Cape Town - Despite some high-profile accidents in 2016, the number of aircraft crashes has been steadily declining over the last 20 years, up to the point that 2016 has been declared one of the safest years in aviation history.
Air crashes are big news, which might make it seem like crashes are on the rise, but statistics from the Aviation Safety Network (ASN) show that 2016 was the second safest year on record to take a flight.
The Netherlands-based ASN, which compiles a global accident database, looked at crashes worldwide of civil aircraft carrying at least 14 passengers and found there were 19 fatal airliner accidents involving 325 deaths.
Although this was up from 16 accidents in 2015, it still made 2016 the second safest year ever by a number of fatal accidents as well as in terms of fatalities.
By comparison, 560 people died in 2015, while the year of the lowest number of fatalities, 2013, recorded 29 accidents.
Eleven of the accidents and 288 deaths involved passenger flights. But, the ASN found, this translated to one fatal passenger flight per 3.2 million flights.
This means aviation is still by far the safest way to travel and provides a context for the widespread media coverage of high-profile crashes such as the LaMia tragedy in Colombia involving a Brazillian football team.
By the looks of these statistics, and according to the annual announcement of AirlineRatings.com's safest airline award, 2017 will be even safer.
This year the aviation analyst named 20 leading global carriers as the world's best at safety, and for the fourth consecutive year, Australia-based carrier Qantas leads the pack when it comes to aviation safety.
AirlineRatings.com, which launched its annual listing in 2013, says Qantas "remains the standout in safety enhancements and operational excellence" with no recorded fatalities since the advent of jet travel.
The Top 20 safest airlines for 2017, in alphabetical order, are:
Air New Zealand
All Nippon Airways
Cathay Pacific Airways
Delta Air Lines
Scandinavian Airline System
In making its selections AirlineRatings.com takes into account numerous factors that include audits from aviation’s governing bodies and lead associations, government audits, airline’s crash and serious incident record, profitability and fleet age.
According to AirlineRatings.com editor Geoffrey Thomas, the "top twenty have always been at the forefront of safety innovation and launching of new aircraft and these airlines have become a byword for excellence".
Of the 425 airlines surveyed, 148 have the top seven-star safety ranking but almost 50 have just three stars or less.
On the other end of the safety spectrum, AirlineRatings.com awarded 14 airlines with only one star. These airlines are all from Afghanistan, Indonesia, Nepal and Surinam.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- 3 SA airports listed as world's most punctual
- Acsa's 35% tariff cut means cheaper air travel in 2017
- Comair: Acsa's 35% passenger tax cut is not enough