Flying is no joke. Sure, everything seems so casual, and the industry does everything it can to make us feel like hurtling through the stratosphere in an aluminum tube at 500 miles per hour is just another day at the office. It’s not. It takes a lot of moving parts, including people, to get that one aircraft and all its passengers safely from point A to point B. Even if the tiniest thing goes wrong, disaster can strike.
Which is why you need to research your flight options before you buy your ticket. I used to take the cheapest flight available. Then, on one flight from Kiev to Toronto, while aboard a Boeing owned by a company that has since gone out of business, several screws fell out of the ceiling onto my lap. When air started sucking out of a loose seam around my window, I really started to panic. The Ukrainian flight stewardess couldn’t care less, so I just decided to become religious and hope we reached Toronto soon.
Since then, I only fly on trusted airlines. You should, too. You might save a hundred, or even two hundred, dollars. How much is your life worth to you, really? Use this handy list to help you book your next flight.
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20 Fly With Japan Airlines
Japan Airlines is one of the safest airlines in the world, having only one catastrophic accident in its history. That was when Flight 123 flew face-first into a mountain back in 1985, taking 520 passengers with it. The company has since fired all of its kamikaze pilots and passengers can expect a relatively comfortable flight. I’ve flown JAL several times and was once even upgraded to first class (the only time in my traveling career), so I have a soft spot for them. According to airlinerratings.com, JAL has a 7.2 out of 10 rating, making them one of the top 10 safest in the world!
19 Avoid Cubana
Cubana Airlines is considered one of the most accident-prone airlines in the world, with an accident rating 60 times higher than British Airways! Cubana is Cuba’s national airline, wholly owned by the Communist government. It was founded in 1930 as a subsidiary of Pan-Am Airlines, but after Castro’s takeover, it was nationalized. Today it is known as “Crashbana” by Cubans and Mexicans. In 2018 it had a catastrophic crash with 107 fatalities, which came only a year after another crash, which was eight months after another crash. If you must go to Cuba, fly on Air Canada.
18 Fly With Eva Air
Eva Air is a Taiwanese airline launched in 1989. They have one of the best safety records of all the Asian airlines, and to date has not had a single aircraft incident or passenger fatality.If you’re flying Eva Air you can rest assured that you’re in good hands. I’ve never flown Eva, but passenger reviews online tell a story of friendly, professional treatment, comfortable flights and average (aka edible) food.If you’re heading anywhere in Asia, try Eva Air. At the very least you’ll get there alive.
17 Avoid China Air
China Airlines is the largest air carrier in China and is partially government owned. If you’re heading to China, chances are you’ll end up booked on a China Air flight. They fly to more than a hundred cities around the world, and is considered the 10th largest airline in the world! China Air also has one of the worst safety records of all the major airlines, with more than 30 catastrophic crashes and hundreds of minor accidents. Most of their pilots are well-trained and come from a military background, but it seems that the aircraft themselves are not well maintained, and the company tends to skimp on spending the money necessary to keep their fleet safe.
16 Fly With Singapore Airlines
Asian-based airlines seem to have a fantastic safety record. Eva, Cathay Pacific, and Singapore Airlines are all represented in the top 10 safest airlines in the world.Singapore Airlines isn’t without incidents, however. In 1991 Pakistani militants hijacked Flight 117, until Singapore Special Forces stormed the aircraft and freed all the passengers while dispatching all the terrorists. In 2000, Flight 006 took off from the wrong runway in Taiwan and crashed into some construction equipment, and 86 people lost their lives. There haven’t been any other fatalities in the airline's history and they’ve had an accident-free 18 years!
15 Avoid Philippine Airlines
Philippine Airlines is the flag carrier of The Philippines and is also one of the safest Filipino-operated airlines.Unfortunately, they aren’t the safest in the world, with a string of accidents, most of them minor. Philippine Airlines flights have also been targeted by terrorists in the past, with al-Qaeda blowing up an airliner in 2007, and local extremists knocking down local propeller-driven craft now and again. For the most part, you’ll survive your flight with these guys, but they still remain accident-prone. Engines seize up mid-flight, landing gear doesn’t retract, planes fall off the runway...you know, minor stuff.
