Twin Malaysia Airlines MH370, MH17 Aviation Disasters Create Phobia Among Travellers

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | July 31, 2014 4:18 PM EST

Four incidents that rocked the global aviation industry in just a span of four months have created the inevitable phobia among air travellers. While Superman did say that air travel is still the safest mode of transportation, the fate of the four airlines doesn't seem to jive to this testament.

REUTERS/Samsul Said
Malaysia Airlines aircrafts taxi on the runway at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang outside Kuala Lumpur in this May 13, 2014 file photo. Shares in Malaysian Airline System Bhd logged a second day of sharp declines to hit a record low on May 19, after the carrier posted big quarterly losses due to the disappearance of flight MH370 and the prime minister was quoted as not ruling out bankruptcy as an option for the carrier.

Scenes from separate "Superman" films from the '80s to 2000s showed the Man of Steel assuring passengers of a plane he has just rescued that air travel is "statistically still the safest way to travel." But with the quadruple air tragedies that occurred in the first six months of this year alone, his words won't be able to pacify tense trekkers.

Malaysia Airlines MH370 mysteriously disappeared in March. Come July, it was pandemonium when accidents involving three separate airlines occurred in just a week's time - the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 due to a surface-to-air missile and the tragic end of Air Algerie flight AH5017 and Taiwan TransAsia Airways, both due to bad weather circumstances.

At least 350 people died on those accidents, excluding the 239 passengers of the still missing aircraft.

"Ugh, this year is doing nothing to help with my fear of flying in a plane," Jenni, an Edmonton book blogger, said on her Twitter account @XpressoJenni.

Even staff at beleaguered Malaysia Airlines have become fearful of flying.

"Many of them have been having phobias flying, but it's a job and they've got to do it even though they are scared," Nirmala Nadaraja of Malaysia Airlines told the ABC. "When you're in uniform, we've just got to put on a mask and pretend there's nothing wrong, we're ok, but deep inside we are hurt, we are scared as well.

"And losing friends, it hurts, it just hurts so much."

The accidents, particularly those involving the two Malaysia Airlines flights, were enough to shake people and make them "more jumpy and nervous," Christine Purdon, the executive director of the Centre for Mental Health Research at the University of Waterloo, was quoted by Toronto Sun.

Still, truthfully speaking, such incidents won't deter most air travellers.

Purdon admitted that in her case, she even booked a flight to Philadelphia the day the terrorists attacked the United States on Sep 11, 2001.  

There may be brave air travellers, but that terrorist incident 13 years ago did hit the aviation industry. Data from the U.S. Transportation Department showed a 20 per cent, 17 per cent and 12 per cent drop in the number of air passengers in October, November and December, respectively, that year.

Wary of a repeat, the International Air Transport Association released a statement stressing and assuring travellers that flying remains safe.

"Every day, approximately 100,000 flights take to the sky and land without incident. In 2013 more than three billion people flew and there were 210 fatalities. Regrettably, we have surpassed that number already this year. But even so, getting on an aircraft is still among the safest activities that one can do," Tony Tyler, the association's CEO, said in the statement.

Perhaps Superman can help put down those fears.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Samsul Said / )
Malaysia Airlines aircrafts taxi on the runway at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang outside Kuala Lumpur in this May 13, 2014 file photo. Shares in Malaysian Airline System Bhd logged a second day of sharp declines to hit a record low on May 19, after the carrier posted big quarterly losses due to the disappearance of flight MH370 and the prime minister was quoted as not ruling out bankruptcy as an option for the carrier.
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