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27 May 2024

IOSA and the Evolution of Global Aviation Safety Standards

In September 2023, at the IATA World Safety and Operations Conference in Vietnam, aviation celebrated two decades of the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA). In that time, IOSA has made a significant contribution to air safety. It is now an internationally recognized evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline.

Notably, IOSA-registered carriers consistently outperform non-registered counterparts in safety metrics. Since 2005, the all-accident rate for airlines on the IOSA registry is 1.40 per million sectors, compared with 3.49 per million sectors for non-IOSA airlines. In 2022, IOSA-registered carriers outperformed those not on the registry by a factor of four (0.70 accidents per million sectors vs. 2.82 accidents per million sectors). This success has prompted a call for more regulators to incorporate IOSA into safety oversight programs, emphasizing its global significance.

Reflecting the strong safety performance of airlines on the IOSA registry, IATA began IOSA’s third decade with a call for:

  • Regulators to recognize the significant contribution to safety that IOSA makes as the global standard for airline operational safety and to incorporate IOSA into their own safety regulatory oversight programs.
  • Airlines not yet on the IOSA registry, to join. As of end of May 2024, 439 operators are on the IOSA registry, of which 103 are non-IATA members.

Transitioning to Risk-based IOSA


IOSA was launched in 2003 in close cooperation with aviation regulatory bodies, including Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and Transport Canada. It became mandatory for IATA membership in 2006 and has also become a requirement for global airline alliances and various regional associations. 

Furthermore, many regulators worldwide utilize IOSA to complement safety oversight programs and verify operational safety for codeshare arrangements. With the industry adoption of IOSA in the past two decades, the program has become the industry benchmark in safety auditing, contributing to safety performance enhancement and providing extensive cost-saving measures for IOSA participating airlines.

Nevertheless, as the IOSA program matures, it has become clear that moving away from the one-size-fits all model is the best response to the dynamic aviation landscape. IATA has therefore evolved IOSA into a risk-based model, tailoring audits to operators' profiles and focusing on high-risk areas. Another key addition is a maturity assessment for safety-critical systems and programs. 

Going beyond a checklist that ensures minimum safety standards are met across the breadth of airline operations, risk-based IOSA assesses how well an airline manages safety and provide a safety evaluation based on industry priorities and critical airline operations. The information obtained from risk-based audits helps airlines and the industry stay on top of evolving safety risks and enable airlines to continuously improve their safety and quality management performance.  

Risk-Based IOSA

The evolution to risk-based IOSA has introduced a safety maturity assessment alongside baseline safety, enhancing audit effectiveness and contributing to the broader industry goal of reducing accident rates.

Tailored Audit Scope

Under a Risk-based IOSA, the safety audit scoping considers industry standards and operator-specific elements. For instance, in response to the increasing global runway excursion rate, a risk-based approach prioritizes IOSA Standards and Recommended Practices (ISARPs) related to runway excursions, audited in-depth at regular intervals. Unlike the traditional approach where all ISARPs are audited universally, risk-based IOSA tailors the scope to the operator's profile and audit history. ISARPs with low criticality may be audited less frequently, allowing a focused effort on high criticality ISARPs.

Maturity Assessment

The safety maturity assessment in Risk-based IOSA offers a structured and comprehensive evaluation of an airline's relevant safety systems and programs. This provides valuable insights for determining the next steps in improving operational safety. In addition to the maturity assessment, the program maintains a baseline of conformity with ISARPs, differentiating it from the conventional conformity assessment. This dual approach ensures a thorough examination of safety best practices, encouraging continuous improvement.

Added Value

Over the last 20 years, IOSA has become the industry benchmark in aviation safety auditing. With Risk-based IOSA, the program provides industry stakeholders with additional value:

  • A tailored and reduced audit scope, focusing efforts where they are needed the most.
  • Improved audit methods through a safety maturity evaluation.
  • Better management and standardization of auditors.
  • The capture of safety insights to deliver safety improvements and a reduction in local accident rates.
  • New insights through an improved safety audit report.
  • Long-term sustainability of the IOSA program through direct management of insourced products.

2023 Risk-based IOSA summary


  • Successful completion of the trial audit phase by the IOSA Oversight Group, leading to the full operational status of risk-based IOSA.
  • 25 risk-based IOSA audits were conducted.
  • 150 risk-based IOSA auditors were recruited.
  • 11 worldwide workshops on the risk-based IOSA program were delivered, engaging 267 airlines and 25 regulators.

IOSA Standards Manual (ISM)


In conjunction with IOSA standards, IATA offers the IOSA Standards Manual (ISM) in an XML format for integration into safety and quality management software. The manual comprises ISARPs and accompanying IOSA checklists—critical components of IOSA for the operator and auditors.

IOSA Members use the ISM to prepare for audits, ensuring ongoing flight safety. They also benefit from IOSA XML data files in two modules: safety management and content management. These are designed to ensure operational efficiencies when preparing and conducting ongoing safe operations.. 

IOSA XML and Regulatory Cross-Reference (X-Ref) Modules: Efficiency Unleashed


  • Experience operational efficiency with our IOSA XML modules tailored for both air operators (IOSA members and non-members preparing for audits) and audit, safety management, and content management software providers. These modules facilitate the seamless integration of ISARPs into operational software, reducing manual efforts and operational costs.
  • The X-Ref module streamlines efficient cross-referencing of airworthiness regulations (FAA, EASA, ICAO) within ISM ISARPs and refers to the relevant ISM edition at the time.

A Safer Future in Aviation


As risk-based IOSA takes center stage, the aviation industry can expect tailored audits, comprehensive assessments, and a continuous commitment to safety improvement. With the future launch of a safety collaboration platform and ongoing cooperation with regulators, IATA ensures that risk-based IOSA remains a cornerstone of global aviation safety. This evolution promises a safer, more efficient future for airlines and their customers .


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