry-on bag you stow yourself.

#4: Airlines Defy Dinosaur Destiny

Just a couple of years ago, it was crisis time for the airlines as several disappeared from the radar. Carriers including ATA, Skybus and Aloha joined fabled names like TWA, Pan Am and Eastern in extinction. It wasn't a matter of if but which airline would be next.

Fortunately, the airlines buckled down and with a combination of fuel hedging, capacity cutbacks and survival pricing, they stayed in the game, which is great for us frugal fliers since more airlines means more competitive pricing.

And as global tourist Farnoosh Brock told me recently, "Air travel shrinks the world like no other mode of transportation." The Cary, N.C.-based travel blogger added, "It affords us the ability to see places and meet people not possible a century ago." Sometimes, it's good to take a moment to appreciate some of the marvels of modern living.

And naturally, marvels of modern living include -- bathrooms.

#5: Airlines Still Have Free Toilets

Yes, despite all the yammering by anything-to-save-a-buck airlines like Ryanair, none has yet had the audacity to install pay toilets. Kind of pathetic to be grateful for something so basic, but I've become a little jaded.

After all, now that Spirit makes you pay for water or a Diet Coke, plus a fee for a carry-on (as much as $45 each way), who knows what's next?

We may not have much these days; we may be subjected to excruciating pat-downs at security and we may be forced to pay unreasonable sums for cardboard sandwiches and we may have to tote our own blankets and pillows onboard, but…

We still have free restrooms. And on that note -- Happy Thanksgiving, and safe travels.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and does not reflect the opinion of ABC News.

Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations that include ABC News, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg. His website,, offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deals.