How Safe Are America’s Airlines?
Planning air travel can be fun and exciting. Anyone who knows how it feels to score cheap tickets to their favorite destination can attest to that. But travel is also serious business, and airline safety has to be in the back of the minds of air travelers.
Though plane crashes in the United States are rare, they dominate the news when they happen. Since the beginning of 2007, there has only been one fatal airline accident in the U.S., the crash of a Colgan Air plane near Buffalo, N.Y. Fifty people perished.
Statistically speaking, by the time you arrive at the airport, the most dangerous part of your journey (the time spent on the road) is over. A U.S. National Safety Council study covering the years 1993-1995 concluded that traveling in a commercial jet is roughly 22 times safer than traveling in a car.
Which Airlines Are the Safest?
People are rightly concerned with the safety records of the airlines they use. A recent study by the Air Transport Rating Agency (ATRA), an organization independent of any airline, airplane manufacturer, or regulatory authority, concluded that six of the 10 safest airlines in the world are based in the United States. Three are European, and one is Asian. Airlines are not given ordinal rankings, but ATRA’s top ten alphabetically are as follow Air France-KLM
- Air France-KLM
- AMR Corporation (American Airlines, American Eagle)
- British Airways
- Continental Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- Japan Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
- US Airways
This study of 100 of the world’s largest airlines, the first study of its kind, examined publicly-available information on 15 criteria. Criteria included average age of the aircraft in use, homogeneity of the fleet, organizational elements, accident figures, and technical and human elements, such as pilot training facilities. The aim of the study was to provide “rigorous and transparent information” and to encourage airlines to track and discuss criteria contributing to airline safety.
One surprise from the study was that Qantas, long considered the safest airline in the world, did not make the top 10. This was due to several safety incidents over the past three years.
What Air Travelers Should Know About Airline Safety
FareCompare readers traveling on domestic carriers in the United States have every reason to be confident in the safety of their airlines. Though there is no official list of “worst” airlines, the European Union annually releases a list of airlines that are prohibited from operating within the EU. These airlines are generally considered to be among the world’s most dangerous.
Airlines on the list that believe themselves to be in conformity with applicable international safety standards may request that member states of the European Community remove them from the list. The EU acknowledges that absolute verification of safety status is not always possible with the airlines on their list due to lack of available information. Airline accident information is also available in the database published on the website planecrashinfo.com.