An annual survey of the world's biggest airlines has seen Qantas named the world's safest for the third year running.

The Australian carrier was praised for its "extraordinary fatality-free record in the jet era”, while Virgin Atlantic was the only UK airline to make it into the top 20.

The website's star ratings take multiple factors into account, including whether an airline has been certified by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), if it is on the EU's airline blacklist, its crash record and whether the fleet has been grounded over safety concerns. A star is removed if the airline operates only Russian-made aircraft.

British Airways was one of the 148 airlines awarded the maximum seven-star safety rating, something only given to non-budget carriers, although it did not make it into AirlineRatings.com'sk of the 20 safest airlines. In deciding which make the top 20, judges at AirlineRatings.com also compared each airline's history of incidents and operational excellence.

"Our top 20 safest airlines are always at the forefront of safety innovation, operational excellence and the launching of new more advanced aircraft," said Geoffrey Thomas, AirlineRatings.com editor. "These airlines are always at the forefront for excellence in the safety space," he added. "However there is no question amongst the editors that Qantas remains a standout in safety enhancements and best practice."

Despite some high profile aviation disasters in 2015, the total of 16 major accidents with 560 fatalities was below the 10-year average of 31 accidents and 714 fatalities. It was also an improvement on 2014, when there were 21 serious accidents with 986 fatalities.

The world's 20 safest airlines (in alphabetical order)

Qantas

Air New Zealand

Alaska Airlines

All Nippon Airlines (ANA)

American Airlines

Cathay Pacific Airways

Emirates

Etihad Airways

EVA Air

Finnair

Hawaiian Airlines

Japan Airlines

KLM

Lufthansa

Scandinavian Airline System (SAS)

Singapore Airlines

Swiss

United Airlines

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Australia

Source: .telegraph.co.uk