Gauging airline safety is trickier than it sounds because the criteria differs slightly depending on the report. ABC News, for example, based a survey of the safest airlines on “incidents” per flight, while Consumer Warning Network bases its findings on the number of fatalities per million miles traveled. In addition, American and European airlines tend to have higher safety records because of higher government oversight of the planes and pilots. Based on the premise that fatalities are the highest concern for travelers, and incorporating both domestic and international airlines into the list, here are the safest airlines as of 2010.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest has not reported a fatality in its operating history, according to the Consumer Warning Network, making it the safest major airline in the world. Southwest ranks at number two on ABC’s safest airline list as well, with a 0.0000203 percent chance of an incident on its flights.

Delta Airlines

Like Southwest, Delta stands high both on the Consumer Warning Network’s list and ABC News’s list: second and fifth, respectively. It boasts 0.17 fatalities per million miles traveled and an infinitesimal incidents percentage slightly higher than Southwest’s (0.0000386).

British Airways

ABC News didn’t include foreign airlines in its survey, but Consumer Warning Network ranks British Airways as the safest overseas airline, with a fatality rate identical to that of Delta airlines. (0.17 fatalities per million miles traveled).


Just below British Airways and Delta lies Scandinavian Airlines, or SAS. With 0.19 fatalities per million miles traveled, it ranks second on Consumer Warning Network’s site of foreign airlines and ahead of all U.S. airlines save Delta and Southwest.

Lufthansa and All Nippon Airlines

All Nippon airlines from Japan and Lufthansa airlines of Germany command a very low fatality rate of 0.22 per million miles traveled. Delta and Southwest rank higher than they do among U.S. airlines, but they are the only ones, according to the Consumer Warning Network.

U.S. Air

U.S. Air ranks higher on ABC’s list -- coming in third at 0.0000212 incidents per flight, a shade behind Southwest. In terms of fatalities, it ranks fourth among U.S. airlines, with 0.24 fatalities per million miles traveled.

United Airlines

United Airlines ranks sixth on ABC’s list with 0.0000407 incidents per flight.Its fatalities record is 0.31 per million miles, placing it sixth among domestic airlines.