With all of the advancements in air travel that have taken place since the Wright Brothers first got their wheels off the ground in 1903, airlines have become much more than fleets of planes that simply get customers from Point A to Point B. Travelers consider a number of factors when choosing an airline—these factors include comfort, cuisine, entertainment, and much more. Some airlines even provide live comedy, seats that recline to become beds, and, once upon a time, Hooters girls.
In the end, however, an airline’s primary job is to get its customers from Point A to Point B as smoothly as possible. Despite all of the amenities available on today’s aircrafts, we can probably assume that virtually all travelers would prefer a flight on which he or she feels safe to one on which there is a wide selection of movies to watch.
Though flying remains among the safest ways to travel, airplanes are still not a flawless mode of transportation. In 2014 alone, air travel accounted for 21 fatal accidents and 986 total fatalities. Those numbers are above-average for the past 10 years.
What should be considered, of course, is that air travel is at an all-time high—a record 3.3 billion passengers flew on the world’s airlines last year, taking a total of 27 million flights.
Despite what may look like high accident numbers, the safety of air travel has in fact risen greatly over the past half-century. In 1964, the world’s airlines carried just 141 million passengers (less than five percent of 2014’s number), yet 87 flights crashed, resulting in 1,597 fatalities.
The air travel industry as a whole has clearly made great strides in safety, but certain airlines have been particularly impressive when it comes to avoiding accidents—here, we will discuss 10 of those ultra-safe airlines.
Headquartered in Vantaa with its main hub in Helsinki, Finnair is Finland’s national airline as well as the largest in the country. JACDEC, a source of aviation safety information, did not rank Finnair as one of its top 60 safest airlines, but the company has not suffered a major incident since the 1960s (there were fatal accidents in both 1961—the deadliest accident in Finnish aviation history with 25 fatalities—and 1963).
Founded in 1923, Finnair is now the world’s fifth-oldest airline still in operation. Its fleet size—which includes Nordic Regional Airlines, of which Finnair is a majority owner—now sits at 71, and the airline takes passengers to 88 destinations worldwide. Finnair has personal entertainment systems with LCD monitors on the majority of their aircrafts, and it recently installed an “Economy Comfort” option—the first five rows in economy class have additional seat space and comfier headrests, and passengers receive noise-canceling headphones and a “comfort kit.”
9. Singapore Airlines
With its main hub located at Changi Airport, Singapore Airlines operates out of what U.K. airline/airport ranking site Skytrax named the best airport in the world. The airline is well-known for its high-quality, efficient service, but it has also become known as one of the world’s safest airlines, checking in on JACDEC’s safest airlines list at No. 29. Singapore Airlines has been accident-free since 2000, when a flight leaving Taiwan went down the wrong runway and hit construction equipment, killing 83 of the 179 passengers on board.
As for the aforementioned high-quality service, Singapore Airlines offers its passengers a travel kit—which includes a pillow, blanket, and toothbrush, among other useful freebees. Once boarded, passengers are offered free food and alcoholic beverages.
Singapore Airlines was recently Business Insider’s pick for best airline in the world.
8. British Airways
The flag carrier airline of the United Kingdom, British Airways services a great deal of passengers and takes them to a large number of locations—40 million passengers per year and 179 destinations. It has a large fleet size of 295 and serves the third-most countries (78) of any airline in the world.
In addition to its extensive service, British Airways has been extremely reliable from a safety standpoint since its inception in 1974. The airline’s only fatal accident came in 1976, when one of its aircrafts collided mid-air with an Inex-Adria Airways (now Adria Airways) plane, killing all 63 passengers on the British Airways flight.
Given British Airways’ record of safety over the past several decades, however, the airline now ranks No. 14 on JACDEC’s safest airlines list.
Perhaps known best by many Americans for its role in a major plot point of the Martin Scorsese classic GoodFellas, Lufthansa is actually quite the impressive airline. It ranks seventh, globally, in fleet size with a fleet of 401, and it ranks second in countries served with 83.
As far as safety, Lufthansa is among the best. It ranks 12th in JACDEC’s safest airline rankings and has not suffered a fatal accident since 1993, when one of its planes overran a runway in Warsaw, resulting in the death of the co-pilot and one passenger. Prior to that incident, the most recent fatal accident occurred in 1979.
Lufthansa was named one of the best long-haul airlines in the world by AirlineRankings.com. It also has a number of subsidiaries, such as Australian Airlines and Swiss International Air Lines.
