A report by Air Safety Online looked into the largest U.S. commercial airlines, charter airlines, and commuter and metro feeder carriers in order to provide airline passengers with a better understanding of air safety, including FAA regulatory violations and fines and the number of FAA and NTSB incidents and accidents. Following is a brief description of the safety records.
- AirTran Airways
- Alaska Airlines
- Aloha Airlines
- America West Airlines
- American Airlines
- American Trans Air
- Atlantic Southeast Airlines
- Casino Express
- Continental Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- Executive Airlines
- Frontier Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Miami Air International
- Midwest Express Airlines
- Northwest Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Sun Country Airlines
- United Airlines
- US Airways
AirTran Airways received an F rating for safety. Once under ValuJet, the airlines were rated by the FAA for being 13 times less safe than other lower-cost U.S. airplanes. A high number of AirTran’s DC-9 jetliners have been involved in a large number of serious aircraft accidents, leading their day to day safety operations to be in question. Since 1985 AirTran Airways has had 110 fatalities, 21 FAA incidents, 7 NTSB incidents, and 39 FAA violations/fines in 1997-2000.
After the plane crash of one of their airplanes Alaska Airlines was involved in a special FAA audit and had been presented with a criminal indictment. An Alaska Airline mechanic went public, claiming the airline management had covered up safety issues at maintenance facilities. Sixty-five Alaska Airlines mechanics signed a letter directed to the FAA that accused San Francisco maintenance facility officials of signing off on incomplete and improper repairs. Since 1985 Alaska Airlines has had 88 fatalities, 79 FAA incidents, 9 NTSB incidents, and 84 FAA violations/fines in 1997-2000.
The reviews on Aloha Airlines concluded that there were no negative associations or tied to the airline. Since 1985 Aloha Airlines has had 1 fatality, 18 FAA incidents, 1 NTSB incident, and 15 FAA violations/fines in 1997-2000.
America West Airlines
According to a recent article in U.S. News & World Report America West Airlines has been under the close watch of the FAA for questionable maintenance practices for months and it is speculated that an FAA shutdown may be in the future. Since 1985 America West Airlines has had no fatalities, 119 FAA incidents, 25 NTSB incidents, and 68 FAA violations/fines in 1997-2000.
American Airlines’ pilot training program is under watch due to the number of plane crashes that have been attributed to pilot errors over the last 15 years. Since 1985 American Airlines has had 270 fatalities, 741 FAA incidents, 158 NTSB incidents, and 505 FAA violations/fines in 1997-2000, making it the U.S. leader in FAA violations and fines.
American Trans Air
The safety analysis of American Trans Air is a positive one. The airline has recently ordered new jetliners, which has been shown to marginally reduce an airline’s accident rate when new aircraft replace older models. American Trans Air has never had a fatal accident in its 28 years of operation, and since 1985 had 73 FAA incidents, 13 NTSB incidents, and 39 FAA violations/fines in 1997-2000.
Atlantic Southeast Airlines
Atlantic Southeast Airlines is a subsidiary of Delta Airlines, an above-average safety analysis airlines. Atlantic Southeast Airlines has had engine maintenance problems in the past. Since 1985 Atlantic Southeast Airlines has had 33 fatalities, 58 FAA incidents, 20 NTSB incidents, and 24 FAA violations/fines in 1997-2000.
Casino Express is not associated to any negative safety analysis ratings, though the airlines have not had an extensive flight record. Since 1985 there have been no fatal accidents, 1 FAA incident, and 1 NTSB incident.
After Continental Airlines’ bankruptcy in the mid- 1990’s they have gotten better in terms of their safety measures. Since 1985 Continental Airlines has had 50 fatalities, 725 FAA incidents, 95 NTSB incidents, and 145 FAA violations/fines in 1997-2000.
Delta’s subsidiaries Comair and Atlantic Southeast Airlines have been the most involved in the major accidents. Since 1985 Delta Airlines has had 213 fatalities, 951 FAA incidents, 269 NTSB incidents, and 430 FAA violations and/or fines in the years of 1997-2000, a higher FAA violation/fine rate than American Airlines, which has the highest number of FAA violations and fines.
Although there is not much information on Executive Airlines’ safety record, Air Safety Online found it is speculated that their 2000 crash was due to pilot fatigue, which points to their Executive’s pilot training program. At the date of the safety analysis, there had not yet been a final report released on the plane crash from the NTSB. Since 1985 Executive Airlines has had 19 fatalities, 31 FAA incidents, 13 NTSB incidents, and 21 FAA violations/fines in 1997-2000.
Frontier Airlines received a positive safety analysis based on their past records. Since 1985 Frontier Airlines has not had any fatalities, 23 FAA incidents, 4 NTSB incidents, and 22 FAA violations/fines in 1997-2000.
Hawaiian Airlines has not had any fatal accidents and only 47 FAA incidents since 1985, 41 NTSB incidents, and 31 FAA violations/fines in 1997-2000.
Miami Air International
Miami Air International has a very good safety record, flying with a fairly new fleet. The airlines have not had any fatal accidents, have had 9 FAA incidents since 1985, 2 NTSB incidents, and 3 FAA violations/fines in 1997-2000.
Midwest Express Airlines
Although Midwest Express Airlines had one major plane crash accident, the airlines have not had many other airline safety problems. Since 1985 Midwest Express Airlines has had 34 fatalities, 33 FAA incidents, 6 NTSB incidents, and 9 FAA violations/fines in 1997-2000.
Northwest Airlines operates on the oldest fleet of planes amongst the major U.S. airlines and is not known for its customer service. Since 1985 Northwest Airlines has had 191 fatalities, 560 FAA incidents, 60 NTSB incidents, and 338 FAA violations/fines in 1997-2000.
The safety analysis of Southwest Airlines has not shown any major negative trends. Since 1985 there has been no fatalities, 170 FAA incidents, 34 NTSB incidents, and 260 FAA violation/fines in 1997-2000.
Sun Country Airlines
Safety information on this airline could not be found, but since 1985 there have been no fatalities, 12 FAA incidents, 5 NTSB incidents, and 13 FAA violations/fines in 1997-2000.
The safety record at United Airlines has shown no major problems in the past, but labor issues that have developed recently indicate that there could be a lack of proper oversight, leading to possible plane accidents. Since 1985 there have been 169 fatalities, 1,060 FAA incidents, 696 NTSB incidents, and 336 FAA violations/fines in 1997-2000.
US Airways had a series of plane crashes leading to high fatalities from the late 1980s to the early 1990s and it was followed by financial difficulties and near buy-outs, leading them to a makeover into becoming US Airways. Since then, from 1985 the airlines have had 232 fatalities, 544 FAA incidents, 74 NTSB incidents, and 147 FAA violations/fines in 1997-2000.