Best in terms of innovation, fleet, and safety.
Not all airlines are made the same. There are low-cost carriers that are as basic as they can get. Then there are those with major fleets, a range of amenities and luxury classes. But the cost-effectiveness or the swankiness has no significance if the airline doesn’t score well on the safety index. That should be the number one criterion for flyers when they’re booking tickets.
AirlineRatings brings out a list of the safest airlines annually, judging 385 airlines on innovation, safety, and new aircraft. This year, Australia’s Qantas took the top spot on the top 20 safest airlines list, while one airline in the U.S., Alaska, was in the top 10. Four others were featured in the top 20: Hawaiian, United, American, and Delta.
According to Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey Thomas, the team analyzed “crashes over five years, serious incidents over two years, audits from aviation’s governing bodies and lead associations; fleet age, expert analysis of pilot training, and COVID protocols in making their determinations.”
Top Picks for You
One of the world’s oldest airlines—operating since 1920—Qantas delivers a positive flying experience to passengers. But more than that, it sets the bar high regarding safety. It has taken the first spot on AirlineRankings’ list of safest airlines many times over the years, but it lost its top position in 2022. It’s back again in 2023.
The airline is upgrading to A350-1000 for non-stop flights from Australia; these planes have longer ranges and are more fuel-efficient. Sydney to London and Sydney to New York flights on this aircraft are scheduled for 2025. Even domestic travelers will get a taste of the new offerings with the A321-XLR and the A220-300 in late 2023.
Related: How to Get Bumped to First Class—According to a Former Flight Attendant
Air New Zealand
The flag carrier of neighboring New Zealand is the second-best when it comes to safety. It has been recognized by AirlineRatings as one of the world’s best carriers many times over the years.
Air New Zealand reached a milestone last year when it launched an ultra-long haul flight from Auckland to New York on Boeing 787 Dreamliners. The airline has 101 aircraft in operation with an average age of 7.4 years.
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad has once again made it to the list. It had the number two spot last year behind Air New Zealand, and this time it’s in third place. The carrier flies to 71 destinations around the world and has 71 operating aircraft with an average age of 5.8 years. More are coming, too: the airline announced this year two new routes to Europe–Copenhagen and Düsseldorf.
State-owned Qatar Airways is a young gun, launched in 1997. However, it has already established itself as a trailblazer in the industry. It flies to more than 140 destinations and has more than 200 aircraft in its passenger fleet. It received the Airline of the Year award in 2022 by Skytrax (another airline ranking consultancy) for the seventh time in 2022, while its hub, Hamad International Airport, was recognized as the World’s Best Airport.
The first Asian airline to make it to this list is Singapore Airlines. It began operations in 1972 after the Malaysia-Singapore Airlines split and now flies to more than 110 destinations around the world. It has received many accolades over the years for its premium services and excellent flying experience, and it is always counted among the best airlines in the world.
Fun fact: Singapore Airlines currently runs the longest flight in the world, from Singapore to New York.
TAP Air Portugal
The flagship carrier of Portugal took to the skies in 1945 and now it flies to more than 80 destinations. Last year, it had the fifth place on this list, but it’s still in the top 10. It has a modern fleet of Airbus planes, and it offers pocket-friendly fares.
Dubai-based Emirates is a state-owned airline that’s as flashy as the city it operates from. With 262 aircraft flying to 152 destinations, it has a great network and a stellar reputation, especially for its business and first classes and luxury lounges. It has the world’s biggest Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 fleet, and it constantly introduces new routes to its network to connect more destinations.
The only American airline to make it to the top 10 is the Seattle-based Alaska Airlines. Operations started in 1932, but it wasn’t until 1944 that it was rechristened Alaska after multiple mergers. It is now the fifth-largest airline in the U.S. with 321 aircraft (201 are Boeing 737).
Last year, the airline announced that it would be switching to an all-Boeing mainline as it’s retiring all Airbus A320 aircraft in 2023. Boeing 737 and Embraer 175 will ferry passengers starting next year. It will help make the airline more cost-effective, sustainable, flexible, and simplify operations (such as training and maintenance).
Launched in 1989, EVA Air is a Taiwanese carrier flying over 60 destinations across Asia, Europe, North America, and Oceania. It has 80 Airbus and Boeing aircraft and more are being added to update the fleet. One thing that sets it apart is its Hello Kitty flight service with Sanrio-themed planes, amenities, on-ground decorations, and the lounge at the Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan.
Related: Fodor’s Survey: The Worst Airlines and Airports in the World (and the Best)
In the tenth spot is the Virgin Group’s airlines, Britain-based Virgin Atlantic (launched in 1984) and Australia-based Virgin Australia (formed in 2011). Both consistently rank high in terms of services and customer reviews.