How Safe Flying with Budget Airlines? Here’s World’s Safest and Accident-prone Airlines

Since the low-cost flying trend was introduced in early 2000, traveling abroad and anywhere in the country has never been this faster and convenient. What was once a six-day sea travel, can now take up to only two hours by air.


But with recent aviation disasters hounding the budget airline industry due to maintenance issues, technical malfunction, less-trained pilots, among others, travelers began to worry if boarding a low-cost airline poses more danger than with an expensive airline.


This concept however, was refuted by the Federal Aviation Administration, stating that all airline companies, whether budget airline or an expensive one, must meet the safety regulations set by the International Aviation Authority before given a go signal to operate. If an airline passes this review, there’s no reason why it should not be considered safe


Reason for Air Tragedy


There are several reasons why a plane crash occurs. It could be natural disaster, stormy weather, technical malfunction, controlled flight terrain or airline’s poor reputation on aircraft maintenance, and sadly, pilot error.


Other air disasters were attributed to a loose missile, intentional and targeted air crimes like hijacking and shooting down, and recently, pilot suicide.


Some, however, remained a mystery, like the fate of Malaysian Air Flight MH370 that disappeared from the face of the earth in March 2014.


Terrible accidents happen, and no airline company is free from any trouble while up on air, even the most stable names can be tested when the aircraft has a faulty system and with cockpit flight crew that easily panic. 


However, it still spells a big difference if an airline undergoes a safety audit, has a reputation of ensuring a high standard operation maintenance, and provide excellent programs for pilot training.


All airlines have incidents every day, but most of these troubles can be attributed to engine manufacture issues and not airline operational problems. 


However, it is on how pilots handle the emergency that determines the fate of the flight and the safety of the passengers on board.


In the past air tragedies: LionAir Flight 610 (October 2018) a Boeing 737 Max aircraft, AirAsia Flight 8501 (December 2014) an Airbus A320 aircraft, Ethiopian Air Flight 302 (March 2019) a Boeing 737 Max unit, resulting investigation pointed to technical malfunction as the main cause of the trouble, but it was how the pilots responded to the malfunction/emergency that caused the plane to crash.


Two deadliest air disasters in the Philippines: Cebu Pacific Flight 387, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 type (February 1998) and Air Philippines Flight 541 (April 2000) Boeing 737 aircraft, were attributed to pilot error due to “controlled flight terrain”. Official result of the investigation ruled on the mistake of the pilots in maneuvering the plane resulting to its fatal demise.


Why flight crew tells us to turn off electronic gadgets


Takeoffs and landings are the most dangerous aspects in flying. Boeing research shows that statistically planes are more prone to technical malfunctions during takeoff and landings than in mid-air due to sudden change in altitude.


Pilots have less time to react to problems because they are close to the ground and moving quickly. Passengers are often advised to turn off electronic gadgets to avoid interrupting the aircraft system that may affect the course of the flight.


The Concept of Flying Cheaper


Let’s admit it, some of us never really thought (perhaps unconsciously) of checking safety in flying when booking a plane ticket. 


What we have in mind is just the “low airfare” factor, the cheaper the better, we normally wait for sale seats or seasonal deals when we plan a trip. Or if we eye a possible travel destination, we immediately check the promo seat offers of budget airlines


But do we bothered checking the airline’s safety records, the caliber of the pilot, the type of aircraft used for the low fare deals before booking a flight?


For budget travelers, the only factor that has been put into consideration is: Which airline offers the cheapest airfare deal that fits our budget?


Maintenance issues, aviation audit and other safety reviews never crossed in our mind. That’s how we plan a trip. Always on the cheapest deals but never on our safety.


Cost-cutting in Budget Airlines


The budget airlines cut all corners to reduce their airfare to the cheapest, mostly they have to remove the “flying in comfort factors” like the leg room, luggage allowances, flight meals, freebies, lounge amenities and well-paid pilots.


Another perception about budget airlines is that their flights are not often on time, mostly delayed, prone to misplacing passengers’ luggage and poor customer service. We have to get what we paid for, but sometimes we never mind these inconveniences, we go for anything that cut cost.


The Danger of Budget Airlines


When low-cost concept of flying was introduced in early 2000, the once hard-to-achieve dream of exploring beautiful destinations out-of-the-country suddenly became attainable. Domestic flights, as well as short haul destinations in Southeast Asia


Airasia brought the low-cost concept of flying in Asia in 2002, and it was a huge success that other premier airlines in the region began offering affordable flight rates. 


