Airline Ratings is out with its list of the 20 safest airlines in 2021. While I appreciate recognizing an airline’s stellar safety record, I’m not sure a “top 20” list accurately reflects which airline is safer.
The 20 Safest Airlines In 2021
Airline Ratings does not go into much detail on its methodology, beyond stating:
In making its evaluation of the safest airlines in the world, AirlineRatings.com takes into account a comprehensive range of factors that include: airline’s crash and serious incident record, audits from aviation’s governing and industry bodies, government audits, industry-leading safety initiatives, and fleet age.
None of those pieces of evidence are actually presented. But here’s the top-2o list:
- Qatar Airways
- Air New Zealand
- Singapore Airlines
- EVA Air
- Etihad Airways
- Alaska Airlines
- Cathay Pacific Airways
- British Airways
- Virgin Australia/Virgin Atlantic (note – these are two airlines but Airline Ratings combined them…)
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- American Airlines
- United Airlines
Why Qantas? Airline Ratings notes:
In selecting Qantas as the world’s safest airline for 2021, AirlineRatings.com editors noted that over its 100-year history the world’s oldest continuously operating airline has amassed a truly amazing record of firsts in operations and safety and is now accepted as the industry’s most experienced airline.
The Australian airline has been a clear leader in the development of Future Air Navigation System; real-time monitoring of its engines across its fleet, the flight data recorder to monitor plane and later crew performance; automatic landings using Global Navigation Satellite System as well as precision approaches around mountains in the cloud using RNP.
I’m of the opinion that there are bands of safety and stating that Qantas is safer than Qatar Airways which is safer than Air New Zealand is not all that helpful. I’m not sure what “most experienced airline” means when there are other continuously-operating airlines which are older. I’m also under the impression that the innovations mentioned above are not unique to Qantas.
However, I’ll freely concede that I feel extremely comfortable on Qantas…and every other carrier on the list. I think that’s the point. And this is the story of the vast majority of carriers. They follow standard protocols for maintenance. Their staff is well-trained. They implement stringent COVID-19 cleaning procedures.
Crashes and accidents, when they occur, are often due to factors which cannot be quantified in any safety ranking. Can you really plan for a Germanwings pilot who goes rogue and flies an aircraft into the mountain? Or two 747s which crash in the fog despite KLM’s most-experienced and trusted captain in command (1977 Tenerife crash)?
When it comes to safety rankings, I am much less concerned about which airline is “safer” than which carrier is safe. The broader point is that flying commercially is incredibly safe. Perhaps a more helpful list would have been which airlines are not safe…