What makes a safe airline?

January 03, 2018
An Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9.

There are many factors that go into making a safe airline – some that can be measured and some that cannot.

AirlineRatings.com was launched in 2013 to bring together all the elements that can be counted to give passengers for the first time a truly objective guide to which airlines are the safest.

See AirlineRatings.com unique safety tool 

The safety rating for each airline is based on a comprehensive analysis utilizing information from the world’s aviation governing body and leading association along with governments and crash data.

Each airline has the potential to earn seven stars.

There are two major audits that each attracts two stars.

The first is the International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) which is an internationally recognized and accepted evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline.

IOSA uses over 1000 audit parameters and airlines are re-evaluated every two years.

And airline must pass IOSA to belong to IATA, the leading industry association.

Virgin Australia is a top twenty safest airline
Virgin Australia is a Top Twenty Safest Airline for 2018

The other major audit is conducted by the governing body of aviation, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

This audit covers a country’s infrastructure and regulation that supports its airline system.

The eight ICAO audit parameters that pertain to safety are; Legislation, Organization, Licensing, Operations, Airworthiness, Accident Investigation, Air Navigation Service and Aerodromes.

If a country exceeds the average compliance of all eight ICAO safety parameters, its airlines get two stars.

However, if one criterion is below the average by less than 15 percent it is considered a pass.

If 5 to 7 of the criteria are met one star is awarded. If the country only meets up to four criteria no star is given.

The ICAO audit is a barometer of the state of a country’s oversight of its airline system, something critical for maintaining safety.

Airlines gain a star if they are not on the EU Blacklist.

The EU developed a banned list after concerns about a number of airlines.

Likewise, the US also has a banned list which relates to countries and a star is added if the airline’s country is approved.

A star is also added if the airline has maintained a fatality-free record for the prior 10 years.

AirlineRatings.com does not include incidents in its rating system, because not all countries report them and incidents happen to all airlines every day.

Most are minor in nature and it is the way pilots handle an incident that is critical.

Separately, in making its assessment of the Top Twenty safest airlines, AirlineRatings.com conducts additional audits that include areas such as an airline’s fleet age. Typically, only those airlines with an average fleet age of 10 years and under are considered.