Aircraft Approach Sunset

How safe is the airline industry?

By Writpit (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Safety in the airline industry

With two high profile disasters for Malaysia Airlines – MH370 in March and MH17 in July it seems over the last few months we have been bombarded with news relating to the airline industry and its safety. This week alone, we have seen the crash of flight MH17, the cancellation of flights to Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport as a result of rocket landing 1 mile (1.6 km) from the airport, the crash of a TransAsia Airways flight in Taiwan’s Penghu archipelago and this morning the loss of contact and subsequent crash of Air Algerie flight AH5017 flying from Burkina Faso. With all this negativity in the industry I wanted to explore just how safe air travel is at the moment a number of people I have spoken with have expressed their concerns about flying to me in the last few days.

Statistics speak for themselves

Using statistics from the Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives (taken 9am GMT, 24th July) its clear that the number of global airline crashes and deaths (primary) since 1970 have both seen a downwards trend. This despite the number of global flights having significantly increased, in part due to the rise of the low-cost airlines such as EasyJet and Norwegian.

Number of airline crashes and number of deaths (primary) by year since 1970.

With already one of the best aviation records in the world , the EU takes safety very seriously, with a number of airlines banned from flying in EU airspace. Reasons for being banned include a failure to meet adequate standards of safety and/or have poor standards of regulatory oversight by the relevant authorities in their home country.  Click here for more details of banned airlines in the EU. If you are taking internal flights in a country or region, this list may serve to help you decide which airline to fly with, to ensure maximum safety.

Malaysia Airlines curse?

With two highly publicised events in the last few months, Malaysia airlines really has suffered as a result of the public choosing to fly with airlines. Whilst the events have been devastating, and somewhat ill timed, the surface to air missile which brought down MH17 is something which has never happened before. Indeed, very few surface to air missiles exist that can reach 30,000 feet.  In the case of both MH370 and MH17 only time will tell who is responsible and what really happened in both instances to both planes. Numerous conspiracy theories have been put forward for flight MH17, including its similarity to the Russian presidential plane which may have led to its demise. But one thing that can be ruled out at the moment is a lack of assistance from Malaysia Airlines and a poor safety record of Malaysia airlines. Prior to the disasters this year the last fatal disaster for Malaysia airlines was on the 15th September 1995 where 34 people lost their lives. Surely this is proof enough of Malaysia airlines having a great track record?The reality of the events proceeding the crash of MH17 is that could have happened to any airline, anywhere and at any time.

Commercial flights over war-zones?

The downing of MH17 has highlighted the question as to whether it is safe for commercial airlines to fly over warzones. Quoting Mikael Robertsson, co-founder of Flight radar24, in a recent BBC article:

Airlines fly over most trouble spots…They have to get from A to B in the most efficient manner possible. Syria is probably the only airspace that everyone avoids. Other trouble spots – North Korea and Somalia – airliners do fly over, he says, although it is hard to verify how common this is.

That said, looking at the activity on Flight Radar it seems most airlines are taking an active decision to avoid flying over troubled areas of Ukraine.

Airlines flying over Ukraine

Flights over Ukraine. Source:

The bottom line: the aviation industry is safer than it has ever been and has just suffered some setbacks in the past few months. Don’t choose to fly just because of some high profile tragedies, and don’t boycott Malaysia airlines either. Thousands of flights take off daily all without problems its just a very very very select few that don’t make it to their final destination.

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