6. Etihad Airways
Known globally thanks to its sponsorship deal with Premier League football club Manchester City, Etihad Airways is somewhat in its baby stage relative to many of the other airlines on this list. Founded in 2003, the airline has already burst onto the scene by excelling in a number of different areas. Not only did AirlineRankings.com name Etihad as one of the best long-haul airlines, but the site also deemed it to have the best first class offerings in the world. Even in economy class, passengers receive a full meal and have three options to choose from.
Of course, the focus of this piece is safety, which Etihad excels in, as well. The sample size is small compared to an airline like Finnair, but Etihad has a perfect safety record since its 2003 inception. It ranks 10th in JACDEC’s airline safety rankings.
5. Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand was not only named Best Economy Class by AirlineRankings.com, but it was also named Airline of the Year at the end of 2014. A number of factors went into that honorable distinction, and safety, of course, was one of them.
JACDEC ranked Air New Zealand at No. 6 in its airline safety rankings. Passengers of Air New Zealand haven’t suffered so much as an injury since 1979, when a sightseeing flight crashed into Mount Erebus—the second-highest volcano in Antarctica—killing all 257 passengers.
Air New Zealand is also known for its exceptional customer service, and its in-flight entertainment includes personal touch-screen TVs that feature on-demand movies, music, and more.
4. EVA Air
With its hub in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei, EVA Air has become a safe, luxurious, and unique airline since forming in 1989. In fact, the airline hasn’t lost an aircraft or suffered a passenger fatality since its inception. It comes in at No. 3 in JACDEC’s airline safety rankings and was named one of the top long-haul airlines by AirlineRankings.com.
The airline’s dark green-based color scheme is meant to represent the durability of its aircrafts, and the airline even has a number of aircrafts designed with Hello Kitty liveries.
A subsidiary of Taiwan-based conglomerate Evergreen Group, EVA Air has a fleet size of 67 and serves to 74 destinations worldwide.
In October 2014, EVA Air announced its plans to expand into North America.
A subsidiary of The Emirates Group, Emirates is a government-owned company. It is the largest airline in the Middle East, ranking third globally in distance flown by scheduled passengers and seventh in countries served with 70.
In regard to safety, Emirates has not suffered so much as an injury since its inception in 1985. The airline did encounter two incidents during which pilots struggled with takeoff, resulting in notable damage to the aircrafts, but the staff and passengers were fortunate to walk away without having suffered any physical harm.
Emirates has one of the world’s fastest-growing fleets, which now sits at 221. The airline was a pioneer of sorts when it came to entertaining its passengers, as all seats on the airline were fitted with in-flight entertainment by 1993. Emirates continues to lead the way in that category, as AirlineRankings.com ranked the airline’s in-flight entertainment as the best in the world. AirlineRankings.com also gave Emirates a perfect seven-star ranking for both safety and product.
2. Cathay Pacific
With both its headquarters and main hub in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific is the largest airline in the city. It has a fleet size of 178 (including subsidiary Dragonair) and serves 177 destinations worldwide.
Since 1972—when a bomb went off in a Cathay Pacific flight, killing all 81 passengers on board—the only incident the airline has endured came in 2010, when the engines of an aircraft failed due to contaminated fuel. Fifty-seven passengers were injured, but there were no fatalities, and the outcome could have been much worse had the pilots not performed exceptionally under the intense pressure. The two pilots were awarded for their heroic efforts with the Polaris Award, the highest civil aviation honor that a pilot can receive.
Cathay Pacific is JACDEC’s No. 1 airline in terms of safety.
AirlineRankings.com deemed Cathay Pacific’s business class to be the best in the world, and the website also gave it a full seven stars for both safety and product.
1. Qantas Airways Limited
Though it only checks in at No. 7 in JACDEC’s airline safety rankings, Qantas was recently named the safest airline in the world by AirlineRankings.com. It has had a few incidents over the past couple of decades, but the airline has not suffered a fatality since 1951. It has a young 117-plane fleet (the largest in Australia) that averages just 7.9 years.
Founded in 1920, Qantas is the world’s third-oldest airline still in operation and is second-oldest in terms of years in service.
Australia’s flag carrier airline, Qantas’ primary hubs are found in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney. Though it only serves to 42 destinations (not a huge number relative to this list), it is a popular airline for Americans traveling to and from Australia, as it provides nonstop flights out of Los Angeles and even has a Qantas lounge there.
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