AirAsia is headquartered in Malaysia and began operations in 1996. It is made up of AirAsia plus a number of subsidiary/affiliate airlines including Thai AirAsia, Indonesia AirAsia, Philippines AirAsia, and AirAsia India. AirAsia and some of its subsidiary/affiliate airlines are consistently ranked highly in the annual Skytrax best low-cost airline awards and the airline is regarded as a safe airline to fly with.
It operates a young aircraft fleet and is IOSA certified. This audit is the benchmark for global safety management in airlines. There has been only one fatal accident involving an AirAsia aircraft. This was a serious incident that occurred in 2014. Other than that, incidents involving AirAsia aircraft have been relatively rare.
I would be perfectly happy to fly AirAsia, and would not have any safety-related concerns.
AirAsia Operates a Modern Fleet
If you equate safety with an airline’s aircraft feet age, then let’s take a look at AirAsia’s fleets and the age of each of its different fleet components. Firstly, I’ll set out the age of the aircraft flying for AirAsia, and then I’ll do the same for the subsidiary/affiliate airlines that I have been able to obtain information on (AirAsia X and AirAsia India).
AirAsia has a large fleet of Airbus aircraft. According to Airfleets.net the overall average weighted age of the active AirAsia fleet is just 6.7 years. The average AirAsia aircraft ages by aircraft type are shown in the table below.
|AirAsia Aircraft||Number of Aircraft||Average Age/ years||Delivery Period (to AirAsia)|
AirAsia X operates a small number of A330 aircraft. According to Airfleets.net the overall average weighted age of the active AirAsia X A330 fleet is 14.1 years, as shown in the table below.
|AirAsia X Aircraft||Number of Aircraft||Average Age/ years||Delivery Period (to Air Asia)|
AirAsia India operates A320 aircraft. According to Airfleets.net the overall average weighted age of the active AirAsia India A320 fleet is 10.6 years, as shown in the table below.
|AirAsia India Aircraft||Number of Aircraft||Average Age/ years||Delivery Period (to Air Asia)|
Combining AirAsia, AirAsia X, and AirAsia India gives an average fleet age of 8.2 years. If you get concerned about aircraft age and equate aircraft age with safety then this is good news for you. An average fleet age of around 8 years is pretty good and should provide some reassurance.
As a ‘rule of thumb,’ airlines can typically expect aircraft to last for 30 years or more if they are subjected to regular maintenance checks. An aircraft’s operating age depends on a lot of factors, but the primary factor is the number of ‘cycles’ it operates. The life of a short-haul aircraft operating a high number of turnarounds each day may be less than the overall commercial aircraft average.
Air Asia Is IOSA-Certified
AirAsia, AirAsia X, AirAsia India, AirAsia Thailand, and AirAsia Philippines have the highest possible, seven-star safety rating on Airline Ratings. Regardless of how much weight you give to this type of ratings, it is a good indicator that these airlines meet some of the most important safety criteria. AirAsia Indonesia has a four-star safety rating because of a fatal crash in 2014 involving multiple fatalities, see the ‘Incidents and Accidents’ section below.
The seven-star ratings are based on the following:
- Accidents and incidents: AirAsia, AirAsia X, AirAsia India, AirAsia Thailand, and AirAsia Philippines have not suffered any fatal accidents within the last 10 years (3 stars), and have not suffered numerous safety-related incidents (2 stars).
- Audits and bans: AirAsia, AirAsia X, and AirAsia India are IOSA (IATA Operational Safety Audit) certified. This audit is the benchmark for global safety management in airlines. The audit is optional and assesses whether an airline has the necessary systems and processes in place to operate safely. Airlines are evaluated every two years. In addition, AirAsia, AirAsia X, and AirAsia India are not blacklisted in the European Union or the United States (1 star). It’s also worth noting that Air Asia’s safety regulator in its home nation of Malaysia scores well in ICAO Safety Audit results, with effective implementation in the range 70-86% for seven of the eight areas audited, on par with the global average. The IATA audit assesses a nation’s approach to airline safety oversight and regulation.
