Rating airlines is tricky business. Many travel magazines fall i a convenience trap where they rate everything they notice when they take a trip with a particular airline, such as service and punctuality, possibly a ridiculously low fare, and not much more. Service in this context is twofold, how people treat you and how they stuff you. An airline employee, on ground (if they are employed by the airline and not by the airport) or in the air holds enormous power over the average passenger and a travel magazine reporter alike. Competent, courteous, kind – and smiling – grants returning customers and good ratings. Good food and drink does too. One airline, that has achieved worldwide fame because of dedicated focus on excellent catering, is Turkish Airlines, previously (hardly) known as Turk Hava Yollari. On the crew issue some (clever) airliner managers try to keep them happy = smiling. Some don’t. All in all, what you see (the reporter) is what you get (the rating) and the magazines publish what they consider is all the public need to know: The worlds top 20 best airlines.
‘Nice to know’ and ‘need to know’ are not necessarily the same thing. All of the above falls under the category ‘nice to know’. What passengers ‘need to know’ is what a totally different rating system reveals. IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO) and Safety Assessment for Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) has together with Australia-based AirlineRatings.com developed a rating of the worlds top 20 safest airlines, i.e. what you really need to know. The selection is out of o pool of over 400 airlines worldwide. The rating is based on compliance with international regulators, the age of the aircraft fleet, fatality record over the last 10 years, results from IATA’s safety audits, whether country of origin conforms with IATA’s safety parameters and level of renovation of fleet and and upgrade of staff/pilot training.
There you go. Need to know to vote with your feet and not your wallet. Enjoy the list below. In alphabetic order!
Air New Zealand, Alaska Airlines, All Nippon Airways, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airways, Eva Air, Finnair, Hawaiian Airlines, Japan Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, Qantas, Royal Jordanian, Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Swiss Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.
What we see is a number of regular European airlines – not low-cost airlines, some ‘down unders’, some large Asian airlines, a few stylish Middle East ones and two US airlines. Needless to say, an airline not being among the top twenty does not mean that airline is unsafe. A longer list might have included it. Scandinavian travelers might enjoy the fact that, out of the two largest airlines, the flag carrier, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), is on this list.