Notably, Qantas, the famously safe Australian carrier that topped the list for the past few years, took a steep nosedive down to seventh place. That was due to a “slight increase in incidents coupled with the fleet age,” AirlineRatings.com’s editor-in-chief Geoffrey Thomas told CNN. While the website doesn’t specify, it doesn’t escape notice that Qantas made a high-profile gaffe in October, when a Boeing flight en route from Perth to Adelaide had to be diverted due to a fuel imbalance, which was classified as a “serious incident.” (An imbalance occurs when the fuel tanks on the left and right wings of the place contain unequal amounts, making one side heavier than the other.)
Qantas was replaced by a new champion from the land down under: Air New Zealand, which won the top spot largely due to its COVID-19 safety protocols, Thomas told CNN. “The last two years have been extremely difficult for airlines with Covid-19 slashing travel and Airline Ratings editors have particularly focused on the lengths airlines are undertaking to retrain pilots ahead of a return to service,” he said. “Air New Zealand is a leader in this field with comprehensive retraining.”
On the other hand, it looks like more storms ahead for Qantas as recent news suggests it may have slacked on its retraining regimen: A leaked memo from the airline reported Wednesday revealed that some of its pilots, who returned to work in December after months away from the job due to pandemic cutbacks, are a little rusty and have been making errors such as commencing take-off with the parking brake still on. (We’ve reached out to Qantas for comment on the memo.)
Back in the northern hemisphere, five United States-based carriers made the Australian website’s so-called “who’s who” of airlines, including Alaska Airlines—which was highest up at No. 8—and American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines, which brought up the rear at No. 13, 18, and 19 respectively. However, Southwest Airlines, which took thirteenth place last year, was kicked off the list entirely this year.
The rest of the top twenty is populated by carriers from across the globe, including the United Arab Emirates’ Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways, and British Airways.
See the full ranking here.