Frequent flier Kenneth Himschoot said he never expected a Germanwings flight to crash. Other budget airlines, maybe, but never Germanwings, which he flies often because of their cheap tickets and professional service, Himschoot said.
"There's certainly no cost-cutting on safety, so this a real surprise," said Himschoot, a software developer from Eeklo, Belgium, adding that he'd flown over the site of the crash the night before without issue. "Germanwings was regarded everywhere here as one of the better groups."
Himschoot, like many others, was reeling from the news that Flight 4U 9525 had crashed in the French Alps. The Airbus 320 was en route from Barcelona to Düsseldorf Tuesday morning when it went down in the mountains, likely killing the 144 passengers and six crew members on board. In a year seemingly full of deadly plane crashes -- including Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and AirAsia Flight 8501 -- previous Germanwings passengers defended the budget airline after the disaster. Their experiences with the airline were positive, they told International Business Times, and they'd fly Germanwings again.
Himschoot, 35, said he took 134 flights last year, often using Germanwings from Munich to Barcelona. He never felt in danger, and the planes were all well-maintained -- "brand-spanking new, not a scratch on them," Himschoot said.
The Germanwings Airbus 320 that crashed Tuesday was 24 years old, according to Reuters, but the plane King's College London student Mallory Lee took from Barcelona to Düsseldorf on Dec. 16 didn't seem outdated. It felt clean, she said, and passengers had a lot of legroom. "They had those new, thinner seats, you know?" she wrote in an online interview. "So [they] probably upgraded that at least in the past few years."
Lee had decided on Germanwings because of price, because it offered the only late flight and because she'd heard positive reviews about its parent company, Lufthansa. Boarding took a while -- so long that at one point, the man ahead of her got out of line to get a beer -- but she had no problems. The flight itself was uneventful. The plane encountered a bit of turbulence and ended up landing a few minutes early. "Germanwings treated me well, and I'd fly them again," Lee, 24, told IBTimes.
Nike Oesterle, a social media manager in Wellington, New Zealand, has taken Germanwings from Düsseldorf to Barcelona, Milan and Berlin before. She wrote in an email that nothing troublesome happened during her flight, noting that bumpy rides are more the fault of the weather than the airline.
"Whatever caused this accident has first to be figured out, which may take weeks, but Germanwings still is a highly reliable airline," said Oesterle, 36. "Air travel still is one of the safest ways to travel -- as sad as this may sound right now."