29 August 2011

ATRA Ratings of "Safest Airlines" are Bunk

The Geneva based organization ATRA claims to use scientific data to rate airlines as being the safest this was provided to me by Professor Jackie who reads the Sydney Morning Herald.

The organization fully termed the Air Transport Rating Agency comes with the tag line "Swiss Quality Assessment". The data is taken from 2009 reports. When it comes to Swiss Airlines I am not sure that quality is that great.
Swiss Airlines are no strangers to accidents the last one being a Crossair Avro RJ100 in 2001 near Zurich.

Further Swiss ATC was to said to take the blame for a mid air collision between a Russian Airliner and a DHL Cargo plane. According to Wikipedia the outcome was as follows. On 19 May 2004, the German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Investigation (BFU) published its determination that the accident had been caused by shortcomings in the Swiss air traffic control system supervising the flights at the time of the accident and by ambiguities in the use of TCAS, the on-board aircraft collision avoidance system.

Er... Let's look at the list - all the Top 4 Airlines have had crashes in the past 4 years. Note that I am not judging the companies - just indicating whether or not the issue of a crash was to be considered or not. Here is the ATRA list for 2011 and for the top four players their most recent accidents:

Air France-KLM (AF447 A330-200 Mid Atlantic 2009)

AMR Corporation (American Airlines, American Eagle) (AA 331 B737-800 Jamaica 2009)

British Airways (BA38 LHR 2008)

Continental Airlines (CO1404 B737-500 DEN 2008, Calgon Air CO3407 Q400 BUF 2009)


Delta Airlines

Japan Airlines


Southwest Airlines

United Airlines

US Airways

Interestingly none of the Skytrax top 10 airlines are in this list either. So in examining the criteria list they publish top 15 elements. Here we can see part of the problem. Frankly their criteria has some - but in my personal view largely irrelevant - elements that make up the criteria.

The 15 selected criteria are (as stated by ATRA):

Net financial result
Total number of passengers
Total number of employees
Total number of cabin crew employees
Total number of aircrafts
Average fleet age in service
Percentage of aircrafts on order
Fleet homogeneity
Number of aircrafts no longer in production
Number of aircrafts considered at risk
Total aircrafts-km flown
In house maintenance capability
Number of accidents during the last 10 years
Dedicated flight academy pilot-training facilities
Dedicated full flight simulators

(Note the typos are theirs not mine which are more than plenty!)

I therefore would suggest that you go to more relevant and far more respected sources for the information on who is the "safest" airlines.

With IATA now demanding that all members pass the safety audit for membership this should give some comfort.

Air travel is risky but no more so than crossing the street except that you are not in control.

Pronouncements such as this do NOTHING to advance airline safety.

The Professor has spoken.

Cheers and safe flying

1 comment:

John S said...

As always, Professor, your insightful comments are very illuminating. The ATRA critter remind me of the positive correlation between skirt heights and the Dow Jones Industrial average... an interesting statistic that has no basis in reality.