AirAsia and AirAsia X came 68th, and 27th respectively in a study of 100 airlines conducted by the Hamburg-based Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre (JACDEC) in 2021. JACDEC assesses the 100 largest airlines as measured by their revenue passenger performance (RPKs), and the ranking is based on a variety of factors such as fleet age and accident history since 1989.
Air Asia and AirAsia X’s assessed risk factors for 2021 were 85.2 and 90.1, not bad at all, and interestingly higher than Malaysia Airlines which was ranked 94th with a score of 70.7.
Lastly, whilst not directly safety-related, you might be interested to learn that Air Asia consistently comes out very well in the Skytrax annual ‘Best Airline’ awards which measure various aspects of ground and onboard passenger service. For the 2022 Skytrax awards Air Asia was recognized as follows:
- World’s best low-cost airline – Air Asia, first place (13th year running).
- World’s best long-haul low-cost airline – Air Asia X, fifth place.
- Best low-cost airline in Asia – Air Asia, first place, and AirAsia X, tenth place.
AirAsia Incidents and Accidents
All airlines have incidents from time to time. It’s rare that these are serious incidents resulting in crashes and injuries or fatalities. But these more serious incidents do occur from time to time; luckily they are very rare. Air travel is still one of the safest ways to travel, with a very low number of fatalities each year when compared to other modes of travel.
Data from the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics for 2010-2019, shows that travel by commercial aircraft is still the safest form of travel with only 0.002 fatalities per billion passenger miles. This compares to 3.5 fatalities per billion passenger miles for cars, and 0.31 fatalities per billion passenger miles for trains.
AirAsia has suffered some incidents. My research indicates that the total number of serious incidents is small, but there is one notorious AirAsia accident that occurred in December 2014 involving multiple fatalities.
An AirAsia A320, en route from Surabaya to Singapore, crashed into the Java Sea killing all 162 people on board. Search operations ended in March 2015, and only 116 bodies were recovered. In December 2015, the Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC) concluded that a non-critical malfunction in the aircraft rudder control system prompted the captain to perform a non-standard reset of the onboard flight control computers. Control of the aircraft was lost, resulting in a stall and uncontrolled descent into the sea.
Subsequent to the NTSC report, AirAsia said it had already implemented improved pilot training.
I searched various air accident databases and found a small number of non-fatal incidents involving AirAsia aircraft. These are listed in the table below. I have excluded unavoidable events such as bird and lightning strikes.
|November 2019||A320||Chennai||Hydraulic failure.|
|November 2017||A320||Kuala Lumpur||Aircraft overran the runway on landing.|
|December 2016||A320||Kuala Lumpur||Burst main tires on landing.|
|November 2016||A320||En route from Chennai to Kuala Lumpur||An engine shut down in flight.|
|November 2016||A320||Kota Bahru||Runway excursion during taxiing.|
|February 2016||A320||Perth||Aircraft descended below safe height on landing approach.|
|December 2015||A320||Sibu||Burst main tire on landing.|
|September 2015||A320||En route from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong||Airframe vibrations. The aircraft landed safely at Da Nang.|
|November 2014||A320||Kuala Lumpur||Tail strike on landing. The aircraft from Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), landed at Kuala Lumpur but went around after touchdown. The aircraft landed again after the balked landing. The aircraft had received substantial damage during the balked landing when the tail struck the runway.|
|July 2014||A320||Bandar Seri Begawan||Runway excursion on landing.|
|June 2013||A320||En route from Kolkata to Kuala Lumpur||An engine shut down during flight.|
|January 2011||A320||Kuching Airport, Malaysia||The aircraft skidded off the runway, coming to rest in the grass with a collapsed nose gear. All 123 passengers and six crew members survived. The aircraft received heavy damage but was eventually repaired.|
Summary: Is Flying with AirAsia Safe?
Although AirAsia has had some non-fatal incidents, and one accident, in 2014, involving multiple fatalities over its 26-year operational history, I would say that, today, AirAsia, is a safe airline to fly with. To put things in context Air Asia flew almost 500 flights per day across Asia during the three-month period from July to September 2022.
AirAsia operates with safety protocols and procedures that are endorsed by its IOSA certification which is the benchmark for global safety management in airlines.
If you are wondering what flying with AirAsia is like, check our reviews: