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Is Your Favorite Airline Lying About Safety?

Is Your Favorite Airline Lying About Safety?

BY DANIEL REN Published on April 13, 2024 0 COMMENTS

Flying is known to be the safest method of transportation. Airplanes are equipped with multiple backup systems and top-notch technology to mitigate the impacts of any potential failures to the best abilities possible. Since the aviation industry's key focus is safety, your chances of experiencing a plane crash are one in 1.2 million (0.0000833%), while dying from one is one in 11 million (0.00000909%). 


That is significantly lower than your chances of dying in a car accident, which is one in 5000 (0.02%). However, some airlines are substantially less safe than others, which you may want to remember when booking your next flight.


Russian plane crash from 2019 seen in newly released video
An Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet 100 caught on fire after being struck by lightning in May 2019 | Photo: Russian authorities


How Safety Rankings Work From Airline Ratings


When determining each airline's safety, several factors are ranked in the ranking of 385 different airlines. The analysis includes data from crashes, pilot-related incidents, pilot training, and audits for fleet age and performance from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA). 




Airline Ratings also acknowledges factors outside of an airline's control when analyzing its safety record. Therefore, those factors are not considered in the rankings. Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey Thomas explained that "[a]ll airlines have incidents every day, and many are aircraft or engine manufacture issues, not airline operational problems. It is the way the flight crew handles these incidents that determines a good airline from an unsafe one." Lumping incidents together can be misleading.


Based on Thomas's explanation, an accident such as JAL516 would not be factored into Japan Airlines' safety rank. The Airbus A350-900 collided with a smaller plane on the runway at Tokyo-Haneda (HND) and caught on fire. However, since the flight crew and passengers handled the incident well, there were zero casualties on the Japan Airlines flight. Geoffrey Thomas would most likely say that Japan Airlines separates itself as a good airline due to the flight crew's praise after handling the situation. 


A Japan Airlines Airbus A350-900 on fire at Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) in January | Photo: Reuters


Top 20 Safest Airlines


In 2023, Airline Ratings ranked the following as the safest airlines. Geoffrey Thomas believes that these airlines stand out in the industry, as safety is prioritized. They continued investing in pilot training and pouring resources to ensure stored aircraft were ready to fly after COVID-19. In fact, "the safety margins between these top 20 airlines are very small - they are all outstanding airlines." Keep in mind that this list only includes major airlines. Budget airlines such as Ryan Air, Spirit Airlines, and Fly Dubai ranked at the top for safety as well. 




  1. Qantas
  2. Air New Zealand 
  3. Etihad 
  4. Qatar Airways
  5. Singapore Airlines
  6. TAP Air Portugal
  7. Emirates
  8. Alaska Airlines
  9. EVA Air
  10. Virgin Australia
  11. Cathay Pacific
  12. Hawaiian Airlines
  13. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
  14. United Airlines
  15. Lufthansa (plus Swiss Group)
  16. Finnair
  17. British Airways
  18. KLM
  19. American Airlines
  20. Delta Air Lines


Photo: Jack Oliver | AeroXplorer


The Most Dangerous Airlines


Although Airline Ratings does not officially release a ranking or list for the most dangerous airlines, several have received one-star ratings. These airlines have also failed safety audits. Below is a ranking (not in order) of some of these airlines, which you may want to avoid, especially if you are afraid of flying. 


  1. Nepal Airlines
  2. Lion Air
  3. Air Blue
  4. Blue Wing
  5. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA)
  6. Air Algerie
  7. Yeti Airlines 
  8. PNG Air
  9. SCAT Airlines
  10. Sriwijaya Air
  11. Air Koryo
  12. Smartavia Airlines
  13. Ural Airlines
  14. UT Air
  15. Sudan Airways
  16. NOK Air Thailand
  17. Cubana Airlines
  18. Iran Aseman Airlines
  19. Buddha Air
  20. Afghan Ariana Airlines



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