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I've got a long-haul flight booked with China Airlines (A330 and an A340) from LHR to SYD, and only after I booked it did I decide to read up on their safety record. Suffice to say I regret doing that; for example see their Wikipedia page.

Does anyone have any experience with China Airlines? Am I being a wuss?

I'm considering cancelling my flight (it's a long way off yet anyway) and rebooking with someone I've flown with before (Singapore or Virgin Atlantic probably).

Edit: Just to clarify, I understand all airlines have issues; however, I'm slightly concerned that China Airlines seem to tend to have more "and there were no survivors" kind of issues.

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I've flown with them several times as well. No problems, same experience as any other airline. –  justinl Aug 23 '11 at 5:24

4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I've flown China airlines many-o-times and I'm still here. They are the cheaper carrier our of Taiwan, but they aren't the worst airlines I've ever been on.

Statistically speaking, there is very little chance anything will happen to you on China airlines. That being said, they do have a reputation in Taiwan as being not-the-safest carrier. They lack a lot of amenities the premium carrier in Taiwan has (EVA air), but they have seats for you and typically don't drop out of the air.

Plus, I would fly them over Tiger any day.

Edit: Forgot to add, it seems to me that since the flight where the plane broke apart in mid-air (2002), China airlines has stepped up their game a little bit. I don't recall a single incident since then. Other than another engine explosion in 2007, however nobody was hurt.

Edit 2: I checked that wikipedia you posted. You should note that most of those all-dead crashes are in Taiwan, mostly smaller planes. A couple of the larger ones were at the old airport, which isn't exactly the best (swing by SongShan airport if you are ever in Taiwan, it is pretty bad.) The new airport is much nicer.

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Thanks, good to hear. That's at least one survivor then... Though I have to say your avatar isn't the most reassuring ;) –  James Gregory Aug 22 '11 at 10:17
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That little guy? I wouldn't worry about that little guy. Also, I added more edits. –  Ginamin Aug 22 '11 at 10:19
    
@Ginamin Isn't CKS the same as Taoyuan? I mean, I thought the 'old' and the new airport are the same, with just a change in name. –  Ankur Banerjee Aug 22 '11 at 16:23
    
@Ankur Yes, I meant SongShan. Edited to reflect that. And the 'old' airport is in Taipei, while the 'new' airport is outside Taipei in Taoyuan. –  Ginamin Aug 23 '11 at 1:08

Given that they're not on the list of Airlines banned in the European Union, they're safer than many, many airlines, and also meet all safety criteria specified by the EU. That's a pretty strict standard.

Also remember, even with a dodgy airline, statistically it's still safer than driving. Would you get in a car? Cool, you'll be fine in the plane too (statistically, of course).

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Thanks for the link. I've heard about the statistics before--that flying is safer than driving in general--but are you sure about flying with a dodgy airline is safer than driving a good car? –  James Gregory Aug 23 '11 at 7:56
    
If you look at the statistics in terms of probability of death per hour of travel, flying in a plane is actually about as dangerous as driving in a car. –  ESultanik Aug 23 '11 at 14:50
    
In that case, my point still stands - if you'd get in a car, why not a plane :D –  Mark Mayo Aug 23 '11 at 16:14
    
Well, when I'm flying it tends to be for 12+ hours non-stop 35,000ft in the air. When I'm driving, its for an hour and I can easily pull over and get out if smoke starts billowing from the engine. Whilst statistically they may be similar, there's more chance you can manage the situation in car than in a plane (unless you're the pilot, of course). I'll take losing power to the engine(s) in a car any day over a plane :) –  James Gregory Aug 25 '11 at 15:13
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I would assume those statistics include the times when you can jump out of a burning car, vs a plane - that's how statistics work - they include the survivals :) Far fewer head-ons in a plane. Of course I get the psychological stress of being trapped in a tube for 12 hours :) Personally I love the fact that I'm trapped for 12 hours with nothing to do but watch movies, haha –  Mark Mayo Aug 25 '11 at 15:52

I've flown China Airlines several times -- LAX-Taipei-Jakarta -- and have never encountered any maintenance-related problem (or noticed any lack of training on behalf of the crew). Unlike, say, Indonesian and Iranian carriers, I don't think China Airlines has ever been banned from traveling to European airports.

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Good to know, thanks. There's quite a few people with negative opinions of CA on The Aviation Herald, but to be fair there's only been a couple of incidents in the past few years so maybe they've sorted their act out. –  James Gregory Aug 22 '11 at 12:30

The flight which occasioned this question will be long in the past, but this answer may reassure others in a similar position.

Even though China Airlines do not have quite as good a record as one would hope, on any short trip to China (say 2 to 4 weeks) you are far more likely to die crossing a Chinese road than in one of their aircraft.

I have flown dozens of internal flights in China plus 12 journeys bewteen China and New Zealand in the last four years. I have probably travelled on every Chinese airline carrier and with China Airlines (which is effectively The Taiwanese national carrier). I am always aware that any airline flight may be my last but I would be happy enough to fly with China airlines. Apart from what you can read, my experience is that some airlines operating in China are noticeably more lax and casual about safety, but none have terrible accident records. China Airlines record is somewhat worse than that for most of the small internal Chinese carriers, but they are also larger than almost any others and do many much longer journeys than the average for the area.

Gruesome - but still not actually terrible: In 2008, when I was going to make about the longest air trip you can in China (to Urumqi from South East China) I read up on the records of all the airlines operating in China. I have actually felt much safer when flying ever since! Most airlines with any sort of size lose an occasional aircraft through happenstance. Most of the Chinese carriers had lost one in the 10 to 20 year period and few if any in the last 10 years. China airlines had lost 4 within 20 years, two of which were in the last 10 years (one just). Their record has not got any worse since then. Looking at the record you cite only 4 flights had very large or total loss of life - these were in 1989, 1994, 1998 &2002. The 2002 loss was due to failure to follow maintenance procedures more than 20 years earlier. Certainly one would wish for better statistics, but when looked at objectively, they seem to have got it right in the last 10 years, or 14 years if you discount the 20 year old accident-waiting-to-happen. The 2007 wing slat bolt incident is obviously poor, but far less unacceptable than the metal part that killed a Concorde. And the Australian national airline QANTAS who pride themselves on their quality of service had a horrendous run of problems a few years back with compressor blade failures, inspection hatches falling off in flight and more. A small amount of 'bad stuff' happens. That's life. Odds are that it will never affect you even if you are a very frequent flyer.
If you were travelling around the Caribbean my answer may be different :-(.

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