Ryanair is now the world's safest airline. Following the tragic death of Jennifer Riordan on board flight 1380, after she was "partially sucked out of the plane," Southwest Airlines lost their almost perfect safety record.
The flight left La Guardia airport in New York City at around 10:30 a.m. on April 17 headed to Dallas. Less than an hour into the journey, Captain Tammie Jo Shults was forced into an emergency landing in Philadelphia following an uncontained engine failure.
Many airlines can boast a fatality free flying record. Although, Southwest Airlines and Ryanair's record is judged against the massive numbers of passengers they carry. According to Southwest's official website, since their founding in Texas in 1971, 1.8 billion people flown with the airline and until yesterday, there had been zero fatalities. In 2005, a Southwest planed skidded off of a runway due to snowy conditions and killed a 6-year-old boy who was in a car.
On the other hand, since their founding in July 1985, 1.1 billion people have flown on board Ryanair with zero fatalities. In 2017, Ryanair celebrated flying their one billionth passenger. Those statistics are according to Airline Ratings, a website that uses information provided by airlines and government to determine safety rankings.
The airline that comes in second behind Ryanair is England's Easyjet, which has carried 820 million since November 1995 with no fatalities. Among the other airlines with zero fatalities are Virgin Atlantic and Flybe, though both carry far fewer people than Ryanair, Southwest or Easyjet.
Ryanair's safety practices have been scrutinized in the past
In 2013, Channel 4 in the United Kingdom aired an investigative documentary on Ryanair's practices titled Secrets of the Cockpit. The program alleged that Ryanair was guilty carrying the lowest levels of fuel permissible by aviation laws. The documentary said that in 2012, three Ryanair planes had to be diverted after declaring fuel related emergencies in Spain. A Ryanair pilot featured in the documentary, Captain John Goss, was fired days after it aired. In April 2016, the Irish Times reported that Goss had lost his unfair dismissal action in Dublin.
The Guardian reported in December 2017 that Ryanair cabin crew were judged against the sales figures of in-flight food, drinks and merchandise. The airline's cabin crew were also scrutinized in July 2017 when a Hungarian woman said she received incorrect treatment for a burn after spilling hot liquid.
When publishing the list of 2018's Top 20 safest airlines, Airline Ratings did not include Ryanair or Easyjet. Air New Zealand topped that list with Alaska Airlines coming in second. Ireland's other airline, Aer Lingus, made the list of safest low cost carriers, alongside Flybe and Thomas Cook. Those low cost airlines were included because, according to Geoffrey Thomas, the editor of Airline Ratings, via the Daily Telegraph, "Unlike a number of low cost carriers, these airlines have all passed the stringent International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and have excellent safety records."
A common myth, that was even perpetuated by the Oscar winning film Rainman, is that Australian airline Qantas has never crashed. Between July and December 1951, three Qantas planes crashed in New Guinea, killing a total of ten people. Despite that, Qantas regularly ranks as the world's safest airline, according to Airline Ratings.