There are a range of factors that can affect the safety of airports, aircraft and airlines. These include the weather, terrain, aviation infrastructure and the ways in which a country regulates its aviation industry. Aviation safety and security standards in some countries may not be equal to standards in Australia or meet those set by the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Aviation and airline safety
Airline and air charter safety and maintenance standards vary throughout the world. Maintenance procedures and safety standards for aircraft used on domestic flights overseas are not always properly observed. If you have concerns about aviation safety standards, you may wish to research airlines, aircraft and government safety supervision. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) provide information on aviation safety. The European Union (EU) has published a list of airlines that are subject to operating bans or restrictions within the EU. Unfortunately, specific public information on airlines and aviation safety standards in other countries is limited.
Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) oversees the safety-related aspects of airlines and aircraft which fly into and within Australia. CASA also oversees Australian-registered aircraft overseas and foreign aircraft that fly into Australian airspace, but may not necessarily land in Australia. CASA does not regulate foreign aircraft or airports outside Australia.
Information on aviation incidents by country, airline and aircraft type is available from the Aviation Safety Network website.
You could travel on a different airline than you expected due to the common practice of code sharing. This happens when an airline places its ‘code' or flight number on another airline's flight and both airlines market the flight as their own. If you are concerned that you may fly with a different airline than you expected, you should check arrangements with your intended airline or travel agent before booking.
When staff at Australia's overseas missions are advised not to use particular airlines due to safety concerns, this will be clearly stated in the travel advice for that destination.
Inclement weather can affect air travel in any season, even on the clearest of days. Whether it's high winds, rain, sleet or snow, or volcanic ash, each season brings a slew of possible delays that could have a negative impact on your air travel. Before you leave for travel of any kind, it is always a good idea to check the forecasts for your departure and destination city. For aviation-related weather information and forecasts visit the Australian Bureau of Meteorology or you may also consult our severe weather page.
Global aviation remains a potential terrorist target. Due to attacks and foiled plots targeting passenger and cargo transportation in the last decade, aviation security authorities around the world have enhanced security procedures at airports and limited what passengers can carry in their hand luggage. Individual countries or airlines may put in place additional passenger screening measures and restrictions at short notice, which could cause delays at airports. You should follow the directions of airport security staff and flight crews at all times.
If you subscribe to the travel advice for your intended destination/s, you will receive email notifications of major relevant publicised changes to airport/aviation security, as well as any new general threat information.
Australians travelling overseas who hold concerns about the route their aircraft will take should contact their carrier or travel agent for advice. Each carrier will be different and only your carrier can provide you with definitive advice on the route taken by your flight.
It is not unusual for international airlines to fly over hostile regions. Flights over these areas are often restricted to particular routes or specific altitudes. For example, in the case of eastern Ukraine, numerous carriers flew over this territory (above a minimum altitude stipulated by Ukraine authorities), while others decided not to or were prohibited from doing so by their national safety regulators. In most cases, flight path decisions are left to individual airlines who conduct risk assessments.
Airport security procedures
Security regulations in Australia may be slightly different to the regulations in the countries that you are visiting. Therefore, we recommend you check with your airline or the country you are visiting before you travel. You should arrive at the airport with plenty of time to undergo necessary screening and security checks. You should abide by all instructions, including signs and announcements. You should also consult the travel advice for destinations to which you intend to travel.
Flying in and out of Australia
TravelSECURE is a traveller-friendly website developed by the Australian Government to help you prepare for your trip and familiarise yourself with security measures in place at Australian airports and in international flights to and from Australia. Its purpose is to help travellers prepare for their journey so they can clear the security checks at the airport quickly and easily.
The site provides information about prohibited items, passenger and baggage screening as well as liquids, aerosols and gels (LAGs) restrictions, goods purchased at duty-free shops before arrival in Australia. Travellers will also find recommendations about travelling with children, laptops, medicines and sports equipment.
Under Australian aviation security legislation, airlines are required to ensure that no oversized (over 100ml) Liquids, Aerosols or Gels (LAGs) are taken by passengers through the screening point at a last port of call for flights bound for Australia.
Duty free items, including oversized LAGs, are only permitted by the Australian Government where airport retailers have arrangements in place to deliver purchased items securely to the boarding gate or directly to the Australia-bound aircraft. They are also permitted where there is no security screening at the boarding gate which occurs at some last ports of call such as New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan and US. Research your destination or check with the airport retailer before you purchase any oversized LAGs.
The best way to transport duty free purchases is to pack them in your checked-in luggage, which means that you need to purchase them prior to check-in at your departure point. Another option is for you to purchase your duty free at the destination of your international flight. Again, refer to the TravelSECURE website for more information.
Other information sources
The links below provide additional information and advice on hand-luggage restrictions, security check procedures, duty free purchases and packing guidelines for some popular destinations for Australian travellers:
- UK Department for Transport provides information on security procedures in the UK, including details on restrictions on hand luggage.
- U.S. Transportation Security Administration provides details of security requirements for flights bound for the United States and for U.S. domestic flights.
- European Commission: Transport provides information on European aviation safety and security policy.
- Transport Canada provides information on new airport security measures and procedures.
- Singapore's Changi Airport provides a useful passenger guide for all travellers flying through Singapore.
- Japanese Aviation Authority provides information for travelling in and out of Japanese international and domestic airports.
- New Zealand's Flysmart program gives travellers tips for travelling to and from New Zealand.
- Abu Dhabi airport provides information on their airport security regulations such as luggage regulations, prohibited items and tips for security checks at check-in.
- Dubai airport provides helpful information for all passengers passing through the airport.
- Airports of Thailand provides an arrival and departure guide as well as other security information for travellers.