How old are the planes your favorite airline flies?

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How old are the planes your favorite airline flies?
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The airline industry has been in the headlines this week for some not-so-great reasons.

A Southwest Airlines jet blew an engine mid-air Tuesday, resulting in a nightmare landing and the death of a passenger. The night before, a United flight had to divert due to issues with the Boeing 737-800’s elevators. Also, a critical news report concluded that Allegiant, a budget fare competitor, may be the most dangerous airline in the nation. Allegiant has responded to that report.

Many of us love — and sometimes depend on — air travel, incidents like these can call into question just how safe we really are in the “friendly” skies. Even more, they can highlight just how little customers actually know about the planes they board.

What if you could find out some safety information about the specific airplanes you’ve booked? Would it matter if you knew the flight record and age of the plane you were going to board?

Here’s how to find out a plane’s age

There’s an online resource that will tell you the average age of your favorite airline’s fleet, and more. It’s called AirFleets.net. The site, which is one of several that contain information on civil aircraft, lets you search by airline and offers a bevy of related data.

It’s easy to use and a good way to learn about aircraft movements and fleets. Here’s how you can find out (roughly) the age of an aircraft:

When you hover over “Airline” in the blue navigation menu, you’ll go to “Fleet Age.”  You’ll see a blue search box.

That’s where you’ll enter an airline and it will pull up its flight data.

To test it out, we put in Southwest Airlines. It told us that the average age of their fleet is 10.6 years old. Consumers can dig deeper to see which types of aircraft the airlines use as well.

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

But it gets even deeper: If you want to see the recent flight history of a particular aircraft, go to this page and click “Registration” next to the plane.

Not only will it display when the plane was delivered to the airline, but it will also show you the flights recorded, seat configuration and other data that you may be interested in.

In the Southwest incident, Flight 1380 was a twin-engined Boeing 737-700, a product of the manufacturer’s NextGeneration program, instituted in the early 1990s. If you put the Registration number in, you’ll see that the plane’s first flight was in 2000 and it was built in the late 1990s.

Here are the airlines with the oldest & youngest fleets

  • American — 10.3 years
  • Alaska — 7.7 years
  • Allegiant — 18.7 years
  • Delta — 16.8 years
  • Frontier — 5.7 years
  • JetBlue — 9.5 years
  • Hawaiian — 10.5 years
  • Spirit — 5.2 years
  • Southwest — 10.6 years
  • United — 14.5 years

Of course, past incidents of any particular aircraft aren’t a definitive indicator that there will be future trouble. But as a consumer, it’s in your interest to know as much as you can about where your money is going.

RELATED: This is what the pros use to find cheap flights

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Craig Johnson is a conscious money-saver who still reads paperback books and listens to vinyl. He likes to write about how technology is making things easier and more affordable — but also sometimes more dangerous — for the modern consumer. You can reach Craig at [email protected]
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