World airline accident rate drops to record low in 2014

In 2014, 641 people died in 12 fatal airline accidents

Despite the disappearance of one Malaysia Airlines jet and the destruction of another in Ukraine, commercial airlines reported the lowest accident rate in history in 2014, the equivalent of one accident for every 4.4 million flights.

The International Air Transport Assn., the trade group for the world's airlines, reported 73 airline accidents, including 12 fatal accidents in 2014, down from 81 accidents, 16 of which were fatal, in 2013.

The trade group attributed the drop in accidents partly to a safety management program that is required of members of the association.

Although total airline accidents dropped, the number of fatalities rose significantly to 641 deaths last year, compared to 210 fatalities in 2013, IATA reported. Those numbers included the 239 passengers and crew members on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared during a flight last March from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, China.

IATA, however, did not include in its calculations the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was believed to have been shot down in July in the Ukraine by pro-Russia separatists. IATA recorded the tragedy as an act of aggression not an accident.

The IATA report said that the total number of commercial planes lost in 2014 would still represent a decline even if Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 were included in the calculations.

The 641 deaths in airline accidents represent a fraction of the 3.3 billion individual air trips flown last year on commercial jets and turboprop planes, according to the report.

"The greatest tribute that we can pay to those who lost their lives in aviation-related tragedies is to continue our dedication to make flying even safer," said Tony Tyler, director general and chief executive of IATA.

On the anniversary of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 last week, an agency of the United Nations proposed recommendations for an airline tracking system to be adopted next year.

The UN agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization, also issued a report last year, saying airline accident and fatality rates had dropped significantly in 2013 compared to the previous year. The agency attributed the drop to worldwide safety standards.  

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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