Passenger confidence in flight safety on the rise

22 November 2019

Almost three in four members of the public believe flying is now safer than ever before, according to a study of passenger attitudes conducted by air traffic service, NATS.

A total of 73% of respondents to NATS’ Aviation Index believe flying is safer than ever, up from 63% in 2018. Terrorism remains people’s biggest perceived risk, cited by 31% of people, ahead of bad passenger behaviour (21%) and technical faults (20%).

Only 12% saw drones as the biggest risk to safety, though 84% believe they pose a risk to flights during take-off and landing.

Only 2% of people saw air traffic control as the biggest risk.

Alastair Muir, NATS safety director, said: “It’s very gratifying to see the flying public growing in confidence about flying, and the faith they place in air traffic control.

“Fundamentally, safety is always number one priority and a huge amount of work goes into keeping it that way, not just at NATS but right across the industry. Behind every flight is a small army of people on-board and on the ground whose job it is to keep people safe.”

However, NATS has warned that while it would never compromise on safety, growing demand in the skies could see delays rise over the coming years as demand begins to outstrip airspace capacity.

Muir continued: “Safety is something we will never compromise on, but our skies have finite capacity and there is no doubt they are getting busier. Therefore, whilst we continue to take all appropriate steps to continuously improve, this will mean increasing delays to balance the demand against capacity and maintain safety, unless we can modernise our airspace to accommodate the growth in demand we’re seeing year-on-year.”

NATS handled a record breaking 2.54 million flight in 2018 and expects that to grow to over 3 million by 2030. But the UK’s network of airways and flight paths were first designed in the 1960s and make it impossible to take full advantage of the capabilities of modern aircraft. NATS is playing a leading role in cross-industry plans to modernise the country’s airspace over the next five years, something that will allow aircraft to fly higher for longer, get more direct routings and enable more continuous descent approaches, something that both reduces fuel burn and emissions while maintaining safety.

The Aviation Index is NATS’ annual temperature check survey of public opinions on aviation related topics. Carried out by Ipsos MORI, it looks at issues from the impact of Brexit to safety and the environment.

The full report can be read at

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