Which Airlines Were Safest in 2017?

A Qantas plane flies over Sydney

No matter how much you travel, you always wonder just how safe the airline you're flying is. Commercial aviation has been shown statistically to be the safest mode of travel, but some airlines are safer than others, according to a new study.

AirlineRatings.com, the world’s only safety and product rating website, uses a range of factors related to audits from aviation’s governing bodies and lead associations, as well as government audits and the airline’s fatality record. Read on to learn about how they ranked airlines in 2017.

How Ratings Were Determined

AirlineRatings.com used a seven-star safety assessment criteria for all airlines:

  • Is the airline IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) or IATA Standard Safety Assessment (ISSA) certified? If yes, an airline is awarded two stars;
  • Is the airline on the European Union Blacklist, banned from flying in the region’s airspace? If no, a star is awarded;
  • Has the airline maintained a fatality free record for the past 10 years? If yes the airline is awarded a star;
  • Is the airline FAA endorsed? If yes a full star is awarded;
  • Does the country of airline origin meet all eight ICAO safety parameters? If yes, two stars are awarded. If five to seven of the criteria are met, one star is awarded;
  • Has the airline's fleet been grounded by the country's governing aviation safety authority due to safety concerns? If yes an additional star will be taken off the total for five years from the time of grounding
  • Does the airline operate only Russian built aircraft? If yes an additional star will be taken off the total.

Qantas Was Tops in 2017

Australian flag carrier Qantas retained its spot at the top of a list of the top 20 safest airlines in 2017 for the fourth year in a row. The report noted that over its 96-year history, the world’s oldest continuously operating airline had amassed an amazing record of firsts in operations and safety and had been accepted by the British Advertising Standards Association as the industry’s most experienced carrier.

Qantas was first in: using a Flight Data Recorder to monitor aircraft and crew performance; systems that handle automatic landings; and using technology to fly around mountains in clouds. The airline was also a leader in real-time monitoring of its engines across its fleet using satellite communications, which allows it to detect problems before becoming a major safety issue. 

Other Top Airlines

The rest of the top 20 airlines in 2017, in alphabetical order, were:

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

Other Airline Rankings in 2017

Of the 425 airlines surveyed, 148 had the seven-star safety ranking, but almost 50 had three stars or less. The 14 airlines that had only a single star were from Afghanistan, Indonesia, Nepal and Surinam.

The editors at AirlineRatings.com top also identified their top 10 safest low-cost airlines: Aer Lingus, Flybe, HK Express, Jetblue, Jetstar Australia, Jetstar Asia, Thomas Cook, Virgin America, Vueling and Westjet. These carriers all passed the stringent IOSA audit and had excellent safety records.