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And the world's safest airline is ...

By Simon Busch, CNN
January 9, 2014 -- Updated 1915 GMT (0315 HKT)
The Australian airline Qantas came top in the AirlineRatings.com rankings, the website citing its fatality-free record since the beginning of the jet era. The Australian airline Qantas came top in the AirlineRatings.com rankings, the website citing its fatality-free record since the beginning of the jet era.
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Safety record
Top 10
All shall have prizes
One star ...
... and counting
Worst crash
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Qantas tops list of safest airlines
  • Last year was safest for flying since 1945
  • Kazakh and Afghan airlines have one-star ratings
  • Worst crash last year was in Russia

(CNN) -- Flight-phobics, relax -- a list of the world's safest airlines has just been released.

Top of the ranking from AirlineRatings.com of the safest carriers in 2013 is the Australian airline Qantas.

Awarding it a full seven stars, the website cites the airline's fatality-free flying record from the beginning of the jet era in the early 1950s.

Other airlines sharing the seven-star rating and winning a place among the top 10 safest airlines are, in alphabetical order, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Eva Air, Royal Jordanian, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.

Safest industries

Commercial aviation is one of the most heavily monitored industries in the world and statistically the much-cited comparison bears out: you are much less likely to die in an airplane crash than in a car accident.

Indeed, the number of fatalities last year was at a record low, according to the Aviation Safety Network (ASN).

Many airlines go for years without experiencing significant safety incidents, let alone a crash.

There is thus often little to distinguish the largest and most reliable carriers apart from a safety point of view.

Of the 448 airlines AirlineRatings.com surveys, 137 have a top seven-star rating.

Along with fatality crash records and audits from aviation governing bodies, the website takes into account the quality of the "in-flight product" airlines offer -- including in-flight entertainment, seating and food -- to determine their ranking.

No immediate rush for tickets.
No immediate rush for tickets.

Concentrate on the movie

Nonetheless, it's useful know some of the airlines to consider booking if you'd prefer to concentrate on the inflight movie rather than rejigging your last will and testament in your head.

Probably not among them, however, is Scat, the unfortunately named Kazakh airline that shares a one-star ranking with the Afghan Kam Air and the Surinamese Bluewing Airlines.

All are on a list of airlines banned from flying within the EU.

READ: 20 most annoying things people do on planes

Quite what the one star is for isn't revealed -- perhaps just getting off the ground.

It's certainly not for brand name development in the case of Scat.

Of the carriers awarded two stars, three are from Indonesia and one each from Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, Eritrea and Myanmar.

The United States doesn't blacklist individual airlines, but it does make public a list of countries, including Indonesia, that it judges to fall short of international aviation safety standards.

Record year

Dubious names and rankings aside, nervous flyers should be breathing easier. Last year was the safest for flying since 1945, with 269 deaths from 29 accidents, the ASN records.

That compares with a far higher 10-year average of 719 fatalities and 32 accidents annually (involving planes with a minimum passenger capacity of 14).

"The average number of airliner accidents has shown a steady and persistent decline," said the ASN president, Harro Ranter, "probably for a great deal thanks to the continuing safety-driven efforts by international aviation organizations."

MORE: World's most dramatic runways

However, the picture is uneven worldwide. With one-fifth of all fatal airliner accidents but only around 3% of global aircraft departures, Africa remains the least safe continent for flying.

Yet the worst accident last year was in Russia. A Tatarstan Airlines Boeing 737 from Moscow to Kazan crashed and exploded into flames on landing on November 17, killing all 44 passengers and six crew aboard.

The Russian carrier receives only four stars from AirlineRatings.com because of its failure to complete the "critical" International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit.

Airlines that have completed the audit have a 77% better safety record than those that haven't, the website reports.

MORE: 2014 -- the year ahead in air travel

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