Is it safe to fly SAA?


South African Airways (SAA) is 16th on the list, sitting above the likes of Qatar Airways and Air France in the top 20. The only blot on its copybook is that it fails to meet two ICAO safety standards, but it still keeps hold of its seven-star status.

Kulula, Airlink and Mango also have the maximum safety rating, despite only clocking six of the eight criteria points set out by ICAO. Flying in South Africa seems to be a trouble-free pursuit. Well, unless you have to make an emergency landing because you’re too heavy to touch down.


So to judge how safe an airline is, you have to consider the following five factors. Unless mentioned, all of these account for one star on a plane’s safety rating:

  • An IOSA certificate from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – that’s worth three stars.
  • The ability to travel to and from the EU, subject to their approval.
  • Being “fatality free”.
  • It needs to be meet most or all eight of the safety criteria set out by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Adhering to five will get them half a star, whereas four or less means they get nothing.
  • If the country – rather than the airline – is allowed to fly in US airspace. For example, South African Airways has this star because South Africa has that permission. However, the same can’t be said for all Thai airliners, as Thailand doesn’t have the same allowance.


If you’re travelling through Nepal at any point, you’re going to have to be very careful who you fly with. Two of their airlines – Buddha Air and Nepal Airlines – have a safety rating of just one star. Considering the maximum total is seven stars, that makes things even worse for the carriers. Both have also endured fatal crashes in recent years.

Afghanistan also doubles up on the danger: Both Kam Air and Ariana Afghan Airlines hold just a two-star rating. Although both pass the fatality-free and US airspace tests, they’re still regarded as highly unsafe.

As The National report, Kam Air suffered a major blow early last year when up to 10 employees were killed in an attack on Kabul’s Intercontinental hotel. About 40 of its pilots and aircrew, many of whom were foreigners, were staying in the hotel at the time.

Airline PNG of Papua New Guinea and Blue Wings of Suriname also have a lowly two-star status. Their rating suffered a blow when both airliners saw high-profile fatal crashes further damage their reputations, in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

Thailand’s NOK Air and Air Asia fleets also languish on two-star status. They are joined by Iraqi Airlines, and two more Nepalese businesses: Yeti and Himalaya Airlines may have had no deaths to report, but still have them at the bottom of the pile for other various violations.


Okay, for nervous flyers, that couldn’t have been very enjoyable. So’s here is something a little more wholesome: The best airlines in the world have also been ranked, and they’re a veritable who’s who of the most recognisable names.

  1. Air New Zealand
  2. Qantas
  3. Singapore Airlines
  4. Emirates
  5. Royal Jordanian
  6. Cathay Pacific
  7. Virgin Atlantic
  8. Etihad Airways
  9. Air Canada
  10. Swiss International Airlines