Passengers still nervous about their flight when the plane backs away from the gate can be reassured about two things.

First, 2019 was the one of the safest years for aviation and the number of crashes have dropped considerably within the last generation. And second, take comfort that some airlines are incredibly safe these days, Qantas chief among them.

Aussies on top again

Qantas has been on top of the AirlineRatings annual safety list since 2014, although in 2018, it had to share that distinction in 2018 with 19 other competitors. But the Aussie carrier bounced back in 2019 grabbing the top berth.

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Air New Zealand ranked second, followed by Taiwan-base EVA Air, with Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways Qatar Airways rounding out the top five. The only U.S. carrier to make the list was Alaska Airlines, rated seventh behind Singapore Airlines and Emirates. Rounding out the top 10 were Cathay Pacific and Virgin Australia.

Only one other American carrier, Hawaiian Airlines, managed to crack the top 20, finishing in 11th spot. Two other U.S. companies, American and Delta, fared poorly in the ratings, due to reports of pilots flying while intoxicated.

Extensive checklist

AirlineRatings picked Qantas over more than 400 other competitors, using an extensive checklist that included aviation association and government audits, number of crashes and other serious mishaps, aircraft age, company financial status and pilot education and experience. Even minor incidents aren't exempt from scrutiny.

The report is good news for those who made the list in what was the third safest year on record, otherwise marred by such incidents as the crash of a Boeing 737 Max in Ethiopia that killed 157 occupants. The mishap was one of 19 crashes reported, more than half of them in North America.

2017 still the safest year

According to the Aviation Safety Network, 2017 was the safest year on record, with 10 accidents and 44 deaths reported. The association also determined that chances of getting killed in a plane crash was one in two million.