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Southwest Airlines Ranked Last in Safety?

In a surprising turn of events, Southwest Airlines has been ranked dead last in the safety of all U.S airlines according to AirlineRatings.com. The website publishes a yearly list outlining the world’s safest airlines, with Qantas taking the number one title again this year and only two U.S. airlines, Hawaiian and Alaska, making the top 20 list. However, Southwest fared worst of all U.S. airlines represented on the site.

U.S. Carrier Rankings

15 U.S. carriers are tracked on AirlineRatings.com and 11 of those earned the full seven out of seven stars possible for safety, including American, Delta, United, Alaska, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Frontier, Sun Country, Silver Airways, Cape Air, and Omni Air International. Only four carriers earned less than seven: Spirit, Allegiant, and PenAir earned four stars and Southwest earned three. Although that number is shocking, there are reasons why Southwest ranked so low and why the star count may be misleading. 

Why Southwest Ranked so Low

According to SFGate, one criterion looked at for safety on AirlineRatings.com is the number of passenger fatalities in the past 10 years. Unfortunately, Southwest does not pass this test due to the accident that happened in April 2018 when a passenger died on one of their aircraft after its engine exploded, causing debris to shatter her window.

A second, more critical reason for the carrier’s three stars is the lack of IOSA certification. The airline has not participated and therefore has not passed, the IOSA audit (which is required to be a member of IATA, the trade organization of the world’s airlines), costing them three stars in safety. The airline’s lack of participation does not mean the airline is not safe, but it did knock them to the bottom of the U.S. carrier safety list.

AirlineRatings.com editor, Geoffrey Thomas, explained, “Southwest is a great airline, but is not amongst our safest airlines due to the fact that it has not completed the International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit or IOSA. This is an audit that is done every two years and covers over 1000 parameters, many of which are operational and safety areas.”

Southwest’s Response

SFGate reached out to Southwest on the matter and received the following response, “As we approach nearly 50 years of air service, Southwest has safely transported more U.S. air travelers each year than any other carrier, for well more than a decade. Safety has been, is and will remain our number one priority and focus. We note that the primary driver in ranking carriers within this study is IOSA registration, which, to date, as an airline serving primarily US destinations, we have chosen not to pursue. We regularly evaluate whether an additional affiliation with IATA, which administers the IOSA program, would make sense as our international footprint grows. “