In the Philippines, Cebu Pacific joined AirAsia in the budget airlines revolution and the flag carrier, Philippine Airlines, even created a separate segment for this trend through its domestic carrier, PAL Express (formerly Air Philippines).


However, experts in aviation warn that this concept is detrimental to travelers as most budget airlines usually have tighter schedules and with less back up, safety of passengers ultimately became an issue in this segment.


Where to check safety records


International Air Transport Association (IATA) is a type of operational safety audit that most luxury airlines needed to complete. It is an internationally recognized evaluation designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline.


However, most budget airlines are not part of International Air Transport Association (IATA) so they are not obliged to take operational safety audit like International Operation Safety Audit (IOSA). And this is where all troubles came in. The next time you book a ticket, ensure to check the airline’s audit review on IOSA and IATA.


Safety in Budget Airlines


In the last couple of decades, the world had seen modernization in aviation which fortifies air travel as the safest and the fastest form of transportation.<


Aviation experts would often vouch the fact that statistically, air travel is considered safest compared to a land travel. 


The odds of a passenger being involved in an accident are incredibly small compared to a car, and the odd of dying in a plane crash is even smaller


This is largely drawn on the concept of probability. The lesser the hour of exposure, the minor incidents of tragedies.


However, air crash carries the worst scenario on fatality rate, almost 100% compared to land and sea travel. This is due to extreme impact of the plane hitting the crowd due to rapid descent.


This is the reason why we need to take precautions when booking an air ticket. For destinations that have no other alternative but to go what's available, passengers left no choice. But for destinations that have multiple airlines serving the route we need to check the safety records.


So how safe flying with a budget airline?


If an airline meets certain safety regulations, they are basically just as safe as any premium airlines. While there are airlines that scale from average to absolutely terrible with regards to safety records in flying, there are budget airlines that have never suffered a fatal crash like WestJet, Flybe, Virgin America and Jetstar according to Business Insider.


Safety Rating of Airlines


Passengers have ways to check if a particular airline follows safety regulations of international aviation authorities


AirLineRatings.com maintained a data base of airlines that have higher standard of safety. This is the only online safety and product rating website that devotes on airline reviews. 


They developed a rating system that promotes safety throughout the airline industry and awards 7-star as its highest rating.


The factors used by the website to draw the top list are based on a comprehensive analysis utilizing information from the world’s aviation governing body, crash data, results of audits conducted by the governing body of aviation, the international civil aviation organization, fatality-free record for the past 10 years and whether the airlines are on a banned list of countries.


Airlines that have done the International Operation Safety Audit (IOSA) are 4.3 times better on its safety record than ones that do not have


IOSA uses internationally recognized audit principles and designed to conduct audit in a standardized manner. Airlines are re-evaluated every two years.


If an airline gained an endorsement from Federal Aviation Authority, it is awarded with a full seven star. 


FAA endorsement is per country and not per airline company. The ban from FAA arises on the country’s inability to follow international aviation standards for aircraft operations and maintenance


Regardless of whether an airline company meets with international safety standards if its country of origin failed to adhere to the standard, potential risk to safety is considered too high by the FAA.


Let’s find out which airlines received highest ratings for safety. But first, we need to know the different types of aircraft utilized in commercial flights.


Types of Aircraft in Commercial Flights


Aircraft units are not solely produced by aircraft manufacturers. Large parts of an aircraft component are sourced out from specialized suppliers that support the requirements of these aircraft manufacturers.


There are five types of aircraft used in commercial flights. Airbus and Boeing are the most popular. They supply majority of commercial airlines in the world especially the long-haul flights. While Bombardier, Tupoloev and Embraer concentrate on domestic and regional airlines.


McDonnell Douglas DC once supply aircraft to commercial airlines (Cebu Pacific once maintained several domestic routes with this type of aircraft), however, recently only few airlines have this type of aircraft in their fleet.


AIRBUS – Registered in The Netherlands in Europe, Airbus is one of the world's leading aircraft manufacturers which most commercial airlines in the world sourced out their fleet. It is headquartered in Toulouse, France.


Airbus also has three subsidiaries in the USA, Japan and China. Currently, this type of aircraft has a product line-up of 14 jet types ranging from 100 to 525 seats. Airbus aircraft is recognized for its comfort, economy and versatility.


