Today I came across an article from AirlineRatings.com that identifies 20 international airlines as being the safest in the world. To arrive at its conclusions, the website evaluates more than 400 airlines on a variety of factors including government and industry audits, safety statistics, fleet age, profitability, and safety innovations.
It is good that AirlineRatings.com uses a range of factors in its assessment because accident history and safety statistics are merely historical data. Considerations such as fleet age, audit data, profitability, and safety innovations should enhance our ability to predict future performance. Commercial aviation is about the safest form of public transportation on the planet. Still, it can be nice to have some idea of an airline’s relative safety standing the next time we buy a plane ticket.
The Top 20
Airlineratings.com complies its rankings uniquely. It identifies the airline it deems to be the world’s safest and then puts the next 19 in joint second place. Qantas takes top honors for 2019. Here are the other airlines in the top ten in alphabetical order:
- Air New Zealand
- Alaska Airlines
- All Nippon Airways
- American Airlines
- Austrian Airlines
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific Airways
- EVA Air
- Hawaiian AIrlines
- Scandanavian Air Systems
- Singapore Airlines
- United Airlines
- Virgin (Atlantic and Australia)
That’s pretty much the usual suspects of intentional legacy airlines. There are some notable exceptions. Among U. S. carriers, Delta Air Lines doesn’t make the list. From Europe, AirFrance is excluded. Japan Airlines is a top-rated Asian airline that doesn’t make the top 20. Not being in the top 20 doesn’t mean an airline is unsafe.
Delta is excluded probably because it flies a relatively old fleet. Fleet age cuts both ways in my view. Older aircraft are prone to wear-and-tear mechanical issues and metal fatigue. But issues with major systems have been sorted out long ago.
On the other hand, when new airplane models and variations thereon are first put into service, passengers are sad to say effectively serving as subjects in an extended flight test program. Picking on Boeing for a minute, remember the lithium battery fires on 787s and God forbid the the still unresolved 737 MAX fiasco. There are good reasons why test pilots are well paid and those reason aren’t all related to superior engineering qualifications and piloting skills.
Another point to keep in mind is that every rating is subject to bias. Airlineratings.com is based in Australia. Perhaps coincidentally, it has ranked Qantas as the safest airline in the world for the last five years running. In making that assessment, though, the editors rely primarily on an impressive list of safety innovations that Qantas has pioneered including precision instrument landing systems and in-flight, ground-based monitoring of engine and flight parameters.
The Low-Cost Top 10
The website also lists the low-cost carriers it finds to be the safest. In alphabetical order:
- HK Express
- Jetstar Australia/Asia
- Thomas Cook
The next time I fly I think I’ll take a Wizz. 🙂
Ratings are a guide, and this list serves as a good one. Fortunately, aviation safety is usually not top of mind when choosing a flight. Consideration such as cost, seat, service and schedule take precedence with safety being a given. It will be interesting to see how the 737 MAX plays into the ratings next year if at all.
As a quick survey, would you be reluctant to fly a 737 MAX when it comes back into service as it is certain to do at some point?