Data Modeling – Airline Safety and Endless Appetizers

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Really Jetsetter’s Homestead?  Another post about those damned Endless Appetizers?  I know, I know.  Hear me out as I, too, have a little dry heave every time I think about sitting down to a plate of fried formerly-frozen delicacies.  I felt like I’d made my point with that story and was ready to move on.  And then there was the data modeling – and suddenly I was back down the rabbit hole again.

I’ll blame one of my best friends.  He came over on Friday night for one of our monthly evenings in front of the television so we could catch up on each others travel tales (his about a first-class mileage run to Buenos Aires, mine about conferences and decidedly unglamorous domestic travels), drink some red wine, and watch a Golden Girls marathon.  (Shut up… it’s my Friday night and I’ll kvetch if I want to!)

At some point we started discussing the great misfortune experienced by Malaysia Airlines, as is apt to happen when two frequent travelers (one who is an aircraft structural engineer and the other who is booked to fly on MH later this year) start discussing travel.

Our talk then turned to the blog (he’s been reading my musings since I edited our high school’s newspaper a quarter century ago) and those damned Endless Appetizers came up again when he asked if I’d seen the data breakdown that FiveThirtyEight had done of Gawker’s own blogging of the Endless Appetizers promo.

This is the point where I stop and confess that I had not seen that brilliant piece of writing from Gawker.  I really thought I was the only person obsessed with this story!

So I found the rabbit hole…

This is also the point where I stop and confess that I had never visited the blog FiveThirtyEight.  I really need to get out more.

… and I went tumbling down it like Alice.

The Gawker piece is serious genius.  It’s everything I thought this promo would be and no detail is spared.  If anyone was wondering what actually happens if you fully game the promotion (not just with your savvy use of rewards cards and credit cards, but also with the actual unlimited eating), this piece will fill you in.  In detail.  Great detail.

But then FiveThirtyEight ups the ante by explaining the flaw in her methodology by merit of choosing the wrong item to order (in terms of caloric value per piece and total potential for gluttony).  The visuals themselves are enough to warn me off trying the promo myself.

The real find in the rabbit hole comes before I can recover from the shock that I (self-professed data geek) don’t know of the wonder that is FiveThirtyEight when my friend reveals that the real gem this week is the airline crash study, which circled us back around to our earlier evening discuss of Malaysia Airlines.

FiveThirtyEight asked the question – Should travelers avoid flying airlines that have had crashes in the past?

Fascinating data set.  It draws correlations between national GDP and overall safety records.  It also compares two distinct time periods in terms of relative aviation safety and concludes that over a long term, it’s possible for airlines with poor safety records to improve to being very safe airlines.

An overall conclusion – flying Malaysia Airlines is statistically only slightly less safe than flying US Airways (something I will do four times in the next 72 hours).

Another one?  That my dollars (and miles) spent flying Cathay, British Airways, Lufthansa, and Qantas are well spent.

And a third?  That perhaps I need to get over my long-time superstition about Southwest’s no fatalities (ever) safety record… but also that my long-held declaration that “I’m not flying Aeroflot ever again” isn’t so silly after all.


I plan to do a deeper dive into this data set this week – but if you’ve read it, what were your takeaways?



About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last nineteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 48.5 US states. Once an "every week" road warrior, she now only travels around 100 days a year. She resides in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and playing with her Border Collie/Great Pyreness mix puppy Harley Quinn.

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