Safest airline and aircraft?

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This topic contains 34 replies, has 14 voices, and was last updated by  openfly 29 Apr 2018
at 08:52

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  • Flightlevel

    The accident to the Southwest B737, after several safe years for pax flights in the USA and worldwide last year, reminds us of the (slight) risk to air travel.
    Airlines are reluctant to advertise their safety credentials in case, however we all know Qantas hasn’t killed any pax, nor has the A340 or the A380. Is that a good way to consider safety?
    Qantas hardly flies as much pax, hours, or flights as many LCCs and those two aircraft never fly as much as B737s have done.
    Would you choose an airline or aircraft for safety reasons or is the risk so low we don’t consider safety anymore?


    I will avoid many airlines from a certain huge continent to the south of Europe because of poor safety records.

    However, I did not avoid DC10s after a series of accidents decades ago.


    I did avoid DC10s and now would add a large country to East of Europe -‘though I trust their ATC regularly!
    The largest aircraft have the most experienced pilots, maybe why those two aircraft are safest, ‘though commendations to the Southwest Captain and the A320 crew that landed in the Hudson!
    Academics should make an accurate study ‘though airlines may regard it too controversal?


    I tend to go on my personal prejudices, and thus would consider most African airlines unsafe (possibly SAA being an exception). I would trust most European airlines, even the lousy ones, to be safe.

    There’s also the angle that a single sector flight on a less safe airline is, overall, safer than a multi-sector on a safer airline.


    Whilst agreeing in principle with the comments about airlines from certain regions, entropy plays such a part in aircraft crashes, that I don’t tend to overthink this.




    I avoided A320’s at the start, primarily because quite a few of its catastrophic crashes were rumoured to have been caused by the automation over riding the pilots ability to be an aviator an fly the aircraft.
    More concerning at the time was the reek of a cover-up by the investigating authorities , pushing the tried and tested pilot error reason rather than suggesting there was something wrong with the brand new technology .
    However it became obvious that I’d have to re-evaluate my thinking as it became impossible to avoid flying on Airbuses .

    African airlines don’t worry me, but then I’ve only ever flown, Kenya Airways and EAA

    Safest airline I fly on a reasonably regular basis …… Ryanair !!!


    Surely there is an easy answer to this, the list of airlines banned in the EU. This is made by people who look at and are qualified to analyse the data –

    I look with some concern with some of the comments on this thread.

    “Avoid many airlines from a certain huge continent to the south of Europe”. So do you exclude Ethiopian and Kenya, both with 100% good safety record in the last 10 years? Even Egyptair, one of my regular carriers, is 100% OK in those ten years apart from MS 804, which was quite likely a bomb, therefore a failure of CDG security.

    “A large country to East of Europe”. Aeroflot is 100% OK for the last 20 years.

    “Turkish….never!” Again, a good record for many years (since 2009) apart from one incident with a wet-lease aircraft flying with a TK flight number.

    I know I am showing my prejudices, as a regular on all the above apart from Ethiopian.

    Do you really feel safe on BA, given the incidents on BA 38, BA 2276 and BA 762? Superb pilot skills, yes, but…

    The real assessment of risk requires a serious statistician (Bath VIP, where are you?)


    This reply has been reported for inappropriate content.


    Airline safety is complex and one model compares it to a series of Swiss cheeses rotating on spindles, with only very occasional objects penetrating the holes, when they momentarily align.

    Statistical analysis? Of what? All that gives you a is a look back into history, e.g. let’s look at the 20 years from 1992-2011* – a reasonable period, over which

    Aeroflot had 5 fatal incidents
    Air France had 5 fatal incidents
    BA had 0 fatal incidents
    Air France had 5 fatal incidents
    Turkish had 3 fatal incidents
    Egyptair had 2 fatal incidents
    Kenyan had 2 fatal incidents

    This history says nothing about the current airline culture, fleet age and maintenance, training standards, route network etc.

    The BA incidents you raise give a mixed view (to me, at least) BA38 was a highly unlikely technical event – not due to maintenance, but engine performance, that the crew handled exceptionally well IMO, BA2276 was a catastrophic failure of an engine, which does not appear to be maintenance related and was well handled, BA762 was apparently caused by maintenance, but was handled well by the pilots – so where do you go with that one?

    Statistically, three events, two major engine failures, one self inflicted engine failure, but zero deaths – surely the world’s safest airline, due to the high skills of the pilots and cabin crew?

    The reality is that few people can make an accurate assessment of airline safety and those people are experts working in the industry, not people posting on BT.



    What’s the saying about lies, damned lies, and statistics?

