7 Airlines with the Highest Fatality Rates

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Think all airlines are created equal when it comes to safety? Think again! While plane travel is statistically very safe, some airlines have had a much spottier track record than others. From outdated planes to lax maintenance to pilot error, certain carriers have racked up a disturbing number of fatal accidents over the years when compared to the miles they’ve flown. If you’re a fearful flier or just want to play it extra safe in the skies, you might want to avoid booking your next trip on one of these airlines with the worst safety records. Let’s count down the top 7 based on deaths per miles flown – some of the names on this list may surprise you!

1. Aeroflot

Topping the list of airlines to avoid is Russia’s Aeroflot. This state-owned carrier has a long history of fatal accidents, with over 8,000 passenger deaths since its founding in 1923. While Aeroflot has made strides to improve safety in recent years, it still has an alarmingly high accident rate compared to other major airlines.

One contributing factor may be Aeroflot’s aging fleet – many of its planes are decades old Soviet-era aircraft. Older planes require more maintenance and are more prone to mechanical failures. If you do find yourself flying Aeroflot, try to book on one of their newer Boeing or Airbus jets rather than a rickety Russian model.

Aeroflot’s poor safety record is also linked to lax government oversight and a history of cutting corners. In the Soviet days, Aeroflot had a monopoly and didn’t face much pressure to maintain strict standards. Even today, some experts warn that safety isn’t always the top priority for the airline.

Of course, Aeroflot isn’t the only airline with a checkered past when it comes to safety. But it has consistently ranked among the world’s most dangerous carriers across various studies and time periods. For many travelers, Aeroflot’s track record is simply too worrisome to justify flying with them when there are so many safer options available.

2. Malaysia Airlines

Malaysia Airlines was already struggling financially and operationally leading up to 2014. But that fateful year dealt a devastating blow to the carrier’s reputation, with the unprecedented disappearance of Flight 370 and shooting down of Flight 17 over Ukraine.

The twin tragedies of MH370 and MH17 understandably spooked many travelers from flying Malaysia Airlines. While the exact cause of MH370’s disappearance remains unknown, the disaster raised serious questions about the competency of the airline. How could a modern jet vanish into thin air without a trace?

As for MH17, Malaysia Airlines faced criticism for routing the plane over a war zone in eastern Ukraine. Other carriers had been avoiding the airspace due to safety concerns. The tragedy highlighted the importance of airlines constantly evaluating flight paths based on potential risks.

Prior to 2014, Malaysia Airlines actually had a decent safety record, without any fatal accidents in the preceding decade. But the one-two punch of MH370 and MH17 was catastrophic for the carrier. Passengers abandoned the airline in droves, viewing it as synonymous with disaster.

3. Lion Air

Indonesia’s Lion Air is another carrier with a troubling safety record. This low-cost airline has experienced a number of accidents and close calls since its founding in 1999, including several fatal crashes. Rapid growth seems to have come at the expense of safety at Lion Air.

Most notoriously, a brand new Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX plunged into the Java Sea in 2018, killing all 189 people on board. Investigations revealed serious issues with the plane’s design and safety systems, as well as errors made by inadequately trained Lion Air pilots. The same model jet crashed in Ethiopia a few months later, leading to a worldwide grounding of the 737 MAX.

But Lion Air had a poor safety reputation even before the 737 MAX disaster. The airline had a history of pilots underreporting flight hours, planes flying with missing or faulty parts, and aircraft exceeding recommended age limits. Corruption and weak government regulation has allowed Lion Air’s shoddy standards to persist.

For budget-conscious travelers in Indonesia, Lion Air’s low fares can be tempting. But the airline’s repeated safety lapses show that you get what you pay for. Many visitors to the region prefer to spend a bit more to fly on a carrier with a stronger safety record and commitment to training and maintenance.

4. Yemenia Yemen Airways

Yemen’s national airline, Yemenia, has some of the worst death-per-mile stats in the industry. With an aging fleet, lax pilot training, and a home base in a conflict zone, Yemenia has proven to be a risky choice for air travel.

Yemen is one of the poorest and most unstable nations in the Middle East, and its aviation sector reflects this. Limited resources and contested airspace have made it challenging for Yemenia to uphold strong safety standards. The airline has allegedly continued flying to certain airports even amid clashes and airstrikes in the vicinity.

