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Many low-cost airlines have bad reviews for food or in-flight entertainment. But these are not my concerns. I prefer not to eat on the flight and save one thought dollarS instead. However, something that I care about is the safety of the flight. If these airlines try to minimise the costs do they do the same on flight safety? Is Jetstar as safe as Qantas or are AirAsia/LionAir flights as safe as Qatar Airways?

Related but narrower scope: How safe is it to fly with Ryanair?

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    Does this answer your question? How safe is it to fly with Ryanair? Jul 31, 2023 at 13:12
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    there's other things to consider besides the food and entertainment. low cost carriers will nickle and dime you on everything. obviously if it's a 1k price difference it won't matter but sometimes the initial price may seem lower only for you to find that the additional luggage charges (with more strict requirements on size/weight) make up the difference. there's also the issue that when things go wrong, it tends to be more painful when you are dealing with low cost airlines vs the more established brands. more cancellations, longer delays, etc.
    – eps
    Jul 31, 2023 at 21:36
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    I wouldn't call the luggage charges as nickle-and-diming. The airline clearly has to pay a cost to transport luggage. It can either spread that cost among all passengers regardless of how much they bring (0, 1, 2 bags), or it can specifically charge the passengers that have checked luggage or oversized bags. It aligns the airline's cost with the customer's cost.
    – Nayuki
    Aug 1, 2023 at 6:39
  • Current quote from Ryanair's home page: "As Europe’s cleanest and greenest airline group we’re investing $22bn in 210 new Boeing 737-8200 ‘Gamechanger’ aircraft: 4% more guests, 16% less fuel burn and 40% less noise emissions. In March 2023 we received our 100th ‘Gamechanger’ aircraft. By 2034 we will receive a further 300 new Boeing 737- MAX 10 aircraft which not only carry 21% more guests, but burn 20% less fuel and are 50% quieter than our Boeing 737-NG Fleet." - funny that they avoid using 737-MAX for the MAX 8/200 (due to the two well-known accidents), but not for the MAX 10...
    – rob74
    Aug 1, 2023 at 8:47

5 Answers 5

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Low-cost carriers (LCC) cut many corners, but they generally do not skimp on safety: having a single accident can easily bankrupt an airline.

That said, it's a big world out there and not all LCCs are the same. I'd roughly bucket them into 4 groups, 3 of which are generally OK:

  1. Those owned by mainline/legacy carriers generally apply the same safety standards as their parents: this includes eg Jetstar (a Qantas subsidiary) and Scoot (a Singapore Airlines subsidiary).

  2. Major LCCs also tend to place an emphasis on safety: Ryanair is one of the world's largest airlines but has never had a fatal accident, while AirAsia used to contract out its maintenance to Lufthansa Technik and has a solid (albeit imperfect) record.

  3. LCCs headquartered in developed countries are subject to the same strict regulations as all other airlines in those countries, and this is why the safety records of LCCs based in eg the US, the EU and Japan are quite good.

  4. The one group to be wary of is independent LCCs in developing countries, which can lack both a safety culture and strong regulation. Indonesia is a bit of an unfortunate poster child here, with LCCs like Adam Air, Mandala, Sriwiyaja etc crashing on an alarmingly regular basis.

To answer the original question: Batik Air is actually not an LCC, but the full-service wing of Lion Air. (Wings Air is Lion's even-LCC-er wing.). Lion is a major LCC that's been around for a while and is authorized to fly into countries like Singapore with strict aviation oversight, but their record is distinctly not great, with 6 major (hull-loss) accidents since 2002. Personally, they would not be my first choice and for domestic Indo flights I'd go for Garuda or AirAsia even if it cost a bit more, but if there are no other reasonable options I'd still be OK with them, since traveling by bus or ferry in Indonesia is even more dangerous. YMMV.

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    Within that grouping you also need to consider location. In the US you need 1500 hours before you can get an ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot Licence), but the equivalent in Europe is only 250 hours. I'm not sure about Asia in general, but I have reference to Cathay also only requiring 250 hours.
    – Peter M
    Jul 31, 2023 at 18:35
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    @PeterM I have seen a comprehensive video essay somewhere on youtube by mentour pilot going about requirements to become a pilot and training requirements and how the US 1500 hour requirement is an overreaction to several events that ultimately serves no purpose than to make lawmakers seem to be doing something instead of adressing several other issues with pilot training in the US and how the 250 hour requirement is okay WHEN COMBINED with other needed stuff. And how it actually provces counterproductive, as the pilots don't have where to get the 1500 hours... I have to just find it
    – mishan
    Jul 31, 2023 at 20:00
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    @PeterM Ahh...here it is! youtube.com/watch?v=l83d_z3GPeo , I think that's the one. There might be several others somewhere
    – mishan
    Jul 31, 2023 at 20:02
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    So to summarize from the video: US pilots need 1500 hours of experience BEFORE they are even let into the cockpit of the commercial large passenger aircraft as first officers and can actually start getting hands on experience on how the plane actually operates IRL. The pervious model was 250 hours to start getting hands on experience and 3000 hours to be allowed to captain their own flights. The 1500 hour rule was not actually recommended by any of the experts, who instead recommended to get an accessible database of flight school results that STILL does not exist in the US.
    – mishan
    Jul 31, 2023 at 20:16
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    @PeterM I'm not convinced that has much impact on safety, not least because airplanes always have two pilots and the captain will be much more experienced than the minimums. You call out Cathay, but they've never had an accident caused by pilot error: their three incidents were caused by terrorist bombing, military shootdown and bad fuel in (drum roll) Indonesia. Aug 1, 2023 at 3:03
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Generally (I.e. not only for LCCs, but for traditional airlines as well) the country of registration is much more relevant than the business model: in some countries oversight is lax if not inexistent, corruption may be rife. The economic situation may also mean parts are hard to come buy, so aircraft will fly with more non-functional systems than normally allowed, or systems fixed with various quantities of duct tape. Planes are also usually older, sometimes a lot older.

