Is your plane old and dangerous?

A recent scare involving the engine failure of a Boeing 737-700BA on a Southwest flight in the United States led to a couple of members asking us if there’s any reason to be concerned about the age of the planes flying on domestic routes in Australia.

While the aircraft involved in this fatal accident was around 18 years old, the average age of planes in the Southwest fleet are around 11 years old. The planes in the fleet of our national carrier, Qantas, are much younger, at around 7.9 years.

The age of the plane may not be such a big issue when it comes to safety. There are plenty of older planes in operation that are absolutely flightworthy.

Once on board a plane, there are ways to tell if it’s older: tatty seats, inflight entertainment that drops from the ceiling, razor disposal trays and ashtrays in bathrooms or armrests, fraying carpets and yellowing, broken panels are but a few. Others include:

  • flight attendant call buttons showing a female icon wearing a skirt
  • overhead no-smoking signs instead of a ‘turn off electronics’ symbol
  • a stairway in the tail of the plane
  • three engines instead of two or four.


But for those who are worried about flying in an older plane, there is a way to find out the age of the aircraft prior to booking your airfare.

You can usually find out what type of plane you’re booking when looking for airfares. Simply take a note of the model, such as Airbus A380 or Boeing 767, then head to and search for that model. The often-updated registry will tell you the age of the plane as well as some other interesting facts about it, such as how many there are in the fleet. If you’re worried about the age of the plane, then find a flight with a younger model.

With an average fleet age of 12.2 years old, US airlines operate some of the oldest planes in the world. But so too do Africa (12.7 years), Eastern Europe (10.2 years), Western Europe (10.6 years) and Latin America (9.2 years).

The youngest fleets are in the Asia-Pacific region (8 years), Middle East (7.2) and China (5.9 years).

So, if you’re flying in Australia, you can breathe easy knowing that you are most likely on a cutting-edge aircraft with the latest in technological, entertainment and safety features.

Do you ever worry about the age of your plane? What’s the oldest plane in which you’ve flown?

Related articles:
Ashtrays in airplane bathrooms
How safe is your plane?
Why airlines use tape to fix planes

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Publisher of YourLifeChoices – Australia's most-trusted and longest-running retirement website. A trusted voice on Australia's retirement landscape, including retirement income and planning, government entitlements, lifestyle and news and information relevant to Australians over 50. Leon has worked in publishing for more than 25 years and is also a travel writer and editor, graphic designer and photographer.

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