World’s safest airlines 2016

These are the carriers with the best track record for safety and reliability.

For some, flying can be a nervous experience that brings anxiety and fear, but that shouldn’t stop you from travelling by air. While there are numerous ways to help calm those nerves, choosing a carrier that is renowned for its safety and lack of incidents can make all the difference.

Each year, Airline Ratings releases a list of the top 20 safest airlines in the world. To determine this list, the site monitors and analyses over 400 airlines, taking into account information and audits from the world’s aviation governing body, lead associations and the government as well as the airline’s fatality and crash record. The operational history, incident records and operational excellence of each airline is also reviewed to determine its safety rating.

Assessments of safety are rated out of seven stars.

  1. Being airline IOSA (International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit) certified (two stars)
  2. Not being on the European Union Blacklist (one star)
  3. Being fatality free for the past ten years (one star)
  4. Being FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) endorsed (one star)
  5. Originating from a country that meets all eigt ICAO safety parameters (International Civil Aviation Organization) (two stars)

No stars are awarded if the airline does not completely meet that criteria. Stars are also docked if the airline’s fleet has been grounded by the country’s governing aviation safety authority over safety concerns in the past five years or if the airline only operates Russian-built aircrafts.

These are the airlines that scored the highest this year. While this list is in alphabetical order, Australians will be happy to hear that the top-scoring carrier was Qantas, which continues to maintain its standard of excellence and incident-free track record.

World’s safest airlines (in alphabetical order, aside from Qantas who came on top)

According to Airline Ratings, Qantas was a standout among the pack in terms of safety. The others are placed in alphabetical order and not winning order as the differences between them were not significant enough to warrant a winning order.

  1. Qantas
  2. Air New Zealand
  3. Alaska Airlines
  4. ANA All Nippon Airlines
  5. American Airlines
  6. Cathay Pacific Airways
  7. Emirates
  8. Etihad Airways
  9. EVA Air
  10. Finnair
  1. Hawaiian Airlines
  2. Japan Airlines
  3. KLM
  4. Lufthansa
  5. Scandinavian Airline System
  6. Singapore Airlines
  7. Swiss
  8. United Airlines
  9. Virgin Atlantic
  10. Virgin Australia

How does this list stack up against fatalities?

Qantas isn't the online airline to be incident-free when it comes to fatalities – though it probably gets that reputation from the movie Rain Man. The majority of airlines on this list have been incident-free since 1970, including Emirates, Etihad, EVA Air, Finnair, Hawaiian Airlines, Swiss, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia – not to mention all of the low-cost carriers that are mentioned below.

Of the rest, this is what the number of fatal incidents looks like. Beside each is the year of that carrier's last fatal incident.

Safest Airline Infographic

How does the World's Safest Airline list compare to the list of top ten best airlines?

Each year, Skytrax releases a list of its top-rated airlines based on an annual customer satisfaction survey. Unsurprisingly, many of the top-rated airlines also appear on the list of the world’s safest airlines, including Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, ANA All Nippon Airways, Qantas Airways and EVA Air.

The only carriers on the list of best airlines that were not included in the top 20 safety list were Turkish Airlines and Garuda Indonesia. Airline Ratings gave Turkish Airlines a safety rating of 6/7 due to a fatality in 2009. Garuda Indonesia received a rating of 3/7 due to a fatality in 2007, for not being FAA endorsed and for not meeting any of the ICAO safety parameters.

World’s safest low-cost airlines 2016 (in alphabetical order)

Alongside its list of safest airlines, Airline Ratings also announced a list of its top low-cost carriers for flyers on a budget. Jetstar Australia (and Jetstar Asia) made the list with seven stars.

Here are the top ten:

  1. Aer Lingus
  2. Flybe
  3. HK Express
  4. Jetblue
  5. Jetstar Australia
  1. Thomas Cook
  2. TUI Fly
  3. Virgin America
  4. Volaris
  5. Westjet

The ten airlines ranked lowest for safety (in alphabetical order)

These airlines received only one star for safety by Airline Ratings.

  1. Batik Air
  2. Bluewing Airlines
  3. Citilink
  4. Kal-Star Aviation
  5. Lion Air
  1. Sriwijaya Air
  2. TransNusa
  3. Trigana Air Service
  4. Wings Air
  5. Xpress Air

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Stephanie Yip

Stephanie is the travel editor at On top of being an avid traveller, she's an all-round bargain hunter. If there's a deal on hotels or a sale on flights, she'll know about it. And she'll let you know about it, too. Though probably not before she buys her own ticket.

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    LuizSeptember 30, 2016

    What means “The only carriers on the list of best airlines that were not included in the top 20 safety list were Turkish Airlines and Garuda Indonesia. Airline Ratings gave Turkish Airlines a safety rating of 6/7 due to a fatality in 2009. Garuda Indonesia received a rating of 3/7 due to a fatality in 2007, for not being FAA endorsed and for not meeting any of the ICAO safety parameters.” I´ll travel by Garuda into Indonésia. I can stay relax?

    • finder Customer Care
      StephanieOctober 3, 2016Staff

      Hi Luiz,

      Thanks for your question.

      Garuda Indonesia is a 5-star airline and is often ranked highly on Skytrax’s best airlines list. Its safety rating with Skytrax is due to a fatality in 2007, however it has not had any fatal incident since then.

      Both the FAA endorsement and the ICAO safety parameters are assessed by governing bodies in the USA and are based on the ability of an airline to meet international standards for operations and aircraft. You can find out more about FAA here and the ICAO here.

      I hope that helps,


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