In 2009, a Yemenia jet crashed into the Indian Ocean while trying to land in the Comoros Islands, killing 152 people on board. Investigators pointed to pilot error and possible mechanical issues. The accident added to Yemenia’s reputation as an airline to avoid if possible.

With continued fighting and a severe humanitarian crisis in Yemen, Yemenia faces an uphill battle in improving its safety record. Travelers should exercise extreme caution before considering flights to, from, or within the war-torn country. No trip is worth risking your life.

5. Cubana

Cuba’s flagship carrier Cubana has struggled for years under economic pressure and aging equipment. The airline’s safety record is among the worst in the Americas, with several fatal accidents per million flights. Limited access to parts and maintenance has been a critical issue for the state-run airline.

As a travel destination, Cuba has boomed in popularity as the island has begun to open up in recent years. But air safety experts warn that Cubana’s outdated fleet and spotty maintenance record pose significant risks to passengers. Some of the airline’s Soviet-built planes are approaching 40 years old.

Cubana’s most recent deadly crash was in 2018, when a 39-year-old Boeing 737 plummeted into a field shortly after takeoff from Havana, killing 112 people. Witnesses reported seeing smoke trailing from the plane before it banked and went down. Mexican authorities had previously complained about the plane’s lack of adequate paperwork and airworthiness.

Of course, Cuba doesn’t have a monopoly on aviation disasters in Latin America. But Cubana’s record stands out as particularly problematic. Tourists eager to experience Cuba’s classic cars and colonial architecture should strongly consider reaching the island via a carrier with more modern planes and rigorous safety protocols.

6. Air India

India’s flag carrier has made improvements in recent years. But Air India still has one of the highest accident rates among large global airlines. With a massive domestic network and a history of pilot and maintenance issues, Air India has seen some devastating crashes over the decades.

In 2010, an Air India Express flight overshot the runway and plunged over a cliff while landing in the city of Mangalore, killing 158 people. It was one of the deadliest crashes in Indian aviation history. Investigations found that the pilots had been sleep deprived and lost situational awareness in the critical final moments.

Older crashes, like the 1985 bombing of an Air India jet off the coast of Ireland that killed 329 people, contributed to the staggering loss-of-life stats that make many travelers wary of the airline. But even without terror attacks, Air India would have a questionable safety record due to the number of accidents attributed to human error or faulty equipment.

In fairness, Air India has worked hard to turn things around, with major investments in new aircraft, technology and training programs in the 2000s. The crash-prone airline was also split off from the parent company. But given India’s breakneck aviation growth, some safety advocates worry that Air India and other Indian carriers still face significant risks that need to be mitigated.

7. Garuda Indonesia

While generally regarded as safer than rival Lion Air, Indonesia’s national airline Garuda has also had its share of safety scares over the years. Rapid growth, aging planes, and lax oversight have contributed to several serious accidents for Garuda since the late 1990s.

In 1997, a Garuda flight crashed into a mountain while attempting to land in the city of Medan, killing all 234 people on board in Indonesia’s deadliest aviation disaster. Investigators determined the plane began descending too early and the pilots failed to abort the landing when they became disoriented.

Garuda saw several more accidents in the following decade, including a 2007 crash that killed 21 people on Java island. Regulators alleged that Garuda was cutting corners and had a poor safety culture, understaffing its maintenance department and pressuring pilots to ignore hazardous weather conditions.

After Indonesian airlines were banned from EU airspace, Garuda worked to rehabilitate its reputation and strengthen safety measures. The carrier was removed from the EU blacklist in 2009, and has had a relatively good record over the past decade. But its history serves as a warning about the challenges of upholding world-class safety standards amid explosive growth and limited infrastructure.

Air travel is remarkably safe overall, but disparities persist between airlines and regions. When booking your next flight, it’s worth doing some research into your carrier’s safety record and fleet age, especially if you’ll be traveling in developing countries with looser regulations. Flying is often a necessity in our interconnected world – but whenever possible, prioritizing safety over a cheap fare can provide valuable peace of mind.

Alex Morgan
Alex Morgan
Alex Morgan is a seasoned writer and lifestyle enthusiast with a passion for unearthing uncommon hacks and insights that make everyday living smoother and more interesting. With a background in journalism and a love for research, Alex's articles provide readers with unexpected tips, tricks, and facts about a wide range of topics.

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