A Guide to Which Airline Has the Most Crashes

Guides · 5 min read · Sep 01, 2022
which airline has the most crashes

Aviation is well-known for its remarkable safety record, in fact the airplane the safest means of transportation in the entire globe. Air travel is a lot safer than traveling in your car, taking a train ride, or taking the bus. Since the early days of flying, plane crashes were rare, but one fatal commercial airline crash could appall the entire world when it happens. So we decided to dig into the history to find out which airline claimed the most plane crashes under its belt. And more importantly, we curated a list of airlines to turn down when booking your next flight.

Rescue crew is working on a crashed aircraft from Turkish Airlines
Image source: Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/rnw/3308531577/in/photostream/)

Which airlines account for most crashes?

During a period of 77 years (1945 to 2022), the United States encountered the most number of crashes- 864 crashes. Russia becomes the second on the list with 539 crashes while Canada becomes the third with a relatively less number of crashes- 191 crashes. Brazil, Columbia, and the UK secure the next positions respectively.

Statistically, US air carriers have encountered more air crashes than airlines from any other part of the world. Here we break down the top 07 airlines with the most crashes in aviation history.

  • American Airlines: 11 crashes
  • Air France: 11 crashes
  • China Airlines: 9 crashes
  • Korean Air: 9 crashes
  • PIA: 8 crashes
  • United Airlines: 7 crashes
  • Egypt Air: 6 crashes

US soil has crash-landed more airplanes and accounts for the highest number of deaths than any other region in the world. And airlines such as American Airlines and Air France have more crashes than other airlines. But these stats should be taken with a grain of salt. Let us find out why!

Should you avoid these airlines?

It is obvious that many major airlines were ranked high for fatal accidents in the US, which is considered to be a region with a top-notch safety record in recent years. The main reason behind the ranking is that most of those carriers – United Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Delta Airlines – were flying in the 1960s when plane crashes were more often than in recent years. The same is true for many EU airlines including British Airways and Air France. The yearly fatal accident rate per million flights was above 10 in the 1960s while the rate plummeted to 0.04 in 2021 indicating how technological advancements improved aviation safety.

With that said, none of the aforementioned airlines are listed under the title of the most dangerous airlines, even not considered to be conscripted to the list. Their formidable safety record for the last 20 years dispelled the ill fame brought by the early, non-technologically advanced aircraft and made these airlines the world’s safest airlines.

With the advent of state-of-the-art technologies in the aviation industry, airline accidents dwindled significantly. Contrary to that, there are a handful of airlines that do not comply with industry safety regulations and do not follow proper safety management systems. A list of airlines believed to have impaired safety protocols is provided later in this article.

The most critical flight phase

According to Airbus, within the last 20 years, most of the fatal accidents occurred during the approach and landing. The complexity involved with these critical flight phases accounts for the high number of crashes. During these phases, pilots have to deal with communication with the air traffic controllers, aircraft navigation, and aircraft configuration changes while remaining extremely close to the ground. Take-off and en-route flight phases are next in line for the most crashes.

An aircraft approaching a runway for landing.
Image source: Kuhnmi/Flickr

The most dangerous airlines in the world

Airlineratings.com, a leading airline safety rating system provider had ranked global airlines in their safety rating tool. They had four key criteria: are there any fatal crashes associated with the airline in the last 10 years, are there any pilot-related incidents, has the airline taken and passed required audits, and compliance with international COVID-19 rules.

Seven stars were awarded for the best and safest airlines, while one star was offered for the following underperformed airlines or the airlines that qualify to be listed as the world’s most dangerous airlines.

  • Air Algeria
  • Airblue
  • Bluewing Airlines
  • Iran Aseman Airlines
  • Nepal Airlines
  • Pakistan International Airlines
  • SCAT
  • Sriwijaya Air

Recent plane crashes

Plane crashes in recent history are a vital indication of the quality of an airline. With all the protections built into modern air carriers, crashing an airplane is pretty hard unless human factors are involved. With that said, a recent plane crash would indicate poor Crew Resource Management (CRM), unavailability of a proper maintenance program, and inadequate pilot training of the particular airline. Here we review the most recent crashes and the underlying reasons behind each fatal accident.

Sriwijaya Air Flight 182

The Boeing 737-500 crashed into the Java sea minutes after taking off from the Soekarno–Hatta International Airport on January 09th, 2021. This is the last fatal accident in the industry to date and all passengers on board died including the crew.

A mishap in the auto-throttle may have caused a thrust asymmetry putting the aircraft into a roll. If it is the exact cause that triggered the chain of fatal events, the question- ‘why pilots could not recover the aircraft from the dive?’ remains unanswered till the date of writing.

Pakistan International Airlines Flight 8303

PIA had received just one star from airlineratings.com for its poor safety practices patently proclaimed from the recent accident in 2020 killing 97 people onboard an Airbus A320. The pilot’s error which leads to the loss of situational awareness was the key contributor to the crash. PIA is banned from operating in the United States airspace and European airspace over validity issues of its pilot’s certificates.

PIA flight 661, an ATR-42 that crashed in 2016 killing 47 people was the first crash of the airline in the recent decade. It is a fair call that many airline rating platforms have conscripted Pakistan International Airlines as one of the world’s most dangerous airlines.

Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302

To no one’s wonder, Boeing B737, the most operated commercial aviation aircraft has met with the most number of accidents. The more an aircraft flies, the more possibility to meet with an accident. Two B737 MAX 8 airplanes crashed minutes after the take-off as pilots were unable to deal with the stubborn flight control surfaces. A flaw within the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) paved the way for these fatal accidents while inadequate pilot training completed the links in the error chain claiming a total of 346 innocent lives.

Malaysia Airlines flights MH370 and MH17

Two fatal crashes that occurred in 2014 shook the entire world. These two Malaysia airlines flights constate how safety plays a key role in the aviation industry. The MH370 crash remains to be the most tragic and bizarre accident in aviation history. The reasons behind the crashes may be beyond the control of the airline, but the outcomes were horrific as passengers were more reluctant to take a flight on Malaysia airlines for years since the tragedies.

Which airline has never had a crash?

Qantas, a legacy carrier seen in the skies since 1921 is well-known for its impeccable safety record. The airline never had any fatal accidents since its inception: almost 100 years! Air New Zealand, Virgin Airlines, Etihad, Emirates, and Qatar are some picks for airlines that maintain a superb safety rating with a zero accident rate. Southwest Airlines- the world’s largest low-cost airline based in Texas and founded in 1967 has never had a fatal crash in its history as well.

The safest airline in the world: Qantas

Takeaway

Unarguably, the aviation industry has come a long way through many challenges to become the safest mode of transportation in the world. Technological advancements paved the way for this immense growth in safety with the advent of state-of-the-art airplanes. Yet, the contribution of human factors to aviation accidents is significant. Even though we started with the question ‘which airline has the most crashes?’, a simple answer can be given just by looking at the data. But there is more gravity hidden in the question. An airline with the most crashes under its belt would not be the world’s most dangerous airline, but some other airline that does not conduct recurrent training, follow a proper maintenance program, and practice safety protocols.

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Eglė Bartaševičiūtė
A passionate traveler and an avid aviation enthusiast bringing you the most well-founded, accurate and up-to-date industry content.

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