BOEING - It is the largest manufacturer of commercial jetliners and military aircraft in the world. They also design and manufacture its own units, rotorcraft, electronic and defense systems, missiles, satellites, launch vehicles and advanced information and communication systems.


It is a U.S company headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. They employ more than 158,000 people across the United States and in 70 countries, making them one of the most diverse and innovative workforces anywhere in the world.


BOMBARDIER – A global transportation company based in Montreal, Canada. They operate two businesses: Aerospace and Rail Transportation. Bombardier Aerospace is the world's third largest civil aircraft manufacturer after Boeing and Airbus


It is considered a leader in the design of innovative aviation products and services for the business, regional and amphibious aircraft markets. It's aircraft and services are seen in a number of different markets including: Business aircraft - Learjet, Challenger and Global aircraft families; Commercial aircraft - new CSeries program, CRJ Series and Q-Series aircraft families; Amphibious aircraft - Bombardier 415 and Bombardier 415 MP aircraft; Jet travel solutions.


EMBRAER – This is a Brazilian company with its main headquarter located in São José dos Campos, Brazil. It is one of the main aircraft manufacturers in the world and focusing on specific market segments with high growth potential in commercial, defense, and executive aviation.Since 1996, Embraer has produced and delivered more than 1000 ERJs to more than 37 airlines in 24 countries. The three markets that Embraer manufactures: Commercial Aviation, Defense system and Executive Aviation.


TUPOLOEV – A Russian aerospace company, headquartered in Moscow, Russia. It develops and manufactures both civil and military aerospace products such as aircraft and weapons systems. 


The company is also actively developing missile and naval aviation technologies, with more than 18,000 Tupolev aircraft produced for the USSR and the Eastern Bloc.


On March 27, 1977, Pan American World Airways Flight 1736 KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Flight 4805 both Boeing 747 passenger jetliners collided in the runway of Los Rodeos Airport, now Tenerife North Airport, in Tenerife, Canary Islands.


All 248 people on board the KLM had died while Pan Am recorded 335 fatalities and 61 survivors. It had 583 fatalities combined, the deadliest in aviation history. Resulting investigation on the accident pointed on the miscommunication between the Air Traffic Controllers and pilots of both flights while maneuvering a takeoff.


The second deadliest air disaster in the world is the Japan Airlines Flight 123, a scheduled domestic flight from Tokyo to Osaka. The aircraft was a Boeing 747SR


On August 12, 1985, the plane suffered a sudden decompression just 12 minutes after takeoff. The incident was the result of in-flight structural failure due to improper maintenance leading to rapid decompression.


It plummeted to the Mount Takamagahara, killing 520 people on board, however, it had four survivors, all females. The survivors seated on the left side and toward the middle seat rows 54-60 in the rear of the aircraft, the only part of the plane that remained intact after the crash. It was considered the deadliest air disaster in the world by a single flight.


The world’s deadliest mid-air crash happened on November 12, 1996. It involved Saudia Flight 763, a Boeing 747 aircraft, and Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907, an Ilyushin II-76, in Northern India. The two collided mid-air killing a combined of 349 people on board.


Turkish Airlines Flight 981, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 aircraft, crashed on March 3, 1974 shortly after takeoff from Orly Airport in Paris, killing 346 people on board. It was the second deadliest single flight disaster in aviation history.


The deadliest air disaster involving Airbus


One of the Airbus aircraft models considered to be accident-prone is the A320 type. A narrow body airliner with a sitting capacity of 100 to 299.


It has more than 30 recorded accidents. One of the deadliest being TAM Airlines Flight 3054 that had overshoot the runway in Brazil due to pilot error, killing 175 people on board and 12 ground crew.


AirAsia Flight 8501 that crashed into the Java sea on December 28, 2014 was also an Airbus A320 type that malfunctioned mid-air, killing 162 people on board when it plummeted to the sea.


Resulting investigation pointed to technical malfunction that made the system entered the stalling condition forcing the plane to nosedive.


However, it was how the pilots responded to the malfunction that caused the plane to crash. After thorough investigation, it was found out that Airasia pilots are not trained to do an upset recovery when the flight system entered a stall condition.


One of the safest budget airlines in the world, a subsidiary of Cathay Airways


Accident-prone Aircraft 


Boeing 737 Max topped the list as the accident-prone aircraft type followed by Boeing 747.


