Aviation Safety in the UK and Overseas

How safe is flying?

As a method of transport, aviation is very safe. When compared to other methods of transport, as the following Department for Transport table shows, aviation is actually the safest by distance travelled:

UK Transport Mode

Fatality Rate per Billion Kilometres travelled (1995-2009)

Airline0.003
Rail0.27
Car2.57
Cycling34.6
Pedestrian43.27
Motorbike106.67

Worldwide, in the last decade alone, while there has been a 22% increase in the number of flights operated, the fatal accident rate for passenger-carrying commercial jets has fallen to 0.3 deaths per million flights.

In the past 40 years, the survivability of aircraft accidents has also increased considerably.  In the decade 1971-1980, 48% of passengers survived major accidents, whereas in the decade 2001-2010, 67% of passengers survived.

Read our information for nervous flyers.

The UK safety picture

In the UK, we have one of the best aviation safety records in the world. In terms of large commercially operated aeroplanes, the UK fatal accident rate is half that of the rest of the world combined.

  • The last fatality after an accident involving a UK aircraft was in 1999.
  • Prior to that, the last fatal accident was a decade earlier, in Kegworth in 1989.
  • Since then, more than 70,000 people have died on the UK’s roads. 

There is an average of one fatality for every 287 million passengers carried by UK operators.

This can be compared with a one in 19 million chance of being struck and killed by lightning in the UK or a one in 17,000 chance of being killed in a road accident.

Compared to other EU countries, the UK has the highest number of passenger flying hours and total flights, and a fatal accident rate 57% lower than the rest of the EU.

Despite our excellent safety record, the UK is still active in identifying potential causes of accidents and reducing their likelihood so that safety can be continuously improved.

Travelling on airlines outside of the UK

The UK CAA only regulates aviation companies based in the UK. We do so in line with regulations that are being standardised across Europe.

If you are thinking of travelling outside of the UK, or Europe, on local airlines, it can sometimes be hard to know how to find out about the safety performance of those airlines - or what information is most reliable. Below are some useful sources.

It is also worth keeping in mind that other kinds of transport (trains or coaches for instance) may be less safe than travelling by air.

The EU banned list

The European Union publishes a list of airlines that have applied to fly in the EU and been refused permission, or have been banned from operating within Europe. That list is available below: 

If an airline has never tried to operate within the EU, it will not be on the list.

Flight Safety Foundation

The Flight Safety Foundation is an independent source of up-to-date information about global safety standards. Their website contains a global database of every serious air accident.

You can search for airlines by country or see an overview of the country’s safety record as well as any accidents.

They also publish information for passengers on flight safety

FCO travel advice
 

The Foreign Office’s ‘Know before you go’ website has general information about travelling overseas, including advice about safety.