The World’s Safest Airline 2020 Awards relatively means very little
Jan 19: A list of the World's safest airlines in 2020 was recently published by AirlineRatings.com. I didn't even need to look to know who would be at the top of the list. Qantas. Granted, they do a fantastic job at keeping their passengers safe as do all the airlines in the top 10, but this doesn't make them any safer to fly on than any of the airlines in, perhaps, the top 30.
The way the list is often calculated means that Qantas is one of the few major airlines operating to have never had a fatal accident. An impressive feat considering in some variation the airline has been operating for nearly 100 years.
Qantas Celebrates Arrival Of London To Sydney Direct Fight And Centenary
Qantas have however had several non-fatal incidents, some more concerning than others, and certain instances largely out of their control.
Not to belittle Qantas being a very safe airline but they have had some significant incidents in recent years, from runway excursions of aircraft including QF1, a Boeing 747 that aquaplaned off the runway at Bangkok's Don Mueang airport in 1999 to one of the most memorable incidents on QF32 which suffered an uncontained engine failure in 2010. The Airbus A380 was a relatively new aircraft in the skies at the time and although the issue was attributed to Rolls Royce and the Trent engines, and there were no injuries due to the skill of the pilots, it serves as a stark reminder about how incidents do occur, and much of the time these are outside or airlines control.
This being said, Qantas is not alone. The sheer volume of flights around the world means that incidents are inevitable, but pilot training can largely prevent them from being fatal. Almost every major airline has had incidents during the last 20 years that have made headlines, from an Emirates 777 crash landing at Dubai International Airport to a passenger getting sucked out of a Southwest flight after an uncontained engine failure. However, considering the literally thousands of daily flights each of these airlines operate, the risk of a fatal crash is, as the common saying goes, a fraction of that when traveling by car.
Although fleet age plays a key factor in the rankings, many U.S. airlines have an average fleet age of over 20 years old per aircraft. Aviation analysts would not correlate that to a U.S. airline being any less safe to fly than an Asian carrier for example, who have some of the youngest fleets in the sky.
Essentially, almost all of the worlds major airlines operate to certain safety standards and all have fantastic engineering teams, that largely make any of these airlines as equally safe as each other. The way that the stats are tallied certainly does a huge injustice to many top 30 airlines, which are likely not any more dangerous to fly on than those in the top 10.
As an example, let's look at Malaysia Airlines. Malaysia Airlines was a fantastic airline, which offered exceptional service and had a great safety record. There had never been a fatal crash of a Boeing 777 until the mysterious disappearance of MH370 in March 2014. The location and cause of the crash are still to this day unknown, but without going into conspiracy theories, one of the safest aircraft ever made does not just disappear from the sky without a trace. Then, with Malaysia Airlines' reputation already struggling, flight MH17 which was also a Boeing 777 was shot out of the sky killing everyone onboard months later. -Forbes