An annual survey of the world’s biggest airlines has revealed those with the worst safety records.
AirlineRatings.com examined audits from aviation governing bodies and lead associations, as well as government audits and fatality records for each airline. It also looked at airlines' operational histories, incident records and operational excellence.
The website provided safety ratings for 407 airlines, awarding them up to seven stars. Of those, 148 were given the top rating, while almost 50 had just three stars or less.
The 10 least safe airlines
A total of 10 airlines, all from Nepal, Indonesia or Surinam, qualified for just one or zero stars for 2016:
1) Batik Air
2) Bluewing Airlines
4) Kal-Star Aviation
5) Lion Air
6) Sriwijaya Air
8) Trigana Air Service
9) Wings Air
10) Xpress Air
The announcement follows a troubling year for aviation that included two significant disasters, both of which reignited debate surrounding issues of security and concerns over pilot’s mental wellbeing.
On 3 January it was revealed that for the second year running, the main cause of aviation deaths in 2015 was "unlawful interference" - in other words, murder - according to a report by leading air safety firm To70. The consultancy cited the still-unsolved disappearance of MH370 and MH17 which was shot down over Ukraine in 2015, as well as the Germanwings and Metrojet crashes in the Alps and Sinai respectively.
224 people were killed when the Russian Metrojet Airbus A321-231 broke apart shortly after its departure from Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport in Egypt.
In March 2015, a Germanwings Airbus A320-211 crashed into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board. It was later revealed that pilot Andreas Lubitz, who had suicidal tendancies, had caused the crash deliberately.
AirlineRatings.com editor Geoffrey Thomas explained that Germanwings has retained its seven star safety rating for 2016 because the incident was caused by pilot suicide.
"In our rating system, which is endorsed by aviation’s governing body the International Civil Aviation Organisation, if deaths occurred through acts of terrorism, high jacking or pilot suicide, they are not included in the crash record," he said
Some aviation-safety specialists have questioned the basis for the AirlineRatings survey, because it does not appear to prioritise what many passengers regard as the most significant safety consideration: an airline’s track record of flying millions of missions with no loss of life.
By such a measure, the US carrier Southwest is way ahead of all other airlines. It has operated more than 22 million flights and carried 1.5 billion passengers since its foundation in 1971, without a single fatal accident.
The two leading European budget airlines, easyJet and Ryanair, also have fatality-free records, and last year safely flew around 180m passengers between them. The three carriers from the British Isles included in the AirlineRatings “top ten safest low-cost airlines” - Aer Lingus, Flybe and Thomas Cook Airlines - carried only about 22m between them.
Malaysia Airlines, struck by two incidents that left all passengers on board dead or missing in 2014, was given five stars out of a possible seven in the ratings: the same as Ryanair and Thomson Airways.
If an airline has a crash that involves the death of a passenger and/or crew members it will automatically lose a star from its safety-rating rankings.
Iraqi Airways was last month banned from operating in EU airspace, due to "unaddressed safety concerns", and has been given two-star safety rating by AirlineRatings.com.
Thailand’s aviation industry was placed under "special measures" in 2015 after issues were flagged by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Carriers including Thai Airways, which was awarded four out of seven stars for safety, were spared being placed on the EU blacklist.
Officials said they would "closely monitor future developments" and would consider bans if air passenger safety was deemed to be at risk.
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