In 2019, the aviation authority grounded all Boeing 737 Max units around the world after two of its units crashed in the span of just five months, the Indonesian Lion Air that plummeted into the Java sea followed by the Ethiopian Air that slammed to the farm field of Addis Ababa just minutes after takeoff.


McDonnell Douglas DC-80, Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 followed next. In Airbus family, the reported accident-prone aircraft type is the A320 with close to 10 fatal accident recorded. 


The Safest Aircraft?


So far the aircraft type that has the cleanest flight records are Boeing 717, Boeing 777 (although it tainted its reputation due to the mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Air flight M370), Airbus 380 superjumbo, Airbus 220, Airbus A319, Embraer ERJ-145. All have zero fatal accident. 


Safest Budget Airlines


The following list is based on AirlineRatings.com review. These budget airlines have passed the stringent IOSA and have excellent safety records.


Air Arabia – UAE based airline with headquarter in Al Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, it earned a perfect seven-star rating due to its high standard safety record. As of 2017, it has no fatal crashes involved.


Wizz Air  – This is a Hungarian budget airline headquartered in Budapest. It is regarded as one of the safest low-cost carriers in Europe.


Westjet Airlines – This is a Canadian budget airline founded in 1996. It provides flight around the North American region and the Caribbean. It is the second largest air carrier in Canada behind Air Canada


Vueling Airline – This is a Spanish low-cost carrier headquartered in the bustling city of Barcelona. It is considered as the largest airline in Spain by fleet size and number of destinations


Volaris – A Mexican low cost carrier and the country’s second largest airline that flies non-stop within Mexico and the United States. It is considered the cheapest way to travel around Mexico and the safest.


JetBlue Airways – A major American low cost airline based in Long Island City, New York and the sixth largest airline in the United States.


IndiGo Airlines – A major budget airline in India and considered its largest airline by fleet size and passengers carried. It is also known for its punctual departures and arrivals and great customer service.


Hongkong Express Airways – This is the first low-cost airline in Hongkong fully owned by Cathay Pacific Airways. It is considered as one of the world’s safest budget airlines. It serves domestic and international flights and earned excellent reviews from satisfied passengers.


Frontier Airlines – One of the major budget airlines operating in the United States based in Denver, Colorado. It serves flights domestically and internationally. 


Flybe – This is United Kingdom’s largest domestic airline founded in 1979. It has been regarded as one of the safest budget airlines in Europe, however, it suffered a major blow when coronavirus hits the world. Flybe collapsed its operation and announced in March that they will stop operating and grounded all its flights.


Accident-prone Airlines


From the safest airlines to the most dangerous according to AirlineRatings:


Tara Air – AirlineRatings just gave it one-star (out of 7) rating on safety due to its multiple fatal crash in 2010 and 2011. This is a Nepal-based airline.


Nepal Airlines – it has seen nine fatal accidents over the last eight years. But we must remember that flying on a largely mountainous region like Nepal entails a lot of danger. Nepal Airlines fleet are banned to fly to any European Union members.


Ariana Afghan Airlines – This is a flag carrier of Afghanistan and has just five aircraft in its current operation.


Bluewing Airlines – Based in Suriname, a very small nation in South America. It is also banned to fly in the European airspace.


Kam Air – This Afghanistan based airline only managed to get a score of one star in safety. It is banned to fly in the U.S and European airspace due to safety records.


Trigana Air Service – This is an Indonesian airline which suffered 10 hull losses and 14 accidents and found itself banned from the airspace of the US and Europe.


SCAT Airlines – This is a Kazakhstan-based airline and has a very poor safety record. SCAT does not operate with an internationally recognized safety audit certificate however, it has no record of a fatal crash since 2013 and the airline has been making huge improvements on safety.


World's Safest Airlines


The Top 20 Safest Airlines in the world for 2020. These premium airlines are standout in the industry and are at the forefront of safety, innovation, and launching of new aircraft according to AirlineRatings Editor-in-Chief: Geoffrey Thomas.Flag carrier of Taiwan, one of the safest airlines in Asia


Qantas – the flag carrier of Australia. Qantas is considered the world’s safest airline for eight years in a row. It has no recorded fatal accidents that resulted to death since the commercial jet era.


Air New Zealand – the flag carrier of New Zealand.


