QANTAS has again topped a ranking of global air safety, with Jetstar on the list of safest low-cost carriers and Virgin Australia also in the top rung of airlines.
Australian-based website AirlineRatings.com put QANTAS top of the list based on a range of factors, including aviation authority audits and the carriers’ fatality records.
Having had no fatalities during the jet era made QANTAS a standout, said AirlineRatings editor and aviation journalist Geoffrey Thomas.
“QANTAS has been the lead airline in virtually every major advancement in airline safety over the past 60 years,” he noted in the report.
The chairman of Strategic Aviation Solutions, analyst Neil Hansford, told ABC News Online that QANTAS thoroughly deserves its number one ranking.
“It’s very hard for anybody to approach them, they’ve never lost a paying passenger,” he said.
Other carriers in the top ten, in alphabetical order, are: Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific Airways, British Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, Finnair, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.
The top ten low-cost carriers in alphabetical order are: Aer Lingus, Alaska Airlines, Icelandair, Jetstar, Jetblue, Kulula.com, Monarch Airlines, Thomas Cook, TUI Fly and Westjet.
Of the 449 airlines surveyed, 149 received the top seven-star safety rating, including Virgin Australia.
“The companies have always wanted to meet and exceed whatever CASA required of them, and we’ve always been world’s best practice,” he said.
Mr Hansford also rejected suggestions that cuts in maintenance staff, particularly large job cuts by QANTAS in recent years, may jeopardise safety.
He said less airline staff are needed because modern planes are designed to need less maintenance, and many of their components are designed to be replaced, not repaired.
“In a lot of these components, you take one out and you slide one in, and the replaced part goes back to the manufacturer to be re-lifed,” Mr Hansford added.
‘Safety does cost money’
Mr Hansford said the key to QANTAS’ consistent performance at the top of air safety rankings is its pilots.
“Safety does cost money, and the QANTAS argued.
He cites the case of QF32, involving an Airbus A380 which made an emergency landing in Singapore in 2010 after an engine blew out several minutes after take-off. The airline’s experienced flight crew, headed by the experienced Captain Richard de Crespigny, were credited with landing the plane safely. Mr Hansford said the incident and resultant damage to the plane had been replicated in simulators with fatal results. “In every other simulation done, the aircraft crashes,” he said.
Airlines Australians are likely to fly that do not have seven stars include Garuda Indonesia and Scoot, which are five-star, and Lion Air Indonesia which is only three-star.
“Interestingly, none of the Air Asia companies are rated at all,” observed Mr Hansford. The AirlineRatings website says a rating is “pending”.
Mr Hansford said people should think carefully about whether a cheap plane ticket is worth a riskier flight.
“Australians have to say to themselves, would I rather pay [an extra] $200 and get there, or for $200 am I prepared to accept a compromise that they probably wouldn’t accept in anything else they buy,” he concluded.
Overall, AirlineRatings said that 2014 had an unusually high number of flying-related deaths, with 21 fatal accidents causing the loss of 986 lives, above the 10-year average.
However, the website points out that the two Malaysia Airlines crashes were both of a very unusual nature and accounted for more than half the deaths, while there were also a record number of passengers carried – 3.3 billion on 27 million flights.