Is Airline Travel Getting More Dangerous?

See recent posts by Kelsey Blodget

Asiana Airlines Flight 214 after crash landing in San Francisco International Airport
Asiana Airlines Flight 214 after crash landing in San Francisco International Airport

With the number of airline disasters in the news in recent years, it sure can feel like flying is getting a lot less safe. In 2015, the world was rocked by two of the 100 worst airline accidents of all time -- the Germanwings Flight 9525 crash over the French Alps and the bombing of Metrojet Flight 9268 in Egypt. In 2014, there were even more aviation accidents, including the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in March and the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over the Ukraine in July. All of which can make the average traveler wonder: Is it still OK to fly? 

We decided to turn to some of the top resources for aviation statistics to find the answer. Luckily, the picture is a little rosier than one might expect. According to Aviation Safety Network statistics released January 1st, 2015 was the safest year in airline history in terms of the number of accidents, with just 16 fatal airline accidents. It was the fifth safest year in terms of fatalities, with 560 deaths. To put that in perspective, over the last 10 years there have been an average of 33 accidents and 787 casualties per year. 2014 was below the 10-year average in terms of accidents (21) but above it in terms of fatalities (989). 

In the ASN release, ASN President Harro Ranter said, “Since 1997 the average number of airliner accidents has shown a steady and persistent decline, for a great deal thanks to the continuing safety-driven efforts by international aviation organizations such as ICAO, IATA, Flight Safety Foundation and the aviation industry.”

That trend is backed up by data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The most recent Safety Fact Sheet, published in June 2015, shows a clear decline in fatal accidents from 2010, with 23 fatal accidents in 2010 but only 16 in 2013 and 12 in 2014. 

And of course, big picture, commercial airline travel is still one of the safest modes of travel around. A 2013 study analyzing fatality risks across U.S. modes of transportation found driving to be 100 times more dangerous than commercial aviation. Even walking and bicycling are considered more dangerous. 

Nervous flyers can better their odds of avoiding danger, though, by choosing an airline with a premier safety rating. announced its top 20 safest airlines for 2016 on Jan. 5th. They are, in alphabetical order: Air New Zealand, Alaska Airlines, All Nippon Airlines, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, Finnair, Hawaiian Airlines, Japan Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, Qantas, Scandinavian Airline System, Singapore Airlines, Swiss, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.

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