After a horror year for air fatalities, Qantas has emerged as the world’s safest airline.

The report, published by last night, comes after a tragic and bizarre year for airline safety that just seemed to go from bad to worse.

Despite the total number of fatal accidents in 2014 coming in at a record low 21 — that’s just one for every 1.3 million flights — those accidents resulted in a catastrophically high number of fatalities, thanks to the high-profile MH370, MH17, Air Algerie 5017 and AirAsia QZ8501 crashes.

“Certainly, 21 fatal accidents with 986 fatalities — higher than the 10-year average — is sickening,” the report says. “However, the world’s airlines carried a record 3.3 billion passengers on 27 million flights.

“Two of the crashes last year — MH370 and MH17 — were unprecedented in modern times and claimed 537 lives. Flashback 50 years and there were a staggering 87 crashes killing 1,597 when airlines carried only 141 million passengers — five per cent of today’s number.”

Of the 449 airlines rated by the report, Qantas came out on top. The Australian airline was lauded for its “extraordinary record of firsts” in safety and operations over its 94-year history, and its fatality-free record in the jet era.

In particular, Qantas was applauded for its development of the Future Air Navigation System, its industry-leading use of the Flight Data Recorder, and its automatic landings using Global Navigation Satellite System and precision approaches around mountains in cloud using RNP (Required Navigation Performance)

The report also hailed the 94-year-old airline as the most experienced in the sky.

The safety rating criteria is endorsed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (a United Nations agency). It takes into account audits from aviation’s governing bodies and lead associations, government audits, and the airlines’ fatality records, operational histories and incident records.

Seven stars is the highest possible safety rating the report can prescribe; 149 of the 449 airlines rated by the report received all seven stars. Airlines can earn stars in a number of ways — for instance, a safety audit certification from the International Air Transport Association is worth two stars, and meeting all eight safety parameters of the International Civil Aviation Authority is worth another two.

A 10-year record of zero fatalities is worth one star.

Stars can also be lost — for example, for being on the EU’s blacklist, or for being grounded by a governing aviation authority because of safety concerns.

Although Qantas was named the overall winner, the rest of the list was presented in alphabetical order, rather than rated in order from 2 to 10.

The world’s safest airlines, according to

  • Qantas
  • Air New Zealand
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Airways
  • EVA Air
  • Finnair
  • Lufthansa
  • Singapore Airlines

The world’s safest low-cost airlines, according to

  • Aer Lingus
  • Alaksa Airlines
  • Icelandair
  • Jetstar
  • Jetblue
  • Monarch Airlines
  • Thomas Cook
  • TUI Fly
  • Westjet

These low-cost carriers were praised for passing the stringent International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), and for their excellent safety records.

Of the 449 airlines rated by the report, 50 earned three stars or less. Five airlines managed to achieve one star for safety: Nepal’s Tara Air, Agni Air, and Nepal Airlines; Kazakhstan’s SCAT Airlines; and Afghanistan’s Kam Air. With the exception of Agni Air, those airlines are all banned from flying within the European Union.

Of course, what you really want to know is how Malaysia Airlines went. Well, despite accounting for more than half of the airline fatalities in 2014 (MH370 and MH17 claimed 537 lives between them), the airline was awarded a five-star rating, docked only for its high number of fatalities.

Which airline do you feel safest flying with? Let us know in the comments below!