air safety

Jun 12, 2013 does some explaining

The editor-in-chief of Airline Ratings com, Geoffrey Thomas, has indeed 'explained' 

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

The editor-in-chief of Airline Ratings com, Geoffrey Thomas, has indeed ‘explained’  some of the issues raised here about the new safety and product rating site.

First and foremost Air France does NOT get a seven-star rating it gets 6/7 because of the tragic crash in 2009.

Secondly our rating system replies totally on objective measure to arrive at a level playing field assessment.

We use ICAO and IATA’s Operational and Safety (IOSA) audits, as you suggest the EU black list, the FAA assessment and then fatalities over the past 10 years.

You mention Lion Air as an example. It failed the IOSA audit, is banned from the EU and the US and tragically passengers have lost their lives.

Some ask why we don’t use incident reports.

And the answer is simple – what is a serious incident?

And will the country and / or airline actually report them – many do not.

One safety rating agency in Germany notes in its assessment notes that many countries do not report incidents or have limited reporting.

It also downgraded QF over the A380 incident yet it was not Qantas’s fault and the pilot’s skill level saved the day.

One would have thought you should upgrade the airline!

As for Jetstar – well the fact is it passed IOSA and ticks all the other “objective” boxes.

Another safety rating agency in Switzerland uses a basket of measures some of which I really question.

They include; load factor; number of employees, number of pilots; percentage of aircraft on order; distance flown and number of aircraft in service.

No rating system is perfect – can’t be as no one can predict what may happen.

But ours uses measures that are industry standards and that have improved air safety immeasurably and there can be no argument about that.

Sincerely hope this clarifies your concerns.

Best GT  


Some issues remain:

If the process followed by Airline Ratings produces the same 7/7 rating for Jetstar as Qantas, despite all of the matters raised under parliamentary privilege in Senate committee hearings, and by the ATSB (eventually) in the inquiries it has made, including one forced by a vigilant media, then it is fundamentally and deeply flawed.

If the process followed rates Air France above Lion Air for safety it is offering readers an absurd conclusion, although one that might be of comfort to those who have prejudicial views of Asia based carriers that ignore the failings of Europe based carriers.

The processes seem to accept without questioning the audits and judgements and evaluations of various safety organisations. This is contrary to journalism. We shouldn’t accept anything at face value, and in relation to Jetstar in particular, this is disturbing giving the level of detail made available on the public record about a number of incidents.


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10 thoughts on “ does some explaining

  1. kiwikurt

    So basically like financial rating agencies it remains a farce.

    Unfortunately based on past articles I do not trust Mr Thomas to provide accurate information and would certainly not recommend anyone to use this site in order to make an informed decision on their choice of carrier.

  2. jeremyp

    I struggle to understand why you take it as a given, a postulate, that Jetstar must be rated poorer than Qantas or the rating system is flawed. As you have beaten into your readership, yes there are certain incidents involving Jetstar, that in Australia’s (purported) just aviation culture, have been documented and published. None of these resulted in any damage or injury, and many of those incidents wouldn’t even have been reported to the top level safety investigator in other countries, even the USA. The incidents did not result in serious consequences because of the robust safety systems of both the airline and the Australian aviation system in general; yes they are a cause for concern, but they don’t make the airline objectively “unsafe.”

    As Mr. Thomas notes, using these incidents as a basis for downgrading a rating is impossible because airlines from different jurisdictions cannot be compared directly. I don’t see a problem with the methodology – as long as it’s acknowledged that having the highest safety rating certainly does not mean “perfect” and doesn’t excuse Jetstar from continuing to improve its operations to reduce the incident rate. I still would much rather fly Jetstar than Air France, and I would rather fly Air France than Lion Air – the ratings make sense to me.

  3. Ben Sandilands


    If you think we have a robust safety system in Australia you are either completely unaware of the issues highlighted by the most recent Senate inquiry into the Pel-Air situation, or totally captive to the PR lobbying.

    Vital documents were suppressed in an air accident investigation by CASA. The ATSB has stopped making safety recommendations in line with ICAO Annex 13.

    There is a large volume of well reasoned, documented, and privileged information available on these issues. You don’t need PT to find them, but you do need to look beyond the machinery of message management.

