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Ryanair is the world's safest airline after Southwest flight's mid-air tragedy

Southwest Airlines loses fatality-free safety record

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Thursday 19 April 2018 14:49 BST
Simon Calder: Ryanair becomes world's safest airline after Southwest flight's mid-air tragedy

Within hours of the emergency landing of a Southwest jet at Philadelphia, and the news that one passenger had died after a catastrophic engine failure, flight number 1380 had disappeared from the airline’s schedules.

From today on, the 10.30am departure from New York’s La Guardia airport to Dallas Love Field is known as flight 8881.

Something else changed after the mid-air tragedy in which Jennifer Riordan was killed: Southwest Airlines lost the finest unblemished safety record in aviation.

The airline has not been accident-free: in 2013, a Boeing 737 was written off at La Guardia after the landing gear collapsed on touchdown; nine passengers were injured during the emergency evacuation.

In 2000, Southwest flight 1455 overran the runway at Burbank airport and came to rest beside a gas station.

But until 17 April 2018, no passenger had died in an accident on board a Southwest flight.

Many airlines have a fatality-free record, a reflection of the remarkable safety achievements of the aviation industry. But Southwest was way ahead of the rest. Since it began flying from its Texas home in 1971, the budget carrier had safely flown 1.8 billion passengers.

The recent tragedy leaves one fatality-free airline well ahead of the global field: Ryanair.

Southwest Airlines CEO releases statement on death of passenger on Flight 1380

Since its first flight in July 1985, no one has died in an accident involving the Irish airline.

Last year, Ryanair carried its one billionth passenger, the first European airline to reach that number. The total is rising rapidly to 1.1 billion at a rate of 356,000 per day.

In second place worldwide is easyJet, which has flown an estimated 820 million passengers safely since its maiden flight in November 1995.

Flybe, Jet2, Thomas Cook Airlines and Virgin Atlantic also have fatality-free records, but have flown far fewer passengers than easyJet or Ryanair. Monarch, which collapsed in October 2017, had no fatal accidents in a history of almost half a century.

British Airways has not had a fatal accident since 1985, when fire engulfed a charter flight operated by its subsidiary, British Airtours, at Manchester airport; 55 people died.

Qantas is often said never to have crashed, with the claim included in the 1988 film, Rain Man. In its early days, the Australian airline suffered a number of fatal accidents, but has had none since a string of three crashes in New Guinea in 1951.

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