The total number of air accidents decreased by more than 26 per cent annually last year to 38, according to the International Air Transport Association.
The number of fatal accidents decreased from eight in 2019 to five in 2020, Iata said in its 2020 safety report.
The accident rate was 1.7 per million flights. This is higher than the 2016-2020 average rate that was 1.4 accidents per million flights.
“Flying is safe, although the industry did take a step back on performance in 2020,” Alexandre de Juniac, Iata’s director general and chief executive, said.
“The severe reduction in flight numbers magnified the impact of each accident when we calculate rates. But numbers don’t lie, and we will not allow this to become a trend,” he added.
Total flight operations reduced by almost 53 per cent to 22 million last year. The fatality risk remained unchanged compared to the five-year average at 0.13.
With a fatality risk of 0.13 for air travel, on average a person would have to travel by air every day for 461 years before experiencing an accident with at least one fatality. On average, a person would have to travel every day for 20,932 years to experience a 100 per cent fatal accident.
“We will have even sharper focus on safety during this period of reduced operations and as flight schedules are rebuilt when the world reopens,” said Mr de Juniac.
Iata defines an accident as an event where the aircraft has sustained major structural damage exceeding $1 million or 10 per cent of the aircraft's hull reserve value, whichever is lower, or has been declared a hull loss.
A hull loss is an accident in which the aircraft is destroyed or substantially damaged and is not subsequently repaired for whatever reason including a financial decision of the owner.
For the first time in more than 15 years, there were no Loss of Control Inflight (LOC-I) accidents, which have accounted for the largest share of fatalities since 2016. LOC-I refers to incidents in which flight crews have temporarily, or completely, lost the ability to maintain control of an aircraft in flight.
“The lack of any such events in 2020 was a positive development … we must continue to learn and improve,” said Mr de Juniac.