  4. TomM

    GT makes the point that it is difficult to compare countries etc due to differing levels of disclosure and assessment. Instead of putting this in the too hard basket, shouldn’t it also be included in the ratings e.g. if there isn’t full disclosure dock a star. It seems that there has been a deliberate decision to avoid using further data from which I understand is a useful indicator of the robustness of a country’s air safety system. The level of disclosure can then be used to further assess airline ratings such as the issues with JetStar etc.

  5. TomM

    @kiwikurt agree with you on some of GT’s articles. I remember a full page spread in The West Australian in 2010 detailing how the V Australia was about to put B777-200LRs into service on a London – Perth non-stop direct flight. Still waiting for that one to happen.

  6. Ronnie Moore

    The response is really impressive.

    “our rating system replies totally on objective measure”
    Hmmm, so is that meant to reassure readers that you know what you’re talking about? You have your own rating system then? What exactly is that?

    “One safety rating agency in Germany notes in its assessment notes that many countries do not report incidents”
    Does that mean you have decided to include all countries into your ratings (your own system) even though more experienced agencies have not rated the countries that do not report incidents? Doesn’t that mean you have not included all potential incidents and so your ratings are not representing reality?

    “it was not Qantas’s fault”
    I’m afraid there would be some who disagree with you. Some might feel that outsourcing maintenance and losing expertise and oversight of what used to be one of the best centres of engine on-wing standards in the world, especially considering the desire for reliable very long distance demands of Qantas international flights, is a severe disadvantage being experienced increasingly by Qantas customers being delayed and indeed frightened.

    “some of which I really question”
    So is your rating system actually “personal” to you?

    “no one can predict what may happen”
    One would think the idea would be to professionally rate and report what has happened and let the travelling public make up their minds what cost-convenience-risk profile they wanted to accept for their travel arrangements?

  7. johnb78

    Ronnie: they disclose the details of their rating system in tortuous detail on the site – I’ve pasted the whole thing into the comments to yesterday’s thread.

    I’m with Jeremy here. I’d certainly rank QF > JQ > AF > JT in terms of perceived risk, and the difference between JQ and QF is the difference between “extremely safe” and “even safer”.

    It’s slightly unfair on competent airlines based in countries with incompetent regulators (I’d rather fly Air Asia X than Air France), but then again if you’re in such a position then you should be getting an IOSA audit anyway.

  8. jeremyp

    Thanks John for getting my point.

    Ben, I have certainly not missed the coverage of the Senate hearings and Pel-Air investigation, and those are huge cause for concern. My point is that “needs some improvement” does not by any means imply “incompetent.” The fact of the matter is, Jetstar has not had any *serious* safety issues or accidents – it’s mostly minor areas of concern, that are investigated somewhat transparently (not perfectly!), and mostly handled appropriately by the system.

    You, and the Senate, have rightly criticized ATSB for its focus on scheduled air carriers, hence less time spent on things like Pel-Air. Thus it’s hard to understand the comments out of the same mouth claiming that Jetstar’s incidents aren’t being taken seriously. As I said, in other places like the US, these minor incidents (busting STARs/altitude restrictions) would not rate an NTSB investigation – they would be handled within the FAA only, as well as the NASA confidential incident reporting system.

    The fact that the Senate is bringing up the failures of the Pel-Air crash investigation and related CASA actions, and that we can discuss it openly and expect timely improvements, is part of what makes Australia’s safety system and democratic system “robust” – not perfect, but robust – look up the difference. But I do agree with you if the Senate inquiry is ignored, this robustness is in decline.

  9. fractious

    If Mr Thomas’ statement at para 2 (presumably edited, checked and proof-read before release) is indicative of the standards elsewhere at (Secondly our rating system replies totally on objective measure to arrive at a level playing field assessment) I’d rather consult the dregs of my teacup before choosing an airline than waste a click on their website.

    Truly, by their words shall ye know them etc.

  10. TT

    May I suggest all readers in this forum to also read the article by this month’s Travel and Leisure magazine on their World Safest airline assessment?

    Of note, Air France is rated number 15 (safer than Air New Zealand! :-o)

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