Top 10 safest airlines in the world

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Air travel can be stressful. You need to get to the airport within a specific time frame, ensure your baggage is the appropriate weight, and you need to adapt quickly if any luggage goes missing or your flight is cancelled. However, one stress you should never have to worry about is the safety of the airline you're travelling with. 

We’re here to help you make an informed decision on which airlines are safest, so you can board a flight to your dream destination with as little disruption as possible. 

What does safe actually mean?

Aviation safety site AirlineRatings.com assesses over 435 airlines, taking into account the following factors:

How many fatal crashes has the airline had in the last five years?

Recent fatalities of the crew or passengers can indicate that the airline has an aircraft that needs replacing or systems that need upgrading. This doesn't include acts of terrorism, high jackings, pilot suicide, or any fatal accident through no fault of the airline’s own. 

How many serious incidents has the airline had in the last two years?

AirlineRatings assesses over 11,000 incidents from airlines around the world and accounts for trends like runway overruns, which occur when the aircraft is unable to stop once they reach the end of the runway.

What are their audit scores?

The governing bodies and lead associations that audit the airline will differ based on its country of origin. 

AirlineRatings uses the Operational Safety Audit from the International Air Transport Association (IOSA) as a benchmark. The IOSA is the global industry standard for operational safety and uses internationally recognised audit principles to assess an airline.

They also use the International Civil Aviation Organisation country audit to ensure compliance with safety, security, and environmental protection regulations. 

Airlines that do not meet international aviation operational safety standards will not be allowed into certain country’s airspace. This includes airlines banned as part of the EU Blacklist or those banned in European airspace due to poor aircraft maintenance concerns or regulatory oversight. They also take into consideration bans conducted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). 

What's the average age of the airline’s fleet?

While older aircraft are not necessarily a problem, it can cost more in maintenance to ensure their safety. If the aircraft is older and hasn't been maintained or refurbished properly, it can cause safety issues like the aircraft overheating or faulty air conditioning.

What Covid protocols did they/do they currently have in place?

Airlines are also assessed based on how they adapted to COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines, as well as if they:

  • Provide COVID-19 information on their website
  • Provide face masks
  • Ensure cabin crew wear face masks 
  • Enforce social distancing during onboarding and offboarding 
  • Deep clean the aircraft each night

In addition to these factors, AirlineRatings also provide an expert analysis of the pilot training in place.

The airlines that make it into the top 20 safest airlines, some of which are detailed below, are ‘standouts in the industry’, according to Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey Thomas.

Safest airlines

Qantas

Qantas was crowned the world’s safest airline from 2014 to 2017, from 2019 to 2021, and again in 2023. It continues to add new, advanced aircraft to its fleet and is commended on its clean safety and operations records. Qantas amassed a record of safety and operations firsts in the 100 years it's been in operation. 

The Australian airline has led the development of the Future Air Navigation System, a way data can be recorded to monitor plane and crew performance. Qantas’ satellite communications allow them to monitor the engines across their fleet, and detect problems quickly and efficiently before they present a safety issue.

Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand was given the title of safest airline in 2022 and is consistently ranked in the top 20 safest airlines. The airline has a young aircraft fleet at an average age of almost seven years and is commended for operating in some of the most challenging weather conditions. 

Air New Zealand also implements safety protocols like the Future Air Navigation System to ensure the safe operation of its whole fleet. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Air New Zealand prioritised the health and safety of cabin crew, passengers, and the wider New Zealand community. It was only as of mid-2022 that Air New Zealand stopped asking its passengers for negative PCR tests. 

Etihad Airways

The United Arab Emirates national airline ranked third place in AirlingRatings' safest airlines of 2023. The airline was praised by Mr Thomas for its 'newer, safer, fuel-efficient aircraft', and its commitment to prioritising safety. 

Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways was highly ranked among AirlineRatings' safest airlines of 2022. Its cabin innovation, passenger service, and continued operation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic were commendable. 

Singapore Airlines

Esteemed Asian operator, Singapore Airlines, is well known for its relatively incident-free history and young fleet. They were ranked fifth in the world in 2022 and were among the top ten in 2023 for demonstrating a commitment to passenger comfort and overall safety. 

Honourable mentions

  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Emirates 
  • EVA Air 
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Virgin Australia 

Final word

Sites like AirlineRatings can assess the safety of an airline based on how closely it follows safety and operations guidelines and regulations, and if it passes the internationally recognised audits. There are several airlines, like Qantas, Air New Zealand, and Etihad Airways that go above and beyond in the ways they prioritise safety. 

Hannah Geremia
Written by
Hannah has had over six years of experience in researching, writing, and editing quality content. She loves gaming, dancing, and animals, and can usually be found under a weighted blanket with a cup of coffee and a book.

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