Just three airline crashes in 2019 cost the life of at least one passenger. Dominating that short list was the March crash just minutes after takeoff of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max that killed 157 passengers and crew. That crash followed an October 2018 crash of a Lion Air 737 Max near Jakarta, Indonesia, that killed 189 passengers and crew.
A May crash in Moscow killed 41 passengers and crew, while a December crash in Almaty, Kazakhstan, killed at least 17 passengers and crew. According to AirSafe.com, five of 14 other incidents during the year caused fatalities, but the incidents did not involve commercial flights on large commercial jets. In 2018, there were eight fatal events, compared to just three last year.
While the fatal crashes receive the most attention (as they should), when the billions of people who fly tens of billions of miles on millions of commercial flights are toted up, flying is remarkably safe.
AirlineRatings.com on Thursday released its list of the world’s 20 safest airlines for 2020. Numerical scores are not published, but the following list was provided in numerical order: Qantas, Air New Zealand, EVA Air, Etihad, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Alaska Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Virgin Australia, Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic Airlines, TAP Portugal, SAS, Royal Jordanian, Swiss, Finnair, Lufthansa, Aer Lingus and KLM.
Only one U.S. airline, Alaska Airlines, makes the top 10. Hawaiian Airlines was ranked 11th. Four other U.S. carriers earned seven of seven possible stars in the AirlineRatings ranking: American, United, Delta and JetBlue.
Low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Airlines earned four stars and Southwest earned three. These three were knocked down because they are not audited by the International Air Traffic Association (IATA) (that costs each three stars). Southwest experienced a 2018 crash near Philadelphia in which one passenger died. A fatal crash in the past 10 years costs an airline one star.
AirlineRatings also ranks the top 10 low-cost carriers, including two U.S. carriers, as so: Air Arabia, Flybe, Frontier, HK Express, IndiGo, JetBlue, Volaris, Vueling, Westjet and Wizz. While they are among the safest, the cost of flying with some of them varies significantly — these are the budget airlines that cost as much as traditional ones.
According to the IATA’s most recent review, the world’s airlines flew 4.4 billion passengers safely on 46.1 million flights in 2018. The organization notes that “on average a passenger could take a flight every day for 16,581 years before experiencing a fatal accident in which all on board perish.”