Only one U.S. airline cracked the list of the 10 safest carriers in 2021

Discussions around the safety of flying are now dominated by the global pandemic, but the “Top Twenty Safest Airlines 2021” list compiled by airline website AirlineRatings.com doesn’t have anything to do with Covid-19.

Released this week, the list analyzes crash records and safety compliance to highlight airlines that it claims are leading air travel safety.  

The top 10 list

AirlineRatings.com analyzed crash and serious incident histories, fleet ages, and audits of 385 airlines performed by governments and aviation associations.

It used that analysis to name the 10 safest airlines for 2021 as:

1. Qantas
2. Qatar Airways
3. Air New Zealand
4. Singapore Airlines
5. Emirates
6. Eva Air
7. Etihad Airways
8. Alaska Airlines
9. Cathay Pacific
10. British Airways

Qantas, Australia’s flag carrier, was named the world’s safest airline for the third year in a row by the website.

Qantas holds the distinction of being the only airline that Dustin Hoffman’s character in the 1988 movie “Rain Man” would fly because it had “never crashed.” The airline suffered fatal crashes of small aircraft prior to 1951, but has had no fatalities in the 70 years since.  

Qantas has had no passenger fatalities since the dawn of the “jet era” in the 1950s.

Scott Barbour | Getty Images News | Getty Images

“Qantas has been the lead airline in virtually every major operational safety advancement over the past 60 years and has not had a fatality in the pure jet era,” said Geoffrey Thomas, the website’s editor-in-chief. “But Qantas is not alone. Long established airlines such as Hawaiian and Finnair have perfect records in the jet era.”

In addition to Air New Zealand and British Airways, the remainder of the list is dominated by the “Middle East Three” — as Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways are collectively known —  and Asian airlines such as Taiwan’s Eva Air and Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific.   

Alaska Airlines is the only U.S. carrier named among the 10 safest airlines in the world.

The list: 11-20

U.S. and European airlines figure more prominently in the second half of the list, which includes:   

11. Virgin Australia/Virgin Atlantic
12.  Hawaiian Airlines
13.  Southwest Airlines
14.  Delta Air Lines
15.  American Airlines
16.  SAS (Scandinavian Airlines)
17.  Finnair
18.  Lufthansa
19.  KLM
20.  United Airlines

U.S. airlines had a particularly positive showing in overall top 20. Only two of the six American carriers on the 2021 list — Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines — were included on last year’s list.

Alaska Airlines has been named among the world’s safest airlines for the past six consecutive years.

Robert Alexander | Archive Photos | Getty Images

Thomas said that overall, there is little real difference in terms of safety among the 20 airlines named to the list: “They are all standouts.”

Safest low-cost airlines for 2021

In response to public interest, AirlineRatings.com announced the 10 safest and “best” low-cost airlines on Monday as well.

In alphabetical order, they are: Air Arabia, Allegiant Air, EasyJet, Frontier Airlines, Jetstar, JetBlue, Ryanair, Vietjet Air, WestJet and Wizz Air.

Safest airlines for Covid

Separately, the airline rating website on Monday announced the top 20 airlines for Covid-19 safety compliance.

Those carriers are AirBaltic, Air New Zealand, Alaska Airlines, All Nippon Airways, AirAsia, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Eva Air, Japan Airlines, JetBlue, KLM, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Qatar Airways and WestJet.

Singapore Airlines was named among the world’s safest and most Covid-compliant airlines in 2021.

GOH CHAI HIN | AFP | Getty Images

The website added a Covid-19 check to its airline safety comparison charts.

Airlines are awarded a compliance “star” for instituting four of the following six criteria: Covid-19 website information, social distancing while boarding and during the flight, nightly deep cleaning of aircraft, the provision of passenger face masks, personal protection equipment (PPE) for cabin crew, and changes to meal services.

Thomas said 119 airlines achieve the highest Covid-19 rating.

“But it is disappointing to see that 117 get a zero for compliance or have no information for the public on their Covid policies on their website,” he said.