It is not difficult for a prospective airline passenger to find airline safety records online, and it is possible to search the Internet for details of any air crashes, near accidents and flight delays that have been caused by safety issues. Most airline operators are aware of this and therefore do everything possible to maintain a good reputation for safety.
♦ Comparison lists of airline safety records
Airline safety records are based around statistics for previous years. A newly established airline, or an airline company operating only on a few domestic flights, will appear high in any list showing top airlines with good safety records. A long established airline might have been operating numerous international flights daily for many years, but could rank low in safety records for having had one or two mechanical breakdowns or for being involved in a minor incident.
There are several airlines that have never been involved in a crash and have never experienced serious technical malfunctions, but listing airlines which have never had an accident is no real indication of safety. It only shows that no accidents had occurred when that list was last updated.
♦ Airlines with a good reputation for safety
Records and listings that indicate which airline services have the best reputation for safety are only of use to passengers who intend to travel to a destination that is served by one of the safest airlines. Airlines operating international flights do not always use regional airports, and unless a passenger intends to travel independently from a major airport to a final destination, an airline with the best safety record would not always be a real option.
♦ Airport safety and security
The majority of air accidents happen during take-off, or when a plane is landing, so airport safety procedures are equally as important to airline safety as practices carried out by the airlines. Not all airports are in locations where weather conditions can be relied on to provide safe landing conditions, and a few airport are notoriously difficult for pilots to negotiate when coming in to land. Flights continue to arrive and depart in safety because pilots and ground crew are well prepared for dealing with adverse conditions, and are fully aware of the safety implications.
Airport security, technology and the screening process are increasingly important factors air safety, and are effectively reducing the risk of an in-flight terrorist attack. Airlines can, and do, make additional security checks, and some impose their own restrictions about what can safely be taken on board a plane.
• Official safety regulators
No airline company wants to be held responsible for a serious incident, or one that would make headline news, and official safety regulators for the airline industry do aim to ensure that all airlines operate to the highest safety standards. The US Civil Aviation Safety Authority is just one of the organizations responsible for monitoring safety records and regulating airline safety.
Airline companies know that people are reluctant to fly with any airline that has a poor safety record, and will do all they can to gain and maintain a reputation for safety. The airlines with the best safety records are those that make passenger safety a priority, by complying with safety regulations and making routine safety checks.