EVA Air – EVA stands for Evergreen Airways, is a second largest airline in Taiwan. It has no recorded hull losses, accidents, or fatalities since its establishment in 1989.


Etihad Airways – the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).


Qatar Airways – the flag carrier of Qatar.


Singapore Airlines -The flag carrier in Singapore</li><li>Emirates – This is a state-owned flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates based in Dubai.


Alaska Airlines – the fifth largest airline in the United States, headquartered in Washington.


Cathay Pacific Airways – The flag carrier of Hongkong.


Virgin Australia – an Australian airline and one of its largest in terms of fleet size.

Hawaiian Airlines – flag carrier of Hawaii, the largest commercial airline in the US.


Virgin Atlantic Airways – A British airline founded by Sir Richard Branson.


TAP Portugal – flag carrier of Portugal.


Scandinavian Airlines – flag carrier of Denmark.


Royal Jordanian Airlines – flag carrier of Jordan


Swiss International Airlines – flag carrier of Switzerland


Finnair – a flag carrier and largest airline in Finland


Lufthansa – officially known as Deutsche Lufthansa AG is the flag carrier of Germany


Aer Lingus – flag carrier of Ireland

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines – flag carrier of The Netherlands


The Safest Airline In the World


Qantas is the safest airline in the world for eight consecutive years now. Qantas, stands for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services, is the flag carrier of Australia.


It is the world’s safest airline due to the highest standards of training for its pilots, who are mostly top guns. When you pay for a Qantas ticket, it’s like you are paying for its best paid pilots.


Qantas has been the lead airline in virtually every major operational safety advancement over the past 60 years and has not had a fatality in the jet era and so with Hawaiian and Finnair.


Qantas is the most experienced airline in the industry and has been the leader in the development of future Air Navigation System, the flight data recorder to monitor plane and later crew performance, automatic landings using Global Navigation Satellite System as well as precision approaches around mountains in the cloud using RNP.


Always at the forefront of safety innovation, operational excellence and the launching of new more advanced aircraft like the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787.


Commercial Airlines in the Philippines


So, with the top 20 list of the world’s safest airlines rated by AirlineRatings, many might have wondered where the Philippine flag carrier, Philippine Airlines ([PAL) , stands in safety issues. It has no mention anywhere in the article despite all those flag carriers of other countries topping the list.


As of this research, PAL listed as 30 safest airline in the world. After careful evaluation and feedback from the airline and aviation industry, AirlineRatings.com upgraded PAL’s rating to a 7-star score, which is considered a perfect score rating for safety records. While PAL’s domestic and budget airline, PAL Express, also earned a 7-star rating on safety.


PAL has been awarded by Skytax, a London-based rating organization as World’s Most Improved Airline for 2019. The Airline Passenger Experience Association in the United States also awarded the flag carrier of the Philippines with a 4-star global rating for quality service.


Apart from PAL, Philippines has two other commercial airlines: Cebu Pacific and Philippines AirAsia, an affiliate of the Airasia Group based in Malaysia.


Cebu Pacific and Philippines AirAsia focused its operations on the budget airline market. They maintained Airbus and Boeing aircraft types in their fleet.


And here’s good news to travelers! Apart from PAL and PAL Express, AirlineRatings.com upgraded the safety rating for Cebu Pacific and Philippines AirAsia to 7-star because they have completed the IOSA!


The Fleet


Below are the types of aircraft utilized in the commercial  flights of the airline companies in the Philippines. Philippine Airlines: Airbus A320, A321, A321CEO, Airbus A330, Airbus A350-900, Boeing 777


PAL Express</strong>: Airbus A320, Airbus A321, Bombardier Q400 NextGen


Cebu Pacific Air</strong>: Airbus A320-200, Airbus A320neo, Airbus A321neo, Airbus A330-300, Airbus A321XLR, Airbus A330-900neo


Philippines AirAsia</strong>: Airbus A320-200, Airbus 320Neo, Airbus A321Neo


All Commercial airlines operating in the Philippines have achieved full compliance with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) joining a rooster of 429 airlines worldwide that have strictly complied with the international standards governing aviation safety


In addition, PAL, Cebu Pacific and Philippines AirAsia are not part of the banned list of airlines prohibited to fly in the U.S and Europe’s airspace.


This is to conclude that it is safe to fly with Philippine-based budget airlines!


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