“According to data studies by Time, the fatality rate for the seats in the middle of the plane is the highest,” the tweet said. “However, the fatality rate for the seats in the front is marginally lesser and is least for seats at the rear third of a plane.”
It featured an image of a lone seat perched on a fluffy cloud with the words: “Seats at the back of a plane are the safest!” The company deleted the tweet about 12 hours after posting following an email from The Washington Post and later tweeted an apology.
Followers were flummoxed by the “fact.” “@KLM I’m not sure this is the selling point your brand wants or needs,” one wrote. “Why would you tweet this!?” another asked.
Officials with the airline were not immediately available to discuss the strategy behind the tweet, which bore the hashtags #TuesdayTrivia and #Facts.
Time magazine published an article in 2015 making the case that middle seats in the back of a plane, specifically, had the highest survival rate (28 percent), based on a study of accidents dating to 1985. Generally, regarding broad sections of the plane, “the analysis found that the seats in the back third of the aircraft had a 32% fatality rate, compared with 39% in the middle third and 38% in the front third,” the magazine said.
But the Federal Aviation Administration would quibble with the #Facts designation.
“Many people have tried and failed to produce a scientifically defensible answer to this question,” FAA communications manager Lynn Lunsford said in an email. “There are too many variables, and this is the important one — so few accidents — that a simple answer is probably not statistically defensible.”
In another email, FAA spokesman Greg Martin added: “Since February 2009, over 90 million miles, and about 8 billion passengers have been carried in U.S. commercial aviation without a single crash fatality — an exemplary safety record. As compared to any other human activity, the safest place to be is in a U.S. commercial airliner — regardless of seat.”