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Am I likely to have a significantly less safe flight than I'd expect based on the booked airline's safety record because of code sharing?

I'm kind of asking if I can book with Rain Man endorsed Qantas and end up on the infamous Air Koryo, but if an airline has a poor safety record overall, but is perfectly safe for the booked flight, that's ok.

  • @choster fixed, but don't blame me if the Guardians of Peace hack this web site! – Andrew Grimm Jan 1 '15 at 2:57
  • @AndrewGrimm - Ignore choster :-) - the aircraft flown matter but are far less important than ethos, attitude, maintenance et al. Almost everyone uses Airbus or Boeing but after that anything can happen. – Russell McMahon Jan 1 '15 at 10:34
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    If your hypothetical flight booked with Qantas did include a segment on Air Koryo, this would be disclosed to you (perhaps in fine print) at the time of booking (usually with a phrase like "Flight 1234 is operated by Air Koryo"), and you would be able to decide if that was acceptable to you. – Nate Eldredge Jan 2 '15 at 0:56
  • Safety is mentioned in this article about code shares: edition.cnn.com/2011/TRAVEL/07/11/snyder.codesharing/… – Andrew Grimm Feb 27 at 8:04
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Most major carriers arrange code shares with airlines they feel they can trust. After all it is the selling airline's reputation and liability that is on the line when they sell you a seat on a different carrier. So overall your safety should be essentially the same as the marketing carrier would offer.

But in the event they did arrange a code share with Dodgy Airline, then you have to judge for yourself if the destination is worth the risk. The code share flight will be operated in the same fashion as all the other flights from the Dodgy Air. Dodgy Air won't change their procedures unless the entire flight is booked by the selling carrier (ie chartered), then they might run onboard service to match the marketing carrier (but still the same planes and pilots).

  • Seems like he is asking about safety on a code share, but maybe I speak a different version of English than you ;-) – user13044 Jan 2 '15 at 5:14
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As a very general rule, flights via any airline between airports that most people travel between are extremely unlikely to result in a fatality. If you count safety as being "walking off the plane alive" then most airlines are "safe enough".

ie The chances of dying on a low class airline's flight on an other than backblocks route is minimal - and even the very best airlines have disasters occasionally.

In AirlineRatings.com's table of airlines (see below) about 90% of the about 300 airlines listed had not experienced a fatality in the last 10 years.


AirlineRatings.com - Safety and service ratings for many airlines.

Comparison table for all airlines ratings.

The table also rates "product" out of 7 - I've not listed those (Air Koryo 2.5/7 for "product")

Safety score out of 7 :

Aeroflot scores 7 / 7 for safety.
Air Koryo scores 5.5
Ryan Air scores 5.0 (how I don't know)
Nepal airlines score 1.

7.0 Aeroflot
7.0 Cayman airways
6.0 Caribbean
5.5 Air Koryo
5.0 Air Botswana
5.0 Cape Air
5.0 RyanAir

3.0 Maldivian
1.0 Nepal


Personal experience: I have travelled reasonably extensively in China in recent years. I have never been 'scared' of flying in the classic sense but had always had an awareness of the "all or nothing" aspect of air travel and the fact that bad things sometimes happen. A few years ago I planned to travel diagonally across much of China from the south East near the coast to near top left (North West) (Urumqi in Xinjiang) - about a 7 hour journey as I recall. I researched the records of all the Chinese internal airlines - and found them to be often a fairly 'easy going' lot safety wise by western standards. I found many reports of below standard maintenance, practices that ware less than ideal and a general approach to safety which was not absolutely terrible but which also was not first class. And I also found that most of the airlines had lost one aircraft in the decade pre 2000, none had lost one post 2000 (as of about 2009). The only Chinese airline that had a worse absolute fatality record was Air China - the Taiwanese national carrier with 3 losses over a near 20 year period.
I've since found that, quite unconsciously and unintentionally, my attitude to air flight has relaxed to the near blase level and I have to actually remind myself that making my peace as appropriate preflight is still probably a good idea. ie I'm not too concerned on any given flight.

In India in 2014 I flew Spice Jet (4/7 for safety),
I've flown Ryan Air (3.5/7)
and I want to visit Nepal but am not keen about Nepal Airline's 1/7!

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    The safety ratings you quote seem very dubious, to me. Ryanair scores only 5/7 purely because, like many low-cost airlines, it is not IOSA-certified. In contrast, having a fatal accident in the last ten years only loses you one point. That seems to be a very skewed metric. Ryanair carries more passengers than any other European airline and they've never had a fatal accident. – David Richerby Jan 1 '15 at 11:48
  • @pnuts You comment summarises my answer - ie even if you DO end up on another airline it will have minimal impact on your chances of dying. The "very best" airlines lose aircraft "just because" - they may eg be in collision with an airliner from an "unsafe" airline. – Russell McMahon Jan 1 '15 at 23:42
  • @DavidRicherby - You MAY be right - BUT - is safety well correlated with occasional fatalties, and how does this relate to other factors? Would you feel safer flying with eg an internal Chinese airline that had lost an aircraft 2 years ago, or one of similar size and network coverage that had not lost one in the last 10 years? All else being equal I'd suspect that a loss may improve safety for some years subsequently - but that a broad lack of certifications suggested possible major problems. | By the metric of passenger border crossings Ryanair is THE largest airline in the world. BUT .... – Russell McMahon Jan 1 '15 at 23:47
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    .... if you've ever flown with R.A. (I have) and you feel they feel "safe" then we wear different coloured world views :-). – Russell McMahon Jan 1 '15 at 23:51
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    Air China (CA) is the flag carrier of the PRC, not of Taiwan. Taiwan's flag carrier is called China Airlines (CI). Could you edit your post and double check which one you mean? – Nate Eldredge Jan 2 '15 at 0:54

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