14 Fly With Emirates
Emirates has a decent safety record. They’ve never had a fatality on any of their flights, although they have had several mishaps on takeoff and landing.In 2004, and again in 2009, Emirates flights ran out of runway and plowed through landing lights and fences. Nobody was hurt, but come on, really?In both cases, the investigators blamed the pilots for not lifting off and blamed Emirates for not giving the pilots enough rest between flights.The odds of such an exciting start to your travels are rare, so instead sit back and enjoy Emirates world-famous comfort and service.
13 Avoid Egyptair
Egyptair is Egypt’s national airline, with flights to nearly a hundred countries around the world. It’s also rated by Skytrax as one of the ten least safe airlines. Even if you discount the company’s disasters, such as Flight 804 flying into the Mediterranean in 2016, or Flight 990 flying head-first into the Atlantic in the 90s, you still have an airline with a long history of mishaps. In 2016 a plan caught fire while sitting on the runway. Another’s engine fell off during takeoff. There have been multiple hijackings of Egyptair flights in recent years, which makes for an uncomfortable vacation.
12 Fly With Lufthansa
Lufthansa was founded in the 1920s and then regrown after World War II and is one of the largest airlines in the world today. You can catch a Lufthansa flight to pretty much anywhere in Europe, and rest confident that you’ll actually get there alive. The airline isn’t without incidents, however.Between 1959 and1993, Lufthansa had several major accidents resulting in fatalities. The past 25 years have been very safe, with no fatalities and very few accidents. Although they are expensive, you’re getting what you pay for when you choose to fly with Lufthansa.
11 Avoid Jetstar Pacific
Jetstar Pacific is a budget-airline out of Vietnam. Officially called “Jetstar PacificAirliesJoint Stock Aviation Company” (that’s a mouthful), this airline is near the bottom of Skytrax’s annual airline safety list. According to aeroinside.com, which tracks airline incidents, Jetstar Pacific has had numerous safety incidents including tail strikes on takeoff (when the plane rotates the nose up to takeoff, the pilot is supposed to lift the plane off the ground or the tail will smash into the runway, known as a tail strike). Other reports include landing gear malfunctions, noxious fumes in the cabin, and failure to pass a safety inspection at an Australian airport.
10 Fly With Cathay Pacific
Cathay Pacific was one of the most luxurious airlines in the world at one point, winning the coveted “best airline” year after year. It has since fallen from the top spot, replaced by newcomers such as Qatar Airlines and Emirates. Cathay Pacific still holds on to its stellar safety record, however. Hong Kong’s flag carrier reaches destinations around the world, and its last disaster was in 1972 when a bomb took down a flight, which can’t really be held against the company. Their airplanes are known to be well-maintained and crewed by professionals, and their customer service is the best in all of Asia!
9 Avoid Thai Airways
Thailand’s national carrier has had a tough run as a world-class airline. They try really, really hard to be safe, but bad things just keep happening. In 2001 an entire wing blew up thanks to a fuel leak, resulting in one death on board. In 2009 a flight crash-landed on a runway, while another plane dove into a rice paddy in 1998, killing everyone on board. For the most part, Thai Airways is safe, as they’ve had very few fatalities. It’s just that things keep blowing up or falling off their airplanes, which shows a lack of maintenance and, as is usually the case with airlines from the developing world, corporate corruption which stops new parts and aircraft from reaching the fleet.
8 Fly With Air Canada
Air Canada has a proud and long history as one of the safest airlines in the world. Canada’s flag carrier was founded in 1937 and has never had a single fatality in all that time. They have flights to 207 cities around the world, making them one of the top 10 largest airlines and one of the top five oldest. They’ve had the odd mishap, like in 2017 when the pilot accidentally turned off his radio while coming into San Francisco International Airport and landed on a runway full of taxiing airplanes. This was the most serious incident in the airlines, history, and nobody was hurt. The pilot was suspended and the airline launched a full investigation. Air Canada flights are modern, well-maintained, and professional.
