I'm considering booking a flight with WOW Airlines and since it's the first time I hear about it I did some research on google and I find mostly good reviews.

However, while looking for the safety ranking, I found out that WOW Airlines is not IOSA certified.

What is IOSA Certification? The IATA* Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certification audit is an internationally recognised and accepted evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline. IOSA uses internationally recognised audit principles and is designed to conduct audits in a standardised and consistent manner. Airlines are re evaluated every two years. Registering for IOSA certification and auditing is not mandatory therefore an airline that does not have IOSA certification may have either failed the IOSA audit or alternatively chosen not to participate. *IATA (International Air Transport Association) - See more at: http://www.airlineratings.com/ratings/313/wow-air#sthash.oLSquDNX.dpuf

While I understand this is not mandatory, does this mean they have low safety standards or said standards are enforced in other ways?

  • 2
    possible duplicate of How can I determine which airlines are relatively safe?
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Apr 19, 2014 at 9:03
  • @MarkMayo that's a little bit more specific since I'm asking about IOSA certification and not general advices.
    – Geeo
    Commented Apr 19, 2014 at 9:04
  • WOW Airlines flies within the EU and thus would be perfectly covered under the question above.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Apr 19, 2014 at 11:26
  • You guys are failing to understand the question, which is more about IOSA certification, as per title, and not limited to wow airlines or general safety considetation about flying.
    – Geeo
    Commented Apr 19, 2014 at 11:30
  • Perhaps you should then consider moving your question to the Aviation StackExchange?
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Apr 19, 2014 at 11:34

2 Answers 2


Being an IOSA certified airline indeed means you have reached a certain level of safety (good level), but not being certified does NOT necessarily mean you have not reached that level.

For a small airlines like WOW, being IOSA certified is nothing but a waste of money. Why? because passing IOSA costs a lot of money (around $60,000 for the audit organization only) in addition to other costs related to that. IOSA audit is mandatory now to be a part of IATA, but again, an airline like WOW does not need to be part of IATA, many other small airlines or even larger airlines (like Ryanair) chose not to because they do not benefit from it.

Most larger airlines will benefit from IOSA for many reasons, reputation is one of them, minimizing bilateral audits between airlines is another reason. So if X airlines wants to audit Z airlines before code sharing, they will just take permission to check their IOSA audit records instead of conducting their own audits as airlines used to do in the past, this will save money and time.

For many airlines, IOSA audits are nothing more than a way of making good money for IATA, I am saying this because IOSA audits only check the minimum required safety policies and procedures while most airlines (especially large ones) have much more strict safety policies.

Bottom line, as mentioned in the other answer, civil aviation authorities are responsible about enforcing safety policies, and EU has a very good one. So, as long as the airline is certified to work in EU then that's a good sign.

BTW, I am a certified auditor from IATA and I know a thing or two about IOSA.

  • 1
    That's exactly the answer I was looking for. Thank you sir.
    – Geeo
    Commented Apr 19, 2014 at 23:02
  • Awesome answer @MeNoTalk, I'm curious why sites like airlineratings.com put such heavy weight on this part of the rating (2 out of 7 stars), if it's nothing more than a minimal checklist? It's confusing since they turn around and give FAA and EU certifications less credit (1 star each) than IOSA. Also, is ICAO more difficult or is it essentially the same as IOSA?
    – jamesbar2
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 7:53

Airline safety is generally primarily enforced by the Government of the country/region where the airline is based. As WOW Air is based in Iceland, they would fall under the regulations of the Icelandic Civil Aviation Administration.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) provides guidelines on what countries should enforce as a part of a safety policy, and they also carry out safety audits on the country (but not specific airlines) to confirm that the country is meeting a minimum safety level.

They can also be further governed by the safety regulations of the countries that they fly to. As WOW Air flies to countries within the European Union, they would also fall under the The European Aviation Safety Policy. In general the EU will not directly police foreign airlines (although they can if they have specific concerns, and they do carry out random safety checks on airlines at EU airports), but will rely on the airlines home country enforcement, and the results from the ICAO audits to determine if an airline is safe.

The EU also maintains a blacklist of airlines that are not allowed fly into the EU (including into it's airspace) as they are deemed unsafe, however obviously WOW is not on that list.

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