The world's safest – and least safe – airlines for 2019

Singapore Airlines is rated as one of the world's safest - CHRIS@CHRISSISARICH.COM
Singapore Airlines is rated as one of the world's safest - CHRIS@CHRISSISARICH.COM

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are among the 20 safest airlines on Earth, according to an annual ranking of the world’s biggest carriers.

The website assessed 405 major airlines this year before delivering its verdict, taking into account previous incidents, the average age of their fleets, and audits from governments and the aviation industry’s regulatory bodies.

It singled out Qantas as the world’s safest airline, as it has done in previous years, ahead of a chasing pack of 19 rivals.

BA and Virgin are the only UK airlines at the top table; others include Singapore Airlines, voted the world’s best long-haul airline by Telegraph Travel readers, Swiss, your favourite short-haul airline, as well as Air New Zealand, Emirates, KLM and Lufthansa.

“It is extraordinary that Qantas has been the lead airline in virtually every major operational safety advancement over the past 60 years and has not had a fatality in the jet era,” said Mr Geoffrey Thomas,’s editor-in-chief.

American Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Qatar Airways and United were promoted to the top 20 this year, at the expense of Etihad, Japan Airlines and Royal Jordanian. Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia, previously included as two separate airlines, were listed together for 2019.

The 20 safest airlines (in alphabetical order)

  1. Air New Zealand

  2. Alaska Airlines

  3. All Nippon Airways

  4. American Airlines

  5. Austrian Airlines

  6. British Airways

  7. Cathay Pacific

  8. Emirates

  9. EVA Air

  10. Finnair

  11. Hawaiian Airlines

  12. KLM

  13. Lufthansa

  14. Qantas

  15. Qatar Airways

  16. SAS

  17. Singapore Airlines

  18. Swiss

  19. United Airlines

  20. Virgin

Qantas has not had a fatality in the jet era
Qantas has not had a fatality in the jet era also listed its pick of the 10 safest low-cost operators, with Flybe and Thomas Cook making the cut.

“Unlike a number of low-cost carriers, these airlines have all passed the stringent International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and have excellent safety records,” Thomas explained.

The 10 safest low-cost airlines (in alphabetical order)

  1. Flybe

  2. Frontier

  3. HK Express

  4. Jetblue

  5. Jetstar Australia / Asia

  6. Thomas Cook

  7. Volaris

  8. Vueling

  9. Westjet

  10. Wizz isn’t the only organisation to rate carriers according to safety. Germany’s Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre (JACDEC) does likewise, and it is Emirates that currently takes the crown, ahead of Norwegian, Virgin Atlantic, KLM and EasyJet. Neither British Airways nor Ryanair feature in the top 20.

  1. Emirates

  2. Norwegian

  3. Virgin Atlantic

  4. KLM

  5. EasyJet

  6. Finnair

  7. Etihad

  8. Spirit Airlines

  9. Jetstar Airways

  10. Air Arabia

  11. Vueling

  12. Cathay Pacific

  13. El Al

  14. Singapore Airlines

  15. EVA Air

  16. Eurowings

  17. JetBlue Airways

  18. Capital Airlines

  19. Oman Air

  20. Air Canada

Which are the world’s least safe airlines? also announced its lowest ranked airlines for 2019: Bluewing Airlines, based in Suriname, Indonesia’s Trigana Air Service, as well as Ariana Afghan Airlines and Kam Air, both based in Afghanistan. Each were awarded just one or two stars for safety, out of seven.

Air Koryo, North Korea’s flag carrier, appears to have shed its unsafe reputation. Having previously appeared among’s worst performers, it was given six stars for 2019.

There are currently around 100 airlines – most of which you probably haven’t heard of – banned from EU airspace, or facing operational restrictions, as they don’t meet European safety standards.

The airlines banned from flighting to the EU

  1. All airlines from the Democratic Republic of Congo (21 airlines)

  2. All airlines from Djibouti (1 airline)

  3. All airlines from Equatorial Guinea (2 airlines)

  4. All airlines from Eritrea (2 airlines)

  5. All airlines from Afghanistan (2 airlines)

  6. All airlines from Kyrgyzstan (13 airlines)

  7. All airlines from Liberia

  8. All airlines from Libya (7 airlines)

  9. All airlines from Angola, except Taag Angola Airlines (13 airlines)

  10. All airlines from Republic of Congo (8 airlines)

  11. All airlines from Gabon, except Afrijet and Nouvelle Air Affaires Gabon (6 airlines)

  12. All airlines from Nepal (18 airlines)

  13. All airlines from Sudan (12 airlines)

  14. All airlines from Sao Tome and Principe (2 airlines)

  15. All airlines from Sierra Leone (7 airlines)

  16. Blue Wing Airlines, Suriname

  17. Iran Aseman Airlines, Iran

  18. Iraqi Airways, Iraq

  19. Med-View Airline, Nigeria

  20. Air Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe

  21. Avior Airlines, Venezuela

But fear not, flying is still very safe

2017 was - by some distance - the safest year in aviation history. According to ASN there were just 14 fatal accidents involving commercial airliners (14+ passengers), resulting in 59 deaths. This was down from 17 fatal accidents and 258 deaths in 2016. Furthermore, none of those fatalities involved a jet aircraft.

Last year, however, there were several major accidents. On February 11, Saratov Airlines Flight 703 crashed after leaving Moscow with all 71 on board perishing. One week later 66 people died when Iran Aseman Airlines Flight 3704 went down near the city of Yasul. US-Bangla Airlines Flight 211 crashed near Kathmandu on March 12, resulting in 51 deaths. There was also a harrowing incident on a Southwest flight, where a window was smashed and a female passenger killed. And in May 112 people died when Cubana de Aviación Flight 972 crashed near Havana.

ASN’s database shows 561 deaths involving commercial flights in 2018, almost 10 times more than the whole of 2017, making it the deadliest year for aviation since 2014, with 555 deaths.

But this is still way down on the number of annual fatalities seen in previous decades. More than 1,000 deaths per calendar year was commonplace until just over a decade ago. In 2005 there were 1,075. The figure for 1996 was 1,844. The deadliest year of all time was 1972, when 2,380 people died in 72 accidents involving commercial airliners – a number that is all the more remarkable when you consider how few departures there were compared with today (around 9.5 million, compared with almost 37 million in 2017).

Modern air travel remains remarkably safe. Over the past five years, the fatal accident rate has ranged from around one for every 7.5 million departures (2017) to one for every 1.5 million departures (2013).

“[2017] was effectively a lovely statistical blip,” said David Gleave following the Cubana crash last May. “We are a long way from having solved all the problems [with flying], but it is getting safer and there remains a downward trend in the per flight probability [of a crash].”

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