People often choose airlines based on ticket prices, service, perks and safety. When it comes to the first three factors people often base their decisions on research and actual experience. You can after all easily compare fares just by surfing online or asking your travel agency for quotations. Service and perks are also really easy to judge once you’ve flown in different airlines. What is harder to research though is safety records. Sure airlines have safety records that can be accessed publicly. Those with good safety records even advertise their record to encourage passengers to choose their airlines. However, what people don’t usually consider when choosing a flight is a factor called Power Distance Index (PDI).
Power Distance Index and its effect on aviation safety was discussed by Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers“. There he explained why a plane manned by a crew hailing from countries with low PDIs have a higher chance of crashing than those with a crew from countries with high PDIs. PDI has such a big impact on a crew’s performance because it affects the crew’s ability to be proactive and assert themselves, which is very important during an emergency. To better understand PDI let me give it’s definition. PDI is a measure of the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. What this means is that if you have a low PDI you are more likely to be submit to authority and less likely to assert yourself, whether or not the person in power is right or wrong. What this means in aviation is that even if the captain makes mistakes a co-pilot with low PDI will likely not be able to make himself correct the pilot, which could lead to disastrous results.
The good news though is that airlines have come to realize the importance of PDI and so has conducted trainings to mitigate this problem. However, personally I would just feel safer flying on an airplane whose co-pilot I know comes from a place where culturally PDI is high.