2014 no doubt was a bad one for airline safety. While the rate of accidents was historically low—just one for every 1.3 million flights—21 of those accidents were fatal, a higher-than-average number that claimed 986 lives. Those statistics are courtesy of the aviation website AirlineRatings.com, which has just put out its annual list of the world’s safest airlines.
Australia’s Qantas once again topped the ranking, which began in 2013. The airline, which has a fatality-free record in the jet era, was cited for its 94 years of experience, its status as an industry leader in the use of things like flight data recorders, and its real-time monitoring of engines across its fleet using satellite communications, which has helped the airline to detect problems early on.
Making up the remainder of the top 10 are, in alphabetical order: Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, Finnair, Lufthansa, and Singapore Airlines. The site did not assign rankings to these airlines, but recognizes them as being among the safest in the world.
The report rates 449 airlines, with seven stars as the highest possible rating.
The grading system takes into account audits from aviation’s governing bodies as well as government audits and the airlines’ own fatality records. For example, airlines can earn two stars for having a safety audit certification from the International Air Transport Association is worth two stars, and meeting all eight safety parameters of the International Civil Aviation Authority (a United Nations agency) is worth another two stars.
Airlines can earn additional stars for reasons including a 10-year record of zero fatalities. They also can lose stars for being on the EU’s blacklist, for only operating Russian-built aircraft, or if the airline’s fleet has been grounded by the county’s governing aviation authority because of safety concerns.
The group also named the safest low-cost carriers: Aer Lingus, Alaska Airlines, Icelandair, Jetstar, Jetblue, Kulula.com, Monarch Airlines, Thomas Cook, TUI Fly, and Westjet.
While 149 airlines have top 7-star rating, almost 50 have just three stars or less. Five airlines only achieved one star for safety: Nepal’s Tara Air, Agni Air, and Nepal Airlines; Kazakhstan’s SCAT Airlines; and Afghanistan’s Kam Air. Except for Agni Air, all of those airlines are banned from flying within the European Union.
Malaysia Airlines, which accounted for more than half of the airplane accident fatalities in 2014 (there were a combined 537 people on flights MH370 and MH17), was docked only for its record of fatalities, leaving it with five out of a possible seven stars.