One can check the EU airline black list for reference. Those airlines are banned from flying in the EU (totally or partially), which is the sign of big problems in their maintenance or oversight processes. You’ll notice that some countries are represented a lot on that list.

In countries with a strong oversight, LCCs are subject to the same procedures and controls as traditional ones. Cutting corners in services offered is one thing. Cutting corners on safety, with the risk of having their operating certificate suspended or revoked, is an altogether different story.

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There is a already a very good answer but here is some auxiliary data.

  1. The number of airline incident is very small as compared to the number of airlines and passenger miles, so it's very difficult to do any type of meaningful statistics
  2. IATA reported 5 commercial airline crashes for 2022. 4 of those where turbo props and one was a jetliner. (link)
  3. The crash rate (per departure) for turbo props is more than 10 times higher than that for jets. Partially that's due to turbo props going places where jets simply can't go.
  4. The one jetliner that did crash in 2022 was a China Eastern Boeing 737 (link). I would consider China Eastern a mainline carrier and not an LCC.
  5. The number of injuries and fatalities has been steadily declining over the last 50 years (link)despite the number of passenger miles having doubled in the last 15 years alone, so airline travel is becoming safer and safer. There is no discernable spike that could be correlated with a advent of budget carriers.

All of this leads to the same conclusion: air travel is very safe and there is no discernable difference between LCCs and main line carriers in most parts of the world. Most accidents happens with smaller carriers in more remote areas involving turbo props.

Indonesia is indeed a bit of on outlier there with two major incidents in the last 5 years. This being said: Indonesia has over 100,000,000 passengers per year so the individual risk is still extremely small: I flew AirAsia from Denpasar to Djakarta earlier this year and I lived to tell the tale :-)

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Safety is never an issue, no matter how much you're paying. The pilots are still licensed, the airlines still go from point A to point B a large number of times per day, the planes undergo the same checks, etc. If discount airline meant high risk of crash, you wouldn't have discount airlines.

I've been flying nearly 40 years (crazy to say), and have mostly flown discount airlines. I've never had any issues, aside from lack of comfort or rude staff in certain cases. That said, Ryan Air, as you specifically mentioned them, is one of the only airlines in the world I refuse to fly again based on just how bad the service was. Safety won't be your concern, but if you don't like flight attendants being hostile to you for no reason, you might check out a different airline.

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    "the planes are supposed to undergo the same checks" <- fixed that for ya'. It's a sad fact that some LCCs will cut corners on maintenance because maintenance and down time are expensive. As noted in all the other answers, national oversight and a corporate culture of safety are key, and those are, sadly, lacking in some developing/3rd world countries. An airline in a country whose government is outright corrupt will, likely, also be corrupt and will cut every corner they can.
    – FreeMan
    Aug 1, 2023 at 13:24
  • It is not quite as easy as that. There are quite a few local airlines that are not up to international standards as to safety. Whether you call them LCC or not is a question. In general though, flights that start or end in civilized countries are safe. Companies that only fly in a single nation in a less developed country - well check them carefully.
    – ghellquist
    Aug 1, 2023 at 15:47
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First of all, all airlines are considered safe as long as they follow best practices.
The ones that do not follow them tend to get blacklisted. You can look up whether the airline you are flying with is blacklisted.
Secondly LCC carriers focus on short turnaround, to mitigate reimbursements paid to customers. In order to achieve that they develop practices that are actually beneficial to safety:

  1. Low average age
    Batik Airlines has extremely young aircraft with an average age of 8.3 years.
    This cuts their maintenance downtime but also decreases the likelihood of material fatigue.
  2. Homogenous aircraft
    Batik Airlines has 3 types of aircraft with 4 subtypes (A320-200 & A320neo, A330-300 and 737-800). This ensures that crew can "hop in" in case other flight crew calls in sick, but it also means they don't move back and forth between different instrument sets, which could reduce the probability of crew mistakes.

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