The world’s safest airlines for 2021

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

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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 many ways to help calm your 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 385 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 are also reviewed to determine its safety rating.

Qantas airplanes on tarmac.

Top 20 safest airlines in the world

The top 20 safest airline standouts in the industry and are at the forefront of safety, innovation and launching of new planes.

  1. Qantas
  2. Qatar Airways
  3. Air New Zealand
  4. Singapore Airlines
  5. Emirates
  6. EVA Air
  7. Etihad Airways
  8. Alaska Airlines
  9. Cathay Pacific
  10. British Airways
  1. Virgin Australia/Virgin Atlantic
  2. Hawaiian Airlines
  3. Southwest Airlines
  4. Delta Air Lines
  5. American Airlines
  6. SAS
  7. Finnair
  8. Lufthansa
  9. KLM
  10. United Airlines

In 2021, Qantas reigned as the lead airline, commended for its exceptional track record in operation and safety over its 100 year history.

It was pulled out as being a leader in the development of Future Air Navigation System. This allows for real-time monitoring of all of its fleet's engines and the performance of its planes and crew members. By using the Global Navigation Satellite System, it's also able to perform automatic landings and precisely navigate around obstacles such as mountains for added safety.

This isn't the first time Qantas has won the accolade. In 2020 it also took out the number one spot with editor-in-chief Geoffrey Thomas saying: "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."

Where many American airlines dropped off the list last year, in 2021 they've made a strong return with Alaska Airlines, Delta, American Airlines and United Airlines all rounding out the top 20.

Airlines that have dropped off in 2021 include Royal Jordanian, Swiss and Aer Lingus.

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How are the world's safest airlines determined?

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 eight ICAO safety parameters (International Civil Aviation Organization) (two stars)

No stars are awarded if the airline does not completely meet those 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 aircraft.

How does this list stack up against fatalities?

Qantas isn't the only 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, EVA Air, Finnair, Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia, not to mention 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.

How does the World's Safest Airline list compare to the list of top 10 best airlines?

Each year, Skytrax releases a list of its top-rated airlines based on an annual customer satisfaction survey. The last list was released in 2019, as 2020 was skipped due to the pandemic.

Unsurprisingly, many of the top-rated airlines also appear on the list of the world’s safest airlines, including Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Cathay Pacific and EVA Air.

World's safest low-cost airlines 2021 (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, which was last on the list in 2019, has since returned.

Here are the top 10:

  1. Air Arabia
  2. Allegiant
  3. easyjet
  4. Frontier
  5. Jetstar Group
  6. JetBlue
  7. Ryanair
  8. Vietjet
  9. Westjet
  10. Wizz Air

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2 Responses

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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?

      Avatarfinder 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 and the ICAO by visiting their websites.

      I hope that helps,


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