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U.S. Airlines Are Highly Ranked in New Safety Review

OK, you’ve compared schedules, prices, and frequent-flyer bonuses. But do you know how the airlines you’re considering rate for safety?, which bills itself as “the world’s only safety and product rating website,” knows, and has just published its latest lists of the 20 safest full-service airlines and the 10 safest low-cost airlines.

To assess airlines’ safety, AirlineRatings reviews a combination of crash data and status accorded by aviation-oversight organizations including the FAA, ICAO, and IATA. One sure way to be downgraded is an affirmative answer to the following question: “Does the airline operate only Russian built aircraft?” So, just say “Nyet!” to flying on a Yak-42 or Ilyushin Il-62.

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On the other hand, flying on U.S. carriers is generally considered a safe bet.

Safest Full-Service Airlines

Of the 407 airlines reviewed, the 20 full-service carriers with the highest safety ratings were, in alphabetical order:

  • Air New Zealand
  • Alaska Airlines
  • All Nippon Airways
  • American Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Airways
  • EVA Air
  • Finnair
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Japan Airlines
  • KLM
  • Lufthansa
  • Qantas
  • Scandinavian Airline System
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Swiss
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Australia

Predictably, U.S. carriers fared well, with Alaska, American, Hawaiian, and United making the cut. Delta, however, was not among the top 20. That may seem odd, given that airline’s current focus on operational excellence, but it still earned seven out of a possible seven stars.

Safest Low-Cost Airlines

And among what considers low-cost carriers, the 10 highest-rated carriers were:

  • Aer Lingus
  • Flybe
  • HK Express
  • JetBlue
  • Jetstar Australia
  • Thomas Cook
  • TUI Fly
  • Virgin America
  • Volaris
  • Westjet

The notable omission here is Southwest, by far the largest U.S. budget carrier, which was only awarded five out of a possible seven stars. The deduction reflected the fact that Southwest had not been certified by the IATA Operational Safety Audit. Some airlines, it should be noted, choose not to subject themselves to the IATA audit. Southwest may be one of them, although the review fails to address that possibility.

Reader Reality Check

How important a factor is safety when it comes to choosing an airline?

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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