World's Safest Airlines? Not So Fast

In the past few days, a list that purports to rank the world’s airlines for “safety” has been making the rounds and gaining a lot of attention because not a single U.S. airline made the top 10 – nor did any other North American carrier.

Does this mean the lower ranked airlines aren’t safe? Of course not. Does this mean non-U.S. carriers are the very safest? Not necessarily.

How Safe is Your Airline? Read This

Listen as air travel expert Rick Seaney says, nothing to worry about:

Bottom Line about Airline Safety

Bottom line: In 2012, no U.S. airline was involved in a crash – no fatalities, no injuries, no nothing. Same for all of North America’s airlines. In fact, last year there was not a single crash of any Western-built jet in the entire world. This has prompted an executive with the respected International Air Transport Association to declare flatly that air travel is the safest way to travel. Which brings us to the safety ranking list.

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What the New List Doesn’t Mention

The new Safety Ranking 2012 report is the product of what appears to be a two-man organization called Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Center based in Germany, self-described as an information service for members of the media, the traveling public and others. The website also says its safety rankings grew out of a “student project” that has since become “an internationally recognized provider of professional airline safety information.”

Curiously, the rankings cover airline operations over the last 30 years of operation – yet fully half of those listed in the top 10 haven’t been flying that long. This would include Etihad Airways which didn’t begin operating until 2003, and Virgin Australia which didn’t hit the skies until 2000 (then called Virgin Blue).

So-Called Safest Airlines

The top U.S. airline is another relative newcomer – JetBlue which began flying in 1991 came in at the number 14 spot, while Southwest (est. 1971) earned slot number 21. The top U.S. legacy carrier was Delta at number 28.

Top 10 Airlines

Here are the top carriers, according to the Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Center:

  1. Finnair
  2. Air New Zealand
  3. Cathay Pacific
  4. Emirates
  5. Etihad
  6. EVA Air
  7. TAP Portugal
  8. Hainan Airlines
  9. Virgin Australia
  10. British Airways

What to make of the list? Probably nothing. Yes, the top 10 airlines are very safe – and it’s likely the one you fly is every bit as safe. If you need reassurance, just check out the latest safety information based on government statistics.


Published: January 14, 2013