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Revealed: The world's safest (and least safe) airlines for 2018



British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are among the 20 safest airlines on Earth, according to an annual ranking of the world’s biggest carriers.

The website AirlineRatings.com assessed 409 major airlines before delivering its verdict, taking into account previous incidents, the average age of their fleets, and audits from governments and the aviation industry’s regulatory bodies.

For the last four years it has singled out Qantas as the world’s safest airline, ahead of a chasing pack of 19 rivals, but this year it listed the Australian flag carrier alongside the rest of the top 20.

BA and Virgin are the only UK airlines at the top table; others include Singapore Airlines, recently voted the world’s best long-haul airline by Telegraph Travel readers, Swiss, your favourite short-haul airline, as well as Air New Zealand, Emirates, Etihad, KLM and Lufthansa.

Just two US airlines were included in the top 20. Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian remain, but Delta and United, both of which appeared last year, have been dropped in favour of Emirates and Royal Jordanian.

The 20 safest airlines (in alphabetical order)

  • Air New Zealand
  • Alaska Airlines
  • All Nippon Airways
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific Airways
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Airways
  • EVA Air
  • Finnair
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Japan Airlines
  • KLM
  • Lufthansa
  • Qantas
  • Royal Jordanian Airlines
  • Scandinavian Airline System
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Swiss
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Australia
  • “Our top 20 safest airlines are always at the forefront of safety innovation, operational excellence and the launching of new more advanced aircraft like the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787,” said Geoffrey Thomas, AirlineRatings.com’s Editor-in-Chief. “Qantas has been the lead airline in virtually every major operational safety advancement over the past 60 years and has not had a fatality in the jet era. But Qantas is not alone. Long established airlines such as Hawaiian and Finnair also have perfect records in the jet era.”

    Hawaiian and Finnair also have perfect records in the jet era

    The website also identified what it claims are the 10 safest low-cost airlines. Aer Lingus, Flybe and Thomas Cook made the cut, but there was no room for the likes of Ryanair and easyJet. “Unlike a number of low cost carriers, these airlines have all passed the stringent International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and have excellent safety records,” Thomas explained.

    AirlineRatings.com isn't the only organisation to rate carriers according to safety. Germany's Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre (JACDEC) does likewise, and it is Cathay Pacific that currently takes the crown, ahead of Air New Zealand, Hainan Airlines, Qatar Airways and KLM. Virgin takes the 14th spot, British Airways 19th, easyJet 28th and Ryanair 34th.

    Which are the world’s least safe airlines?

    AirlineRatings.com also announced its lowest ranked airlines for 2018. Air Koryo, North Korea’s flag carrier, Bluewing Airlines, based in Suriname, Indonesia’s Trigana Air Service, and four Nepalese carriers - Buddha Air, Nepal Airlines, Tara Air, and Yeti Airlines - were all awarded just a single star.

    How North Korea's airline keeps its Soviet-era fleet ready for service

    There are currently more than 100 airlines - most of which you probably haven't heard of - banned from EU airspace, or facing operational restrictions, as they don't meet European safety standards. They include every airline from Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Sudan, as well as dozens from Indonesia.

    At a glance | Airlines banned from the EU

    But fear not, flying has never been safer

    According to the Aviation Safety Network (ASN), which records all air crashes and incidents reported around the world, there were just 10 fatal accidents involving commercial flights last year, resulting in 44 deaths. This is down from 16 fatal accidents and 302 deaths in 2016. Furthermore, none of 2017's fatalities involved a passenger jet.

    2017 | The safest year in aviation history

    Given that around 36.8 million passenger flights took to the sky last year, that works out at just one fatal accident for every 7.36 million departures.

    It has been exactly 401 days (as of January 3) since the last fatal accident involving a passenger jet (LaMia Flight 2933, on November 28, 2016, in which the Brazilian Chapecoense football team was travelling), and 795 days since an accident that claimed more than 100 lives (Metrojet Flight 9268, which came down on October 31, 2015, after leaving Sharm El Sheikh International Airport, probably due to a bomb).

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