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How do you know you booked a safe airline?

How do you know you booked a safe airline?

  • How much do you check an airline's safety and finances before pressing the "book" button? 

It can be easy to stare blindly at the flight price when booking a holiday. Saving a few thousand Swedish kroner per person can be quite a lot of money for a family of four. But how much do you actually check the airline's safety and finances before you press the "book" button? 

Many years ago I flew between Bangkok and Kathmandu, with Nepal Airlines. It was at the time when tickets were still printed in paper format and the ability to search for information about the airlines was limited to the National Encyclopedia in the library. Sounds almost like the Stone Age when I write it down, but unfortunately it's not that long ago. I happily board the plane in the ditch. The plane rolls out onto the runway, pulls the engines for take off and the plane takes off. The wheels had barely left the ground before the oxygen masks above me fell down. The heart beats a little extra, what's going on? Well, nothing happens. The oxygen masks keep dangling in front of me. A moment later a flight attendant comes and lifts the masks back into the hatch above me and closes the hatch without explanation. They were probably just a little broken? The food is served, I can still remember appreciating the dessert which was some kind of blueberry panna cotta. A while later, it starts to smell a little burnt in the cabin. On a noisy loudspeaker we are told that the coffee machine has unfortunately just broken down, so we can't get any coffee on this flight. Yes yes, lucky it was only the coffee machine, I remember thinking. 

Vilnius-Lithuania- SAS
I have to admit that I like SAS

2021 was the safest flying year for commercial flights ever, and low-cost airline tickets are selling like hotcakes in the sunshine. We fly more than ever and it is cheaper than ever to fly. Over the years, however, I myself have become more picky and nowadays search not only for flight times, but also for airlines. Nepal Airlines, which I flew with above, has several times ended up on the list of the world's worst airlines. I can say with absolute certainty that I will NEVER fly them again. But what exactly is a safe airline? There are several sites that create lists of the "safest airlines in the world" and put stars on the airlines. But if you read who runs these sites, they usually have nothing to do with either flight safety or authorities, but the results are based solely on votes and opinions.

How can you determine if an airline is financially stable and safe?

Maybe I'm a bit rigorous in my checking, but then I'm a bit of a flight geek :)

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  • I'm watching ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation), FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and IATA (International Air Transport Association) for facts about general aviation safety and Skytrax for a more populist assessment of the airlines. 
  • I check which companies are included in the EU's "black list” by airlines that are not allowed to fly to the EU. For example, many companies in Indonesia, all airlines in Nepal and a large proportion of airlines in Africa are on this list.
  • I read about which countries have received remarks on their aviation safety, in the news and on the pages of the above organizations, and select companies domiciled in these countries. 
  • I read economic news to see which airlines have financial problems and think twice before booking them. Many major airlines have had financial problems for several years and have undergone restructuring. We noticed that, among other things, when we booked United Airlines to go to Costa Rica in 2002, we simply had to rebook that trip.
  • I check the codeshare – if the company is a partner with my favorite companies, I can be sure that the codeshare partner is carefully checked.
  • I am reading about incidents that happened with the airline and the reason for them. Often the cabin crew are absolutely decisive in how the incident ends, there are truly real superheroes among them who stay calm and do everything just right even when it's really, really stressful! I therefore want the airlines I fly with to focus on safety in their cabin training and not spend time training their flight attendants on how to sell the most lottery tickets - if you know what I mean...

So, should you now book those cheap tickets? Most likely JA, for all airlines that fly to the EU (or within the US) – regardless of whether they are low-cost carriers or not – has stringent safety requirements and is checked regularly. But if you're about to book a domestic flight in Asia, Africa or South America, it doesn't hurt to read a little extra before you actually press the "book" button.

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Read comments (6)
  • Good advice! I'm probably a bit of a fatalist, but I'll try to be a bit more careful when choosing airlines.
    Also flew Nepal Airlines from Mumbai to Kathmandu in 1992, but only remember the nice clothes of the flight attendants and the spicy airplane food. And that a plane crash-landed in Kathmandu the week before...

    • I have to admit that I'm getting more and more particular (and picky) with age when it comes to airlines! :) It's actually both good and bad that all information is so readily available these days, I was probably more blissfully ignorant before. Couldn't have been so much fun flying the week after a plane crash? :S

  • Most airlines that depart from Europe are crash-proof (no pun intended) :) but check whether you are going domestically or otherwise in countries with different rules. On long-haul flights, we usually stick to Qatar Airways if we are going to Africa or Asia or SAS/KLM/Air France to the west, so it feels quite safe.

    • It feels like a very safe choice :) It is domestically in other countries that is mainly a problem. For example, there are low-cost companies in Thailand / Indonesia that recently received very bad ratings, but their subsidiaries in other countries (which have the same name) are really good. A real jungle of ostriches then... ??

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