2004 Safest Year for Air Travel

Last year was the safest year since World War II for commercial air transport, both in terms of passengers killed and aircraft destroyed or irreparably damaged, the industry's global body IATA (search) said Monday.

IATA data showed the chances of dying in an airline accident in 2004 were one in every 10 million people flying against nearly three in 2002 and more than seven in 1996. The figures took account of varying passenger numbers over the years.

Just under eight airliners were destroyed or irreparably damaged for every 10 million sectors flown — industry jargon for the distance covered between a take-off and a landing — compared to more than nine in 2002 and 13 in 1996.

"2004 was the safest year ever for air transport," said International Air Transport Association (search) (IATA) director general Giovanni Bisignani, hailing the figures as a victory for the body in a campaign to increase air safety.

The industry regards the end of World War II (search) in 1945 as marking the start of large-scale commercial air traffic.

"The industry continues to invest in our top priority with fantastic results," Bisignani said in a statement, adding this had been achieved despite accumulated losses by airlines of $35 billion since 2001.

In 2004 a total of 428 people lost their lives out of more than 1.8 billion passengers carried by all airlines — both IATA members who operate 94 percent of international flights and non- member airlines, which include most low-cost carriers.

The death toll was almost identical to that of 1945 when only nine million passengers flew.

In 2003, a total of 663 people were killed out of 1.65 billion passengers carried. In 2002, 974 people were killed out of 1.6 billion passengers.

Bisignani said IATA had an "aggressive program" to increase safety levels even further, including a commitment to reduce the accident rate by a further 25 percent by the end of next year.