Air Crash

Airline Safety


With social media and the 24-hour news cycle, we hear so much about air disasters these days. We also see much more of them, thanks to the omnipresent cameras and cell phones that capture every incident. While this makes it seem like there are more incidents, the truth is that there has never been a safer time to fly.

Overall Airline Safety Statistics

One reason why the world sat up and noticed the air disasters of 2014 was just how out of the ordinary these incidents had become. 2011, 2012, and 2013 produced the three lowest years in terms of fatalities from air disaster since 1945 – not bad, given the increase of flights in that time. While 2014 was an increase from these years, it still fell within the lowest quartile of commercial airline fatalities per year since 1946

On top of that, 2014 had the fewest fatal airliner accidents of any year, with only 21 airliner accidents. This means that, with all of the traffic across the world, only 1 in 4,125,000 flights had a fatal flight accident. Certainly, the disappearance of MH370, the shoot-down of MH17, and the crash of AirAsia QZ8501 made for big news. 2015 is off to a decent start, with only two fatal commercial accidents in the calendar year so far – the Germanwings flight intentionally flown into the ground by a suicidal pilot, and TransAsia 235.

There are a number of safety factors that you can judge an airline on, but we are using a mix of safety records, aircraft age, and airline practices to rate these airlines. We also look at how well their country of origin oversees these airlines, as measured by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – an organization unaffiliated with any country, but operating with the intention of promoting safe and orderly development of civil aviation across the world.

The Safest Airlines to Fly

Many of these airlines have been high on the list for years, and are well known to travelers.They fly from countries who have shown constant vigilance in safety practices, regularly update and audit their equipment, and thoroughly train their maintenance and in-flights crews. These airlines also tend to operate the safer and more modern commercial airplanes – planes like theBoeing 777, the Boeing 747-400, and Airbus A318 through A321 models, both of which have incredibly low rates of hull losses. A hull loss is the fatal or non-fatal write off of an airplane – the A318 through A321 models combined have a loss of .25 per million, meaning that for every 4 million departures, 1 plane is lost in a fatal or non-fatal accident.

British Airways

British Airways

flickr image by Aero Icarus

With only one fatal accident to its name, British Airways has been the standard for passenger safety for the longest time. It is renowned for high levels of crew training, and while its fleet is older, pushing an average of 14 years, it consistsalmost exclusively of the above-mentioned Boeing and Airbus models.

Lufthansa

Lufthansa Airline

flickr image by Aleksander Markin

While this Germany-based airline has an older fleet, with an average age of nearly 13 years, their meticulous maintenance regimen has kept them out of the news. The recent Germanwings tragedy highlighted personnel deficiencies in the organization, but overall, Lufthansa has had a stellar record considering it is the sixth-largest carrier worldwide.

Cathay Pacific Airways

Cathay Pacific Airways

flickr image by ChrisGlobe.co.uk

Like Lufthasa, Cathay’s only major blemish in the jet age has come from a freak occurrence – in their case, it was a bomb that exploded, bringing down a flight in 1972. Since then, this Hong Kong-based airline has demonstrated exemplary safety measure and training. It’s also a major cargo carrier, and features a fleet of planes under 10 years in age.

Emirates
The largest airline in the Middle East, Emirates logs over 200 billion passenger-kilometers (1 passenger flown for 1 kilometer) per year, which puts them fourth in the world. They keep one of the youngest fleets in the world, with the average airframe having only 6 years on it, and they consistently are purchasing new aircraft. While they have had some minor incidents over the years – more per passenger-kilometers than our safest airline – there have been no fatalities.

Qantas

Qantas

flickr image by contri

The top airline for safety for a long time standing, Qantas has yet to have a fatal airliner accident in the jet airplane era, with their last fatal passenger aircraft incident being in 1951. What’s even more impressive is that this comes from an airline with the longest non-stop flight in the world – Dallas to Melbourne, which it runs on a daily basis – which is also the oldest airline in the world, operating passenger flights since 1921.

The Worst Airlines to Fly

If you see a flight for one of these airlines advertised, you’ll likely want to avoid it – see if other transportation options are available. There are a number of regional airlines that are not recommended to fly (SCAT, Nepal Airlines and Tara Air are amongst the worst), but their limited operational area and low number of flights means you won’t encounter them often. We’re interested in international airlines with larger fleets.

China Airlines

China Airlines

flickr image by Luke,Ma

With an alarming number of fatal accidents in the late 90s, China Airlines is still working hard to change its image. Non-fatal incidents continue to be high, and those are only the reported incidents – China continues to play some of these facts close to its chest. On the bright side, the airline continues to improve training and cycle out older aircraft.

Iran Air

Iran Air

flickr image by allenthepostman

When it comes to airframe age, Iran Air has one of the oldest fleets in the world – the average plane is nearly 25 years old. 14 of their 51 planes are Fokker 100s, which have had spotty safety records. They are partially banned from flying in the EU, and regularly fly over dangerous airspace.

Garuda

Despite consistently receiving praise for in-fight experience, Garuda remains banned from the United States. More damning, however, is Indonesia’s inability to meet any of the ICAO safety parameters. They also rely heavily on older Boeing models, along with the prop-driven ATR 72-600 that has shown itself to be hard to depend on.

AirAsia

It doesn’t matter which regional version you fly, every iteration of AirAsia suffers from poor oversight in the countries that they are based out of, older fleets, and poor maintenance records. None of them have IOSA certification, and only AirAsia India meets all of the ICAO standards. Both AirAsia India and Indonesia are banned from flying in America due to poor safety practices.

Lion Air

Despite a very modern fleet, with an average age of under 6 years on an airframe, Lion Air has a terrible safety record, is banned from flying in the U.S. and EU, and like Garuda, operates out of Indonesia. Unfortunately, one of the reasons it has a modern fleet is because it keeps destroying airframes – it has been writing off airframe due to accidents to an alarming rate of at least one per year. Add in the recent revocation of 53 air routes that the airline had not been approved to fly in the first place, and you really have to wonder why anyone would ever take the chance with Lion Air.

Flying is not a scary proposition, and it remains one of the safest ways to travel. By educating yourself on the airlines and airplanes that are safest or least-safe in the world, you can make better choices for safe travelling.

Date posted: 15th April, 2015

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