Report: 2023 was one of the safest years for air travel

Report: 2023 was one of the safest years for air travel

Despite a few shocking incidents, 2023 saw the lowest rate of all accidents in history

An airplane taxiing on a runway

No casing losses, no problem.

It’s been a big year for flying airplane cabin doors.

Okay, not really, but even one instance of an inexplicable door opening in flight seems like one too many. And with Boeing now coming under the FAA’s microscope that The Alaska Airlines incident last month left many passengers wondering, “Is this thing even safe?”

Well, according to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Annual Global Aviation Safety Report 2023, commercial air travel last year was the safest it’s ever been… practically ever. (Even with that off-duty pilot eating mushrooms and trying to shut down the engine on that San Francisco-bound Alaska Airlines flight last fall!)

According to the report, there were 37 million aircraft movements (jet and turboprop) in 2023, an increase of 17% from the previous year. Although there was one fatal accident involving a turboprop aircraft resulting in 72 deaths, there were no airframe losses or fatal accidents involving passenger jet aircraft.

“Safety performