Low-cost airlines spend less money on their operations. In most (not all, clearly) contexts of life and business, more money spent on the same kind of thing means a higher quality product or service.

Do any of the cost-saving measures adopted by low-cost airlines lower the quality of their operations (flight operations, aircraft maintenance, crew training, crew quality) in a way that could affect safety?

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    $\begingroup$ Following this reasoning, Concorde would have been and would still be the most safe aircraft. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 14:10
  • $\begingroup$ You may find this question about airplane safety (not airline safety) on Travel Stack Exchange to be helpful : travel.stackexchange.com/questions/28978/… $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 17:36
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    $\begingroup$ Edited to remove the unnecessary reference to particular airlines. In its essence this is a perfectly reasonable question. If the answer is an emphatic no, that doesn't make it a bad question. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 17:57
  • $\begingroup$ The question is intensely opinion based. You can have low-cost airlines who take risks with safety, while other low-cost do not. What makes an airline low-cost is the cost structure. Airlines must maintain aircraft to airworthy standards no matter if they own the plane or if they lease it. Comparing low-cost and traditional carriers safety performance is difficult since the airline safety data is not public information. $\endgroup$
    – ksea
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 5:16

3 Answers 3


We should not make statements about any particular airline. Air travel is and remains very safe, due to:

  • Good practices imposed by the regulatory institutions.
  • Feedback of things that went wrong in the past to prevent them from happening in the future.
  • Very mature engineering and technology implementation
  • Lots and lots of experience with reliability numbers over the decades.

That being said, proper procedures do need to be followed and it could theoretically be the case that only minimal maintenance is carried out at some airlines, while others are more pro-active and lead the field in safety practices. Think Rainman, and the airline that has never crashed.

Safety numbers of all airlines in the developed world are very good. Cheaper airlines must follow the same practices as more expensive airlines. The cheaper tickets are the result of better business practices, not of worse maintenance practices.


@Michael Kjörling points out a TV episode about a case of Madrid airport being closed, all traffic lining up for Valencia, and three RyanAir aircraft declare fuel emergency. Plus a LAN Chile declares engine out Mayday.

Don't know if this counts as evidence though, TV programs must find or produce a topic that is sensational enough for transmission. The safety numbers are still on RyanAirs side, their safety record is pretty good.

  • $\begingroup$ KRO - Mayday! Mayday! would seem to disagree with you, at least to some extent. I'm not in a position to judge the accuracy of the claims made therein, but it's probably undisputable that even if everyone is technically in accordance with the same regulations, there are differences in terms of the available margin for error. However, I absolutely do agree with your statement that (particularly commercial) air travel is and remains very safe. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 8:36
  • $\begingroup$ "We are riding on the edge of regulations. We are legal, but we are riding on the edge" is what they're saying at 32 minutes in the video. Yes another airline may put more fuel on board and have to charge more, and then passengers don't buy their tickets. It is always the consumer who takes the final decision. It is the regulatory institutions who police safety regulations. And is the airline is within the legal limits, that is all that can be asked in a situation where all of us have proven that we do not wish to spend any money on additional safety. $\endgroup$
    – Koyovis
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 9:12
  • $\begingroup$ "And is the airline is within the legal limits, that is all that can be asked in a situation where[...]" I agree, and like I said, I'm not in a position to judge the accuracy of the claims made. The legal limits are there for a reason, obviously. Bottom line for me is math; if Airline A sells 200 tickets at an average of €40 each, and Airline B sells 150 tickets at an average of €100 each, and flies the same type aircraft the same route, then Airline A must be cutting costs (compared to Airline B) somewhere. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 10:23
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    $\begingroup$ One can hope it's just the profit margin, but that is probably overly naiive. In all fairness, low-cost carriers typically fly to airports that are farther from the major cities, so it's not the exact same route, but I'd expect them to be largely similar enough that from a flight planning POV, there is little difference. (E.g. landing fees are a potentially very different matter.) $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 10:23
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling The cheaper airline could be 'cutting costs' by charging extra for things like seat assignments, checked baggage, meals on board etc. that the second airline includes in their ticket price. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 15:33

1. Low-cost-airline does not mean the airline has spent less on aircraft, or skipped on maintenance.

In fact, at least in Europe, some of the best maintenance available in the industry is by the low-cost carriers. I’m not a business analyst so I will try to explain this a bit more simplified:

The reason you get low ticket prices is because low cost carriers fly (relatively) brand new aircraft, with a very low operational cost. Meaning, per hour of flight, the airplane is cheaper to operate than the older not-so-economic ones. These new aircraft are more pricey though, so you end up paying a lot on the montly lease. What you end up with is a fleet of aircraft that cost a lot of money (montly lease) to own, but pretty cheap to operate. And, mind you, you have to pay the lease whether the plane flies or stays on ground for maintenance, so the name of the game becomes: keep the planes flying as much as you can.

Compare this to a flag carrier that owns all of its aircraft. If a plane stays on the ground, it is not making money, but it is not costing anything either.

2. Paying for good (preventive) maintenance ends up being a lot cheaper for most low cost carriers.


A low-cost airline has very slim margins and nothing eats up that margin faster than a delay. Eg a LCC charges a cheap fare but pays the same airport fees, pays their staff similar (or more) to a full-service carrier (but works them harder). In the event of a delay they may try to get away with a cheaper meal and their hotel may not be a 3-star but even these cheaper alternatives will make that flight a 'loss'. Also LCCs tend to fly their aircraft more hours in a day with minimal ground time between sectors so the aircraft needs to be in good condition. While scheduling does try to have some 'firebreaks'in the days schedule to recover some unscheduled down time it does catch them out occasionally.


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