Airline fatalities dropped in 2008; accidents slightly up


Posted at Feb 21 2009 02:33 PM | Updated as of Feb 21 2009 10:33 PM

Airline fatalities declined last year, with only 502 deaths from plane accidents compared to 692 in 2007, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said.

IATA said in a statement that the number is a 56-percent improvement in the fatality rate or 0.13 per 1 million passengers in 2008 to 0.23 in the previous year.

However, IATA said aviation accidents were slightly up, with 109 reported in 2008 from 100 in the previous year. Fatal accidents, on the other hand, increased to 23 from 20 in 2007.

Aviation accidents in 2008 were mainly deficient airline safety management (30 percent), runway excursions (25 percent), and ground damage (17 percent), IATA said.

In 2008, IATA said the global accident rate (measured in hull losses per million flights of Western-built jet aircraft) stood at 0.81 or one accident for every 1.2 million flights. This is a slight deterioration on 2007's accident rate of 0.75, or one accident for every 1.3 million flights.

North Asia had a perfect record of zero hull losses in 2008, with North America (0.58), Europe (0.42), and Asia Pacific (0.58) performing better than the global average. The Commonwealth of Independent States, on the other hand, had a worst accident rate at 6.43, or 7.9 times worse than the global average.

Africa experienced a significant improvement with an accident rate of 2.12 from being the worst in the world at 9.21. Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as Middle East and North Africa, had accident rates of 2.55 and 1.89, respectively.

Meanwhile, IATA said its member airlines significantly outperformed the industry in safety with only 33 accidents, driving their accident rate downward to 0.52 from 0.68 in 2007.

“Safety is the industry’s number one priority. Today’s statistics confirm that travelling by air is one the safest things that a person can do,” IATA Director general and CEO Giovanni Bisignani said.

IATA represents some 230 airlines comprising 93 percent of scheduled international air traffic. Any airline wishing to join IATA must first complete the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), which is the global industry standard for airline safety management.

“IATA is a quality association. And the mark of that quality is safety. While we will be strict in upholding the IOSA standards, which are recognised by governments around the world, our goal is to raise the bar on safety with a transparent global standard and bring all of our members on board,” Bisignani said.