    There are too many variables for statistics to be meaningful for most of us as the statistical sample is too small. If one were flying 2 sectors every day for a year on airline ‘X’ then its statistics vs. airline ‘Y’ might be meaningful.

    Egyptair might have a good record on paper, as its one FATAC in the last 10 years might be due to an external cause, but having done some work for Egyptair in my past, their management culture and respect for procedures is so poor that I would not even consider them as an option.

    As someone has said, given the huge number of sectors operated and pax carried, Ryanair probably has one of the best safety records of any carrier, but I feel that the pressure of short turnrounds and costcutting is such that the factors that might contribute to an accident are significant.

    It’s fate, it’s holes in the cheese lining up. Driving 10 miles is probably statistically more likely to involve one in an accident than flying round the world on a dodgy airline.


    A very valid point about LCC’s and pressures on quick turnarounds…..A drinking buddy of mine, has flown with a LCC for years, and he bemoans the increased stress levels that cockpit crews are under.

    He puts it down to compensation legislation , which has increased airline costs which in-turn has forced the airlines to recruit less and as he puts it…… “Work the remaining crew to bone”
    He and his colleagues now works longer, for less than he did, and one of the factors is EU261, which is supposed to be a benefit to all ….Quite Ironic

    I take re-assurance with the simple knowledge that pilots don’t start out their day wanting to put their own personal life’s at risk.

    Africa and parts of Asia get a bad rap, but in all honesty, the industry practices (possibly changed) in the USA probably mean you’re more at risk there, then jumping on-board an old well maintained Antonov somewhere in the middle of nowhere.


    There used to be an amusing site – – which used statistics to predict your chances of failing to arrive (alive) on a particular route and airline. It was all a bit theoretical as you could input routes and airlines that didn’t match, but it was still amusing!

    I will confess I avoided the Screamliner (and similarly banned my family from flying on it) for some years since I genuinely thought it was not as safe as it should have been.

    When it comes to airlines, I do look into those I haven’t flown before. Generally, though, I am more concerned about wholly domestic airlines – those that fly internationally have to satisfy not only their home regulator but also an international one.

    While I understand that DavidGordon10 places some weight on the list of banned airlines, I would point out that this is less airline-specific than it might seem. The EU reviews the foreign aviation regulator. If it finds that the regulator is not applying the relevant standards, it bans airlines regulated by it without (as I understand it) specific review of the airline concerned. So you could theoretically have the world’s safest, most careful airline with the world’s best-trained crew and the safest, newest, best-maintained aircraft still being banned because their regulator isn’t up to snuff.

    I do, incidentally recognise the hypocrisy implicit in this conversation (and my own early bias against the B787). How many of us order or take a taxi or minicab without reviewing the operator’s safety statistics? Or the safety record of a car rental agency (responsible for the vehicle’s maintenance)? Or the safety record of the car model involved in either of those cases? Or those of a bus operator, or the bus itself? I could go on…

    The reality is (I think!) that even the worst airline / aircraft / country has a better safety record for air travel than for most, i not all, other forms of transport.


    I’m always happy to fly Lufthansa, Swiss, Emirates, Singapore, KLM to mention a few.
    I avoid AF, Turkish and Egyptair though I have flown all three in the past and I’m still alive!
    I also flew the DC10 regularly and loved it, though my favourite remains the 747 and especially the new 747-800.


    Well here we are all with our own prejudices and not enough data. Certainly, the car to and from the airport is the most dangerous part…

    Ian’s comment on how the EU creates its list is interesting. That is exactly, in a completely different field, what my own organisation does. We don’t evaluate individual medical schools, but we evaluate the authority in each jurisdiction that evaluates individual medical schools. I also share Ian’s aversion to the 787 Binliner, not just the risk of all those batteries but the awful tyranny of someone else being able to control my window blind. So pure prejudice.

    Real local knowledge counts. I take on board, completely, Capetonian’s narrative on Egyptair. I still fly with them (and did yesterday).

    FDOS – well, I chose the last decade as the most recently relevant: things were very different in the 1990s. If you looked in the 1970s and 80s, Aeroflot would look even worse. The real point is that the new Aeroflot is not the old Aeroflot. Statistical analysis of time-series is a tough subject, particularly to identify when real changes happened. Air crashes are now so rare that there is very little data.


    FDOS – well, I chose the last decade as the most recently relevant: things were very different in the 1990s. If you looked in the 1970s and 80s, Aeroflot would look even worse. The real point is that the new Aeroflot is not the old Aeroflot. Statistical analysis of time-series is a tough subject, particularly to identify when real changes happened. Air crashes are now so rare that there is very little data.

    So you agree that there is little point undertaking statistical analysis when the regression trend lines will be meaningless?

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