Say what you like about Portuguese airline TAP Portugal - I remember a joke that said TAP stood for Take Another Plane - but it turns out it's the safest airline in Western Europe and, by some accounts, also the best.
The only fatal crash it has ever had in its 66-year history was in Madeira in 1977 when 164 people died. Not wanting to make light of those deaths, that's still a very healthy safety record. In January 2011 TAP Portugal was named as Western Europe's safest airline in the JACDEC Airliner Safety Report and fourth in the world behind Australia's Qantas, Air New Zealand and Finnair of Finland.
I'll take safety over style and comfort any day of the week. It's at the top of my list for requirements for an airline, but according to Global Traveler Magazine TAP is also Europe's Best Airline for 2011. This award was given to the company based on opinions from 36,000 readers who responded to the magazine's GT Tested Reader Survey.
In 2010 it also won the title of World's Best Airline from the UK's Condé Nast Traveller magazine.
It now serves 66 destinations in 31 countries and operates around 1,850 flights per week.
It's a state-owned airline and there are plans to privatise it as part of the conditions for Portugal to receive its financial bailout package. Here's hoping that whoever takes a slice will keep up the good work.