Swiss is consistently rated as a safe airline to fly with. The airline is IATA IOSA certified and its safety regulator, FOCA, is one of the world’s leading civil aviation safety regulators, meaning that Swiss aircraft and crew licensing standards, and airline safety protocols are among the best monitored and regulated in the world.
Fatal accidents involving Swiss aircraft are very rare too. The last one occurred 24 years ago and since then Swiss has suffered only a small number of aircraft accidents.
I would have no hesitation in boarding a Swiss aircraft and relaxing during the flight!
Swiss Operates a Modern Fleet
If you equate safety with an airline’s aircraft feet age, then let’s take a look at the Swiss fleet and the average age of each aircraft type in its fleet. Swiss has a large fleet of mainly Airbus aircraft supplemented by some Boeing 777s.
According to Airfleets.net the overall average weighted age of the active Swiss fleet is 9.8 years. The average Swiss aircraft ages by aircraft type are shown in the table below.
We can see that there is quite a range of ages across the different aircraft types. The five Swiss A340s are its oldest aircraft, with an average of 19.0 years. These aircraft were delivered in 2003 and 2004. The youngest aircraft type in the Swiss fleet is the A220 with an average age of just 4.8 years. These aircraft were delivered between 2018 and 2021.
|Aircraft||Number of Aircraft||Average Age/ years|
Swiss’ oldest active aircraft, its A340s, are 18 or 19 years old. However, these aircraft are not necessarily ready for retirement just yet. As these aircraft tend to be used for long-haul routes this means that the number of operating cycles performed by these aircraft, typically, will be lower than aircraft used for short-haul routes that perform more operational cycles involving take-offs and landings.
An average fleet age of around 10 years is quite typical for a major international airline. For example, Lufthansa’s average fleet age is 10.5 years, United Airlines’ is 16.5 years, KLM’s is 10.9 years, Air France’s is 14.3 years, and British Airways’ is 12.9 years.
Swiss Is IOSA-Certified and a Member of the Star Alliance
Swiss has the highest possible, seven-star safety rating on AirlineRatings.com. The seven-star rating is a good indicator that an airline is safe to fly with. It is based on the following:
- Accidents and incidents: Swiss has not suffered any fatal accidents within the last 10 years (3 stars), and has not suffered numerous safety-related incidents (2 stars).
- Audits and bans: Swiss is 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, Swiss is not blacklisted in the European Union or the United States (1 star).
Swiss is regulated by The Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA). FOCA’s ICAO Safety Audit results are exceptionally good with effective implementation in the range of 90 to 100% for the eight areas audited, well above the global average for all areas. The IATA audit assesses a nation’s approach to airline safety oversight and regulation.
Swiss is part of the Lufthansa group and a member of the Star Alliance, one of the world’s three major airline alliances. Whilst membership in a major airline alliance is not a safety certification per se, it’s still a significant stamp of approval for the airline’s approach to safety and operations.
Other Star Alliance member airlines include Air Canada, Air New Zealand, ANA, Austrian, EVA Air, SAS, Singapore Airlines, Thai, and United Airlines.
On a separate note, Swiss was positioned 54th in a 2021 study of 100 airlines conducted by the Hamburg-based Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre (JACDEC). JACDEC assesses the 100 largest airlines as measured by their revenue passenger performance (RPKs), and the ranking is based on a wide variety of factors. These factors include:
- Fleet age
- Accident history since 1989
- International safety audits
- Level of government openness related to aviation safety
- Country risk factors (high terrain, seasonal harsh weather, etc.)
- Route profile (proportion of short-haul flights), on the basis that the higher the proportion of short-haul flights an airline operates, the more take-offs and landings it is likely to operate, and these portions of a flight are known to be the riskiest
The Swiss assessed risk factor for 2021 was 87.39. The top-ranked airline was Emirates with a score of 94.75. The Swiss score will reflect the local terrain and weather conditions in Switzerland, its relatively high proportion of short-haul flights, and the serious accident that occurred in 1998 when an MD-11 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean killing all occupants.
Swiss Incidents and Accidents
Similar to many large airlines that have had a long operational history and that operate a large fleet, Swiss aircraft have been involved in a small number of incidents. Many of these were unavoidable natural events such as bird strikes, unexpected turbulence, and lightning strikes.
If we look back over the last 40 years, Swiss aircraft were involved in only a small number of ‘true’ accidents. Swiss’ worst accident occurred 24 years ago when an MD-11 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of Nova Scotia, killing all 229 passengers and crew on board.
The investigation into the cause of the crash concluded that flammable material used in the aircraft’s structure allowed a fire to spread. Recommendations from the investigation were incorporated into revised FAA standards.
Since this terrible accident, Swiss has not suffered any fatal accidents.
Within the last forty years, we see just a small number of non-fatal Swiss incidents (excluding bird strikes, lightning strikes, and minor incidents), as shown in the table below.
|September 1998||MD-11||Nova Scotia, Canada||The aircraft en route from New York to Geneva caught fire and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. All 229 crew and passenger occupants were killed.|
|July 2002||Saab 2000||Werneuchen, Germany||The aircraft en route from Basle to Hamburg crashed on landing due to improper weather information and poor markings on the runway. The landing gear collapsed and fire spread throughout the aircraft. All passengers and crew survived; however, the aircraft was written off.|
|July 2016||RJ100||Luxembourg Airport||Hard landing. No serious injuries.|
|February 2020||A330||Zurich Airport||Tail strike on departure. No injuries.|
Summary: Is Flying with Swiss Safe?
Yes, it is, there have been no fatal accidents since 1998, and other serious incidents have been relatively rare. In addition, Swiss operates with safety protocols and procedures that are endorsed by its IOSA certification which is the benchmark for global safety management in airlines.
Swiss is part of the Lufthansa group which is one of Europe’s biggest airline operators, transporting large volumes of passengers each year safely. I think it’s fair to say that Swiss is a safe airline to fly with.
If you are wondering what flying with Swiss is like in terms of service, check the reviews below: