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Can airlines be ranked for safety?

LONDON, 05-03-2010

Every once in a while, air travelers call up the Flight Safety Foundation and ask: Which airline should I fly? Is this one considered statistically safer than another?

The response may be surprising.

"There is no way to answer that question," said Emily McGee, director of communications for the nonprofit international group headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. "There's no official way that's done."

You can access government databases and look up plane accidents by airline. But you won't find any official safety grades or rankings assigned to carriers.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigates accidents, but it does not rate airlines for safety, spokesman Keith Holloway said. Neither does the Federal Aviation Administration.

"The rationale behind that is that, in this country at least, airline accidents are such rare occurrences that there is really no meaningful statistical measure of safety that you could assign to any one airline," FAA spokesman Les Dorr said.

The European Aviation Safety Agency also does not offer airline safety ratings, according to Safety Information and Communications Officer Dominique Fouda.