Airlines with the most aircraft crashes

This is how safe the airlines are

In fact, the statistics say nothing about the safety of an airline, as hardly any accidents are causally linked to the airline. Safety is an interplay between aircraft manufacturers, maintenance, airports and air traffic controllers. The geopolitical situation, such as wars, conflicts and terrorist attacks, also plays a role. In the past, weather events and storms were also the cause of air accidents. In addition, airlines that have been on the market for decades and operate many flights are naturally more likely to be involved in an accident than young companies with few routes, simply due to the number of possible cases. Now that we have categorised the whole thing, we can turn our attention to the figures:

Which airline has the most crashes worldwide?

In terms of the number of accidents per airline, Air France and American Airlines had the most aircraft crashes with 11 each. Two of the accidents at American Airlines occurred on 11 September 2001, as did two of the seven crashes at United Airlines. These were the four planes that were hijacked and crashed in the terrorist attacks (source):

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No, but nothing will happen
66,15 %
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China Airlines and Korean Air are also on a par with nine crashes each, followed by Pakistan International Airlines with eight accidents. Even Lufthansa makes the list with five crashes. Fortunately, many aircraft crashes do not end fatally, but here are the three most serious accidents that were unfortunately particularly fatal (list of all aviation incidents):

  • 11 September 2001: Terrorist attacks in the USA with a total of 3,018 fatalities (in the planes as well as on the ground)
  • 27 March 1977: Tenerife air disaster. Two Boeing 747s collided on the runway, resulting in 583 fatalities.
  • 12 August 1985: The biggest accident involving an aircraft, the crash of a Japan Airlines Boeing 747-100 due to a defective hydraulic system. 520 fatalities.

In addition to spectacular crashes and terrifying pictures of the crash site, there are also accidents where aeroplanes simply disappear. The most prominent example is flight MH370 on 8 March 2014, which disappeared without a trace on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The cause of the Boeing 777 accident is still unclear.

Apart from pilot error or where pilots deliberately cause an aircraft to crash, such as Germanwings 9525, the aircraft models themselves can also be the cause of accidents: Two Boeing 737 Maxes crashed in 2018 and 2019 respectively due to problems with the model's MCAS (Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System), a flight control software designed to prevent stalls.

Shortly after the disappearance of flight MH370, there was another accident for Malaysia Airlines with flight MH17, which was shot down by Russian separatists with an air defence missile over the territory of Ukraine.

Most fatalities in accidents per airline

If we calculate not the number of accidents, but the number of fatalities caused by these accidents, we arrive at the following order:

  • American Airlines: 858 Fatalities
  • China Airlines: 760 Fatalities
  • Korean Air: 586 Fatalities
  • Air India: 542 Fatalities
  • Malaysia Airlines: 537 Fatalities
  • Japan Airlines: 520 Fatalities
  • Ethiopian Airlines: 407 Fatalities
  • Air France: 347 Fatalities
  • Pakistan International Airlines: 311 Fatalities

How safe is air travel?

However, it is worth remembering that airlines have only suffered a very small number of accidents throughout history. Considering that tens of millions of flights take place every year, major accidents are actually extremely rare. In particular, flight safety has improved significantly in recent decades, despite the high level of safety.

If you took one flight a day, you would have to fly every day for an average of 55,000 years before you were involved in a fatal accident. - Arnold Barnett, Professor of Statistics at MIT

According to the Wall Street Journal, there hasn't been a major airline crash in the US in almost 15 years, despite more than 100 million flights and 10 billion passengers since then.

Aircraft types with the most accidents

If you look at which aircraft types are most frequently involved in accidents, some models, such as the Boeing 737, immediately stand out. But don't worry: as over 10,000 Boeing 737s were produced compared to, for example, 1,569 Boeing 747s and 561 Airbus A300s, this explains why the 737 was involved in the most aircraft crashes and fatalities.

Looking at the data in this way, it can be argued that the Boeing 737 is one of the safest commercial aircraft, despite being the aircraft that has crashed the most in the history of commercial aviation:

  • Boeing 737: 149 Accidents
  • Boeing 747: 49 Accidents
  • Airbus A300: 33 Accidents
  • Airbus A320: 28 Accidents
  • Boeing 737 NG / Max: 27 Accidents

The safety statistics for the Boeing 737 become even more disastrous if the number of fatalities is also taken into account:

  • Boeing 737: 4.360 Fatalities
  • Boeing 747: 3.713 Fatalities
  • Airbus A300: 1.416 Fatalities
  • Boeing 737 NG / Max: 1.137 Fatalities
  • Airbus A320: 1.111 Fatalities

These airlines have never had an aircraft crash

There are many airlines that have never actually been involved in an accident. For example, Ryanair has been around since 1985 and has never had an accident, despite the concept of a low-cost airline. The same applies to British Airways, easyjet, Emirates and Ethiad, some of which even operate long-haul routes. However, the German Lufthansa, for example, has also been accident-free since 1999, if Germanwings flight 9525 in 2015 is not counted as part of Lufthansa. All figures on accidents involving aircraft by airline.

How likely is an aeroplane crash?

In the years 2014 to 2022, there were between 3 (2014) and 1.9 (2021) accidents per million flights (source Statista), with a downward trend. Roughly summarised, it can be said that there are approximately 2.5 accidents per million flights. Accident does not equal fatal crash with hundreds of fatalities. Consequently, travelling by commercial aircraft, especially in Europe, is extremely safe and the risk of crashes and accidents is extremely low. Of course, it can make you feel queasy if you fly through turbulence or if the landing is a little rougher than usual. A little tip: If you feel uncomfortable due to the movements of the aircraft, look at the faces of the flight attendants, they often don't make a face as the staff are simply used to these things.

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