Commercial flight safety improving despite rise in accidents in 2018, says IATA

There was just one major incident for every 5.4 million flights last year

A Pegasus Airlines Boing 737 passenger plane is seen struck in mud on an embankment, a day after skidding off the airstrip, after landing at Trabzon's airport on the Black Sea coast on January 14, 2018. 
A passenger plane late on January skidded off the runway just metres away from the sea as it landed at Trabzon's airport in northern Turkey. The Pegasus Airlines flight, with 168 people on board, had taken off from Ankara on its way to the northern province of Trabzon. No casualties were reported.  / AFP PHOTO / IHLAS NEWS AGENCY / STRINGER / Turkey OUT
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The safety performance of the commercial airline industry declined in 2018 but continues to show improvements over the long term.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Thursday that the accident rate (measured in accidents per 1 million flights) was 1.35, which was the equivalent of one accident for every 740,000 flights.

This was an improvement over an accident rate of 1.79 for the previous 5-year period (2013-2017), but a decline compared to 2017’s record performance of 1.11, IATA said.


The 2018 rate for major jet accidents (measured in jet hull losses per 1 million flights) was 0.19, which was the equivalent of one major accident for every 5.4 million flights. This was an improvement over the rate for the previous five-year period of 0.29 but not as good as the rate of 0.12 in 2017.

A passenger could take a flight every day for 241 years before experiencing an accident with one fatality on board.

There were 11 fatal accidents with 523 deaths among passengers and crew, among them the Lion Air crash in the Java Sea off Jakarta, Indonesia, in which 189 were killed. This compares with an average of 8.8 fatal accidents and approximately 234 fatalities per year in the previous five-year period, IATA said.

In 2017, the industry experienced six fatal accidents with 19 fatalities, which was a record low. One accident in 2017 also resulted in the deaths of 35 people on the ground.

"Last year some 4.3 billion passengers flew safely on 46.1 million flights. 2018 was not the extraordinary year that 2017 was," said Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO of the Montreal-based industry body.

"However, flying is safe, and the data tell us that it is getting safer. For example, if safety in 2018 had remained at the same level as 2013, there would have been 109 accidents instead of 62; and there would have been 18 fatal accidents, instead of the 11 that actually occurred.

"Flying continues to be the safest form of long distance travel the world has ever known. Based on the data, on average, a passenger could take a flight every day for 241 years before experiencing an accident with one fatality on board. We remain committed to the goal of having every flight take off and land safely," said Mr de Juniac.

The number of deaths in 2014 was swollen by the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine, with the loss of 298 lives, and the mysterious loss of the same airline's Flight 370, with 239 people presumed to have died.