7 Avoid Air India
Air India is an Indian government-owned airline founded in 1932. It has a dubious safety record, with a habit of exploding in mid-air. Thankfully modern security screening has drastically reduced airline bombings around the world, but that doesn’t stop things like Air India flights randomly catching fire, or skidding off the runway, or simply driving into parked airplanes at the terminal loading docks. Skytrax rates Air India as one of the least safe airlines due to a lot of negligence-caused accidents on the part of pilots, aircrew, and ground maintenance.
6 Fly British Airways
British Airways was founded in 1974 by a government commission and has since grown to become the largest carrier in the UK. British Airways is one of the safest airlines in the world and hasn’t lost a passenger since 1976 when Flight 476 collided with another aircraft on takeoff, hurting 63 people on board.This is the only time British Airways has had fatalities. Their pilots and crew are top-notch, and thanks to their fantastic skills several notable disasters have been avoided, like when Flight 900 flew through a volcanic ash cloud and the pilots glided the aircraft to a safe landing, or the time a windshield blew out and the pilot was sucked out of the aircraft, but hung on while the co-pilot landed the plane safely. Nobody was hurt!
5 Avoid Malaysian Air
Malaysian Airlines has had a bad decade. Several large airline disasters have captured the world’s media attention, including the disappearance of Flight 370 in 2014. What seems like such a shock to the world was no surprise to airline safety agencies and industry watchdogs, such as airlinereviews.com. Malaysian Airlines has a history of minor crashes, unsafe maintenance, corporate corruption and half-trained pilots and aircrew. When several planes went down more recently, it was a culmination of a bad corporate culture that resulted in one of the most unsafe airlines in the world.
4 Fly Finnair
Finland’s largest airline and flag carrier has an impeccable safety record.They haven’t had a fatality since 1963, and have had few mishaps and accidents than any other airline in the world since then. There were a couple of hijackings and attempts at bombing a Finnair airline, but these were all dealt with efficiently by authorities and passengers and crew were unharmed. Finnair keeps a fleet of modern, well-maintained aircraft crewed by excellent pilots and professional flight attendants. If you’re flying anywhere in Europe, you can’t go wrong with Finnair!
3 Avoid Pakistan International Airlines
Pakistan's flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines, is one of the most messed-up airlines in the world. The airline has a near-zero rating fromairlinereviews.com and is in the top 10 least-safe airlines in the Skytrax annual review. The airline has suffered many crashes resulting in fatalities every single year since they were founded in 1947, and when they’re not crashing or blowing up mid-air, they have a long list of minor accidents caused by pilot negligence and lack of ground maintenance.
2 Fly Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand was rated as the safest airline in the world by Skytrax for 2017, the third year in a row they won this prestigious, and important, award. This is New Zealand’s flag carrier and they have flights to destinations mostly in Asia, but also to the UK, US, Australia, and Canada. The only incident they’ve had is when a flight carrying pilots, technicians, and a safety inspector crashed into the ocean in 2008. Otherwise, Air New Zealand has never lost a civilian passenger, joining the ranks of Air Canada for the safest airline. With fewer accidents, crashes, and deaths than any other airline, you can put your chair back and rest easy when you’re traveling on Air New Zealand!
1 Never Fly Aeroflot or Any Russian Airline
Russian airlines lead the world in crashes and fatalities. The only air disasters in the past ten years that stole the headlines from missing Malaysian Air flights were catastrophic Russian crashes which wiped out the Polish government, a hockey team, and hundreds of vacationers to Egypt. Aeroflot is Russia’s flag carrier, and it has an ominous record as the airline with the most crashes in the world. Today Aeroflot is modern and safe and hasn’t had a major incident since 2008, but the list of other Russian airlines, including S7 and Siberian Air and Nordstar, with huge crashes, is too hard to ignore. If you’re flying in or out of Russia, take Finnair.