Despite some recent tragedies, air travel is still one of the safest forms of transportation around. In fact, according to Australian consumer-aviation website AirlineRatings.com, 2016 was the second safest year in the history of commercial aviation, after 2013.
AirlineRatings.com recently released a list of the 20 safest airlines selected from a pool of 425 carriers around the world. To compile its list, the website evaluated each airline based on its standing with international regulators, its fatality record over the past 10 years, its result from an International Air Transport Association (IATA) safety audit, and whether its country of origin conforms with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s eight-point safety parameter. All of the airlines on this list passed those tests with flying colors.
The carriers on the list hail from Asia, North America, Australia, and Europe, with no carriers from Africa and South America making the cut. This top-20 includes only mainline carriers. Low-cost or boutique carriers such as JetBlue, Virgin America, Norwegian, and EasyJet were considered for a separate ranking.
AirlineRatings.com didn’t list the final finishing order for places two to 20, but did crown a winner.
1. Air New Zealand has made a fine recovery after a period of financial turmoil in the early 2000s. This renaissance culminated with AirlineRatings.com recently naming it the best airline in the world for the third year in a row.
Air New Zealand has not suffered any significant incidents in the past couple of decades.
2. It’s called Alaska Airlines, but it’s actually based in Seattle. The carrier is a mainstay on the West Coast of the US. Alaska recently made a major splash with the $2.6 billion acquisition of Virgin America. The airline has not suffered a fatal crash since 2000.
3. Founded in 1954, All Nippon Airways is well regarded for its consistent and high-quality service. Last year, Skytrax ranked All Nippon sixth on its best airlines in the world list. ANA has not had a fatal crash in more than 45 years.
4. British Airways formed in 1974 following the merger of British Overseas Airways Corporation and British European Airways. The airline has not experienced a fatal accident in three decades.
5. AirlineRatings.com recently named Cathay Pacific the best long-haul airline in the Asia-Pacific region. And as outstanding as its service may be, the airline is just as competent in terms of safety. Outside of terrorist attacks, Cathay Pacific has not suffered a fatal accident since the 1960s.
6. With more than 800 mainline aircraft in its fleet, Delta Air Lines is the second largest carrier in the world. The Atlanta-based airline has not had a fatal accident in more than two decades.*
7. Like its neighbor, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad has maintained an unblemished safety record. It’s truly remarkable how quickly the decade-old airline has grown in scale and reputation.
8. Taiwan’s Eva Air was recently named the best long-haul airline in Asia by AirlineRatings.com. The airline has not suffered any major accidents since its founding in 1988.
9. Finnair, Finland’s national airline, doesn’t get as much attention in the media as some of its Scandinavian counterparts. But don’t discount the Helsinki-based carrier. It has one of the best safety records in the business and hasn’t suffered any major accidents since the 1960s.
10. Founded in 1929, Honolulu-based Hawaiian Airlines has been consistently regarded as one of the best in the US. Hawaiian currently boasts a fleet of more than 50 wide- and narrow-body airliners. Hawaiian has never experienced a fatal accident.
11. Established in 1951, Japan Airlines has been Japan’s national air carrier for more than 60 years. It has not had a fatal crash in more than 30 years.
12. Founded in 1920, KLM is one of the oldest and most trusted names in the airline industry. Although KLM and Air France merged in 2004, the two airlines operate under separate brands. KLM has not had a fatality in almost 40 years.
13. Germany’s Lufthansa is a European aviation juggernaut. In operation since 1955, the Frankfurt-based carrier was recently named Europe’s best long-haul airline by the website. It has not suffered any fatal accidents since 1993.
14. Formed in 1946, Scandinavian Airlines or SAS, currently serves as the national airline of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The airline’s last fatal crash occurred in 2001.
15. Singapore Airlines is universally lauded for its high-quality service and efficient operations. Skytrax named Singapore the second-best airline in the world. The Changi Airport-based carrier has been accident-free since 2000.
16. Swiss International Air Lines was formed in 2002 from the remnants of the bankrupt Swissair. In 2007, the airline became part of Germany’s Lufthansa Group. Swiss has suffered no fatalities in its history.
17. Chicago-based United Airlines took its current shape in 2012 with the merger of United and Continental airlines. United has not suffered a non-terrorism-related fatal crash in more than 20 years.
18. Crawley, England-based Virgin Atlantic is billionaire Richard Branson’s original aviation venture. Since 2012, 49% of the carrier has been under the control of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines. Virgin Atlantic has not suffered any fatal crashes in its history.
19. Virgin Australia, the Australian off-shoot of Richard Branson’s aviation empire, was founded in 1999 as a low-cost carrier called Virgin Blue. In 2011, the company switched to a traditional, full-service business model and was rebranded as Virgin Australia. The airline has no fatal crashes in its history.
20. Once again, the winner is Australia’s Qantas. Qantas is the Volvo of the airline industry — a company whose reputation and mystique is built upon its clean safety record. This is for good reason. The 96-year-old airline has not had a fatal crash since 1951.