Checking International Airline's Safety
You can check fares, fees and flight schedules for just about any airline in the world with a few keystrokes or a single phone call. But checking the safety of an international airline is a much more complicated task.
European and US regulators evaluate aviation safety, and the airline industry itself has a world-wide safety-audit program, but it's difficult for travelers to check airline safety when buying tickets. There's no restaurant-inspector's score posted on the airplane door or government crash-test star rating printed on your ticket.
That's unfortunate, since interest in airline safety is high. It's been a bad year for aviation fatalities, with more than 700 people killed in 16 crashes around the world so far in 2009. Many involved little-known airlines---some already on watch lists for safety concerns.
"There's no perfect solution at the moment, but it's undoubtedly getting better," said Geoff Want, principal adviser on airline safety at Rio Tinto Group, a global mining company that has its own list of carriers approved for employee travel.
Government regulators in Europe and the US take different approaches to aviation safety.
The European Union evaluates airlines and their planes and publishes a "blacklist" of unacceptable carriers, most recently updated just two weeks ago. The EU blacklist is available on the Internet at ec.europa.eu/transport/(click on "Air," then "List of airlines banned within the EU")
Be prepared, it's long and complex: 233 airlines are completely banned, and eight are allowed to operate under restrictions and conditions. Though its focus started as an airline-by-airline evaluation, the EU has moved more toward building the blacklist on evaluations of entire countries -all airlines from 15 countries have a blanket ban from the EU and are among the 233 cited.