Booking an overseas holiday and not sure whether the airline that's being suggested is trustworthy? AirlineRatings.com offers a rating from one to seven stars for safety and included services.
The Australian-based site, which launched at a swanky Sydney lunch yesterday, ranks 425 airlines. Site co-founder Geoffrey Thomas that while there are more than 1500 airlines worldwide, the majority are tiny, and the 425 chosen cover 97 per cent of all traffic.
The safety ratings are derived from a combination of assessments by airline industry bodies ICAO and IATA, as well as specific lists such as airlines banned in the European Union. Any fatalities over the last 10 years introduced an automatic one-star penalty.
On the safety front, 137 airlines scored the maximum possible seven stars, while 43 had three stars or lower. Thomas singled out Yeti, Lion Air, Airlines PNG, Ariana Afghan and Yangon as particularly risky choices, while noting that snap judgements about safety based on nationality weren't always backed up by data. "Chinese and Russian airlines did extremely well, which reflects the tremednous effort China and Russia have made in exceeding those standards."
For product quality in areas such as food, seat comfort and lounges (invariably a more subjective area), an expert panel ranks each airline. Thomas said the ratings would regularly be adjusted to reflect changes and remove non-operational airlines (he noted that some other comparison sites still include data from long-defunct Ansett, for instance). Premium airlines are ranked on a seven-star scale, while low-cost and regional carriers are ranked on a five-star scale.
So how do Australia's major airlines score? Qantas score a 7 for both safety and product; Virgin scored 7 for safety and 5 for product (the lack of free meals presumably didn't help). Jetstar was ranked 6 for safety and 3 for product, while Tiger received 4 for safety and 2.5 for product. (The Tiger rating covers the entire Tiger group, not just the Virgin-owned Australian division.) Rex received a 5 for safety and a 4 for product.
Those ratings are unlikely to change your choices if you're already committed to a particular airline. However, in unfamiliar territory it's a potentially useful tool for identifying riskier carriers.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman thinks that 3 stars for Jetstar sounds about right. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.