The world's safest – and least safe – airlines

Oliver Smith
Singapore Airlines is rated as one of the world's safest - CHRIS@CHRISSISARICH.COM

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are among the 20 safest airlines on Earth, according to an annual ranking of the world’s biggest carriers.

The website assessed 409 major airlines this year before delivering its verdict, taking into account previous incidents, the average age of their fleets, and audits from governments and the aviation industry’s regulatory bodies.

For the last four years (2014-2017) it singled out Qantas as the world’s safest airline, ahead of a chasing pack of 19 rivals, but for 2018 it listed the Australian flag carrier alongside the rest of the top 20.

BA and Virgin are the only UK airlines at the top table; others include Singapore Airlines, voted the world’s best long-haul airline by Telegraph Travel readers, Swiss, your favourite short-haul airline, as well as Air New Zealand, Emirates, Etihad, KLM and Lufthansa.

Just two US airlines were included in the top 20. Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian remain, but Delta and United, both of which appeared last year, have been dropped in favour of Emirates and Royal Jordanian.

The 20 safest airlines (in alphabetical order)

  1. Air New Zealand
  2. Alaska Airlines

  3. All Nippon Airways

  4. British Airways

  5. Cathay Pacific Airways


Etihad Airways



Hawaiian Airlines

Japan Airlines




Royal Jordanian Airlines

Scandinavian Airline System

Singapore Airlines


Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Australia

“Our top 20 safest airlines are always at the forefront of safety innovation, operational excellence and the launching of new more advanced aircraft like the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787,” said Geoffrey Thomas,’s editor-in-chief.

“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. But Qantas is not alone. Long established airlines such as Hawaiian and Finnair also have perfect records in the jet era.”

Qantas has not had a fatality in the jet era

The website also identified what it claims are the 10 safest low-cost airlines. Aer Lingus, Flybe and Thomas Cook made the cut, but there was no room for the likes of Ryanair and easyJet.

“Unlike a number of low-cost carriers, these airlines have all passed the stringent International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and have excellent safety records,” Thomas explained. isn’t the only organisation to rate carriers according to safety. Germany’s Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre (JACDEC) does likewise, and it is Emirates that currently takes the crown, ahead of Norwegian, Virgin Atlantic, KLM and EasyJet. Neither British Airways nor Ryanair feature in the top 20.

  1. Emirates
  2. Norwegian
  3. Virgin Atlantic
  4. KLM
  5. EasyJet
  6. Finnair
  7. Etihad
  8. Spirit Airlines
  9. Jetstar Airways
  10. Air Arabia
  11. Vueling
  12. Cathay Pacific
  13. El Al
  14. Singapore Airlines
  15. EVA Air
  16. Eurowings
  17. JetBlue Airways
  18. Capital Airlines
  19. Oman Air
  20. Air Canada

Which are the world’s least safe airlines? also announced its lowest ranked airlines for 2018. Air Koryo, North Korea’s flag carrier, Bluewing Airlines, based in Suriname, Indonesia’s Trigana Air Service, and four Nepalese carriers – Buddha Air, Nepal Airlines, Tara Air, and Yeti Airlines – were all awarded just a single star.

There are currently around 100 airlines – most of which you probably haven’t heard of – banned from EU airspace, or facing operational restrictions, as they don’t meet European safety standards. 

The airlines banned from flighting to the EU

  1. All airlines from the Democratic Republic of Congo (21 airlines)
  2. All airlines from Djibouti (1 airline)
  3. All airlines from Equatorial Guinea (2 airlines)
  4. All airlines from Eritrea (2 airlines)
  5. All airlines from Afghanistan (2 airlines)
  6. All airlines from Kyrgyzstan (13 airlines)
  7. All airlines from Liberia
  8. All airlines from Libya (7 airlines)
  9. All airlines from Angola, except Taag Angola Airlines (13 airlines)
  10. All airlines from Republic of Congo (8 airlines)
  11. All airlines from Gabon, except Afrijet and Nouvelle Air Affaires Gabon (6 airlines)
  12. All airlines from Nepal (18 airlines)
  13. All airlines from Sudan (12 airlines)
  14. All airlines from Sao Tome and Principe (2 airlines)
  15. All airlines from Sierra Leone (7 airlines)
  16. Blue Wing Airlines, Suriname
  17. Iran Aseman Airlines, Iran
  18. Iraqi Airways, Iraq
  19. Med-View Airline, Nigeria
  20. Air Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
  21. Avior Airlines, Venezuela

But fear not, flying has never been safer

As Telegraph Travel reported in January, 2017 was - by some distance - the safest year in aviation history. According to the ASN there were just 10 fatal accidents involving commercial flights last year, resulting in 44 deaths. This was down from 16 fatal accidents and 303 deaths in 2016. Furthermore, none of those fatalities involved a passenger jet.

Admittedly, 2018 has seen several high-profile crashes, but the general trend is clear - air travel has never been safer.