There are many airlines available to the modern traveller, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. These strengths range from price to quality with weaknesses ranging from shoddiness to outright incompetence. However, too few people consider the safety records of each of these different airlines, despite the fact that this is possibly the most important feature of any airline that could ever be considered. Sadly, safety is not homogenous across companies regardless of the use of almost identical technology all; some airlines just do not put as uch effort into rigorous checks. It is important for the safe passenger to at least know about airline safety so that they can make an informed choice.
The accident record is the basic statistic of airline safety; it is simply a record of how many times anything has gone wrong. It should definitely be taken with a pinch of salt because luck does have a lot to do with what circumstances befall any airline and larger companies will obviously suffer from proportionally more accidents.
Unfortunately, in Europe a large amount of flight safety information is kept confidential and never released to the public. Even when certain airlines are banned from the airspace of some European countries the public is not informed. We can only look at the published statistics of the number of fatal accidents by airline.
By Airline (alphabetically)
Airline (Flights) (Fatal) (Events) (RATE)
Aer Lingus (1.3M) (0) (0.00)
Air France (5.9M) (7) (0.55)
Alitalia (3.9M) (3) (0.73)
British Airways (8.27M) (2) (0.17)
British Midland (1.03M) (1) (0.39)
easyJet (0.76M) (0) (0.00)
Finnair (1.7M) (0) (0.00)
Iberia (4.5M) (4) (0.80)
Icelanair (0.39M) (0) (0.00)
KLM (2.4M) (3) (0.81)
Olympic (1.8M) (3) (1.52)
Quantas (3.26M) (0) (0.00)
Ryanair (1.27M) (0) (0.00)
Virgin (0.15M) (0) (0.00)
In summary, there are a large number of available choices for airlines and cheap flights and it makes sense to opt for the safest method possible. However, do not allow this information to worry you unduly; flying remains one of the safest ways to travel and airline safety is generally increasing over time as more watchdogs and safety comities investigate every incident and control every airline. According to the Civil Aviation Authroity, the UK has one of the best airline safety records in the world. It is good to be informed, but there is no need to be afraid.