It’s not something most avid travelers think about, but knowing you’re in reliable hands when flying from one side of the world to the other is always a plus.
Which is why it’s worth a glance at the annual AirlineRatings.com list naming the world’s safest airlines — and discovering which one is rated the best.
For 2019, the airline at the top of the list, once again, is Australian carrier Qantas.
Accidents involving air transport are still incredibly rare, although the past 12 months saw a year-on-year rise in fatalities. Last year AirlineRatings was unable to single out one airline over its rivals.
This year the Australia-based safety and product rating website had a more definitive outlook, says editor-in-chief Geoffrey Thomas.
“Qantas was a clear winner given its industry leadership in safety innovation,” he tells CNN Travel, spotlighting the airline’s new nonstop Australia-UK route for its reliability.
AirlineRatings analyzed data for 405 airlines across the world to put together its list of the top 20 safest carriers.
It used 12 separate criteria, including audits from governments, aviation’s governing bodies and lead associations.
Also considered were the crash and serious incident records for each carrier — plus fleet age and profitability.
Qantas held the accolade of AirlineRatings’ world safest airline from 2014 to 2017, but took joint honors in 2018 when the website chose not to rank its top 20.
For 2019, Qantas is singled out as the best, while the remaining 19 safest airlines haven’t been ordered and are instead listed alphabetically.
The result is a list that includes what the website calls a “who’s who of airlines,” praised for being reliable and secure.
The top 20 are: Air New Zealand, Alaska Airlines, All Nippon Airways, American Airlines, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, EVA Air, Finnair, Hawaiian Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Scandinavian Airline System, Singapore Airlines, Swiss, and United Airlines and Virgin group of airlines (Atlantic and Australia).
United returns to the list after being notably absent in 2018. Excluded in 2019 are former stalwarts Japan Airlines and Etihad.
“Two US giants American Airlines and United Airlines are in the top 20 as they have reduced their fleet age significantly taking delivery of a large number of new aircraft,” explains Thomas.
“Japan Airlines was excluded this year one of its pilots was found to be intoxicated at Heathrow Airport,” he adds. “Etihad was also excluded because of its significant losses.”
Although Qantas pipped the other carriers to the post, Thomas is keen to stress every airline in the top 20 deserves championing.
“The top 20 safest airlines are all exceptional operations and the benchmark for excellence when its comes to safety and reliability,” he says.
High and low
AirlineRatings also pinpointed the top 10 low-cost airlines with the best safety records.
In alphabetical order, the top 10 safest budget airlines are: Flybe, Frontier, HK Express, Jetblue, Jetstar Australia / Asia, Thomas Cook, Volaris, Vueling, Westjet and Wizz.
Mexican airline Volaris and Hungarian carrier Wizz are new additions to the list, while Aer Lingus lost its 2017 spot.
AirlineRatings.com ranks the airlines using its seven-star rating system — with the top 20 airlines all achieving the full seven stars.
The lowest-rated airlines for 2019, achieving only one or two stars in the rankings, are Ariana Afghan Airlines, Bluewing Airlines, Kam Air and Trigana Air Service.