The Safest Seat to Sit In On a Plane is…

Popular Mechanics did a study on where it was safest to sit on an airplane based on all commercial jet crashes since 1971. Contrary to expert statements that “one seat is safe as the other,” the study found that it is safer to sit in the back.

The funny thing about all those expert opinions: They’re not really based on hard data about actual airline accidents. A look at real-world crash stats, however, suggests that the farther back you sit, the better your odds of survival. Passengers near the tail of a plane are about 40 percent more likely to survive a crash than those in the first few rows up front.

The percentages in the above graphic are survival rates.

[Thanks, Tim]


  • It’s really silly to waste a lot of money for business class. Your chances to survive are the lowest (

  • Chances to survive a flight: 99.999 something % for coach, vs. 99.999 something % for business class. And still 99.999 something % for first class. The difference comes into play only in the tiny fraction of flights that end abruptly.

    I’d always been under the assumption that the “wing box”, the section of fuselage where the wings attach, is safer, because of its greater reinforcement and the proximity to the over wing exits.

  • I’m not sure it’s worth it to have to smell the toilet for the 99.999+ % times I will survive… :)

  • The back is the sceaming baby ghetto. I’ll take my chances in the middle.

    If your plane crashes you’re dead, no matter where you sit.

  • To expedite things, I always ask for seats on the front, close to the front door. I might rethink that from now on.

  • Huh. My dad (an engineer for the Air Force) always used to tell me this, that the folks in the back of the plane are most likely to survive a crash. This was back in the ’60’s and ’70’s. Did the folks who did this study not do a literature search?


  • Am I reading that graphic right… no matter where you sit, you have about a 50% or higher chance of surviving a plane crash in a commercial jet? What type of plane crashes are these?

    Seems like you must be including non-flight crashes where planes just skid off the runway, etc. Generally, if you crash from the air, you’re not going to live… at least, anecdotally that’s what every plane crash I’ve read about/seen on the news would tell me.

  • dude this is silly- big woop of a difference- 50% v.s. 70%

  • Obviously people in the back are safest.

    The mountains are upfront.

  • That study is absurd! More pop-statistics. Did they even notice that most of the accidents they refer to were thirty years ago? The nature of accidents has changed drastically over those decades — the majority of those incidents would not even happen today, due to improved instrumentation and aircraft reliability. Accidents are now far more rare — and even less likely to have survivors in any particular part of the aircraft.

  • @David: some would argue that the difference between 50 and 70% is a pretty big difference :). it’s randomness versus major advantage.

  • This doesn’t include crashing on an uncharted, haunted island, in which case the survival rate for sitting in the back approaches zero.

  • This doesn’t include crashing on an uncharted, haunted island, in which case the survival rate for sitting in the back approaches zero.

  • Comedian observation July 28, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    I believe it was Billy Connolly who came up with the [rather tasteless, if proved accurate from the graphic above] that..

    “I always sit in the back of the aeroplane, because let’s face it, when was the last time you heard of a plane reversing backwards into a mountain.. “

  • Knew about this.

    But not too close to the wings. The wings carry all the fuel.

    In the middle of the rear, nearest to the emergency exit there.

  • How about increasing your survival chances by not getting on a plane AND not living anywhere near that mountain where planes turn around and crash while going backwards! ;)

  • Sit by the door. Bail out. Glide towards the nearest snow covered mountain. Hope to hell you’re not over Arizona.