The World's Safest – and Least Safe – Airlines

by Oliver Smith, The Daily Telegraph, August 27, 2018

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are among the 20 safest airlines on Earth, according to an annual ranking of the world’s biggest carriers.

The website assessed 409 major airlines before delivering its verdict, taking into account previous incidents, the average age of their fleets, and audits from governments and the aviation industry’s regulatory bodies.

For the last four years it has singled out Qantas as the world’s safest airline, ahead of a chasing pack of 19 rivals, but this year it listed the Australian flag carrier alongside the rest of the top 20.

BA and Virgin are the only UK airlines at the top table; others include Singapore Airlines, recently voted the world’s best long-haul airline by Telegraph Travel readers, Swiss, your favourite short-haul airline, as well as Air New Zealand, Emirates, Etihad, KLM and Lufthansa.

Just two US airlines were included in the top 20. Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian remain, but Delta and United, both of which appeared last year, have been dropped in favour of Emirates and Royal Jordanian.

The 20 safest airlines (in alphabetical order)

  1. Air New Zealand
  2. Alaska Airlines

  3. All Nippon Airways

  4. British Airways

  5. Cathay Pacific Airways

  6. Emirates

  7. Etihad Airways

  8. EVA Air

  9. Finnair

  10. Hawaiian Airlines

  11. Japan Airlines

  12. KLM

  13. Lufthansa

  14. Qantas

  15. Royal Jordanian Airlines

  16. Scandinavian Airline System

  17. Singapore Airlines

  18. Swiss

  19. Virgin Atlantic

  20. Virgin Australia

“Our top 20 safest airlines are always at the forefront of safety innovation, operational excellence and the launching of new more advanced aircraft like the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787,” said Geoffrey Thomas,’s editor-in-chief.

“Qantas has been the lead airline in virtually every major operational safety advancement over the past 60 years and has not had a fatality in the jet era. But Qantas is not alone. Long established airlines such as Hawaiian and Finnair also have perfect records in the jet era.”

The website also identified what it claims are the 10 safest low-cost airlines. Aer Lingus, Flybe and Thomas Cook made the cut, but there was no room for the likes of Ryanair and easyJet.

“Unlike a number of low cost carriers, these airlines have all passed the stringent International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and have excellent safety records,” Thomas explained. isn't the only organisation to rate carriers according to safety. Germany's Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre (JACDEC) does likewise, and it is Emirates that currently takes the crown, ahead of Norwegian, Virgin Atlantic, KLM and EasyJet. Neither British Airways nor Ryanair feature in the top 20.

Which are the world’s least safe airlines? also announced its lowest ranked airlines for 2018. Air Koryo, North Korea’s flag carrier, Bluewing Airlines, based in Suriname, Indonesia’s Trigana Air Service, and four Nepalese carriers – Buddha Air, Nepal Airlines, Tara Air, and Yeti Airlines – were all awarded just a single star.

There are currently more than 100 airlines – most of which you probably haven't heard of – banned from EU airspace, or facing operational restrictions, as they don't meet European safety standards. They include every airline from Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Sudan, as well as dozens from Indonesia.

The airlines banned from flighting to the EU

  1. Blue Wing Airlines, Suriname
  2. Iran Aseman Airlines, Iran
  3. Iraqi Airways, Iraq
  4. Med-View Airline, Nigeria
  5. Air Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
  6. Avior Airlines, Venezuela

Nations whose airlines are banned from flying to EU 

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Angola (except TAAG Angola Airlines)
  3. Democratic Republic of Congo
  4. Djibouti
  5. Equatorial Guinea
  6. Eritrea
  7. Gabon (except Afrijet and SN2AG)
  8. Kyrgyzstan
  9. Liberia
  10. Libya
  11. Nepal
  12. Republic of Congo 
  13. São Tomé and Príncipe
  14. Sierra Leone 
  15. Sudan 

But fear not, flying has never been safer

According to the Aviation Safety Network (ASN), which records all air crashes and incidents reported around the world, there were just 10 fatal accidents involving commercial flights last year, resulting in 44 deaths. This is down from 16 fatal accidents and 302 deaths in 2016.

Furthermore, none of 2017's fatalities involved a commercial passenger jet . Given that around 36.8 million passenger flights took to the sky last year, that works out at just one fatal accident for every 7.36 million departures.

The last fatal accident aboard a commercial passenger jet happened on April 17, 2018, when an engine of a Southwest aircraft suffered catastrophic failure shortly before reaching cruising altitude. Debris from the engine breached one of the windows resulting in the cabin experiencing rapid decompression. Of the 148 passengers and crew on board, one died.

The world's oldest airlines 

This article was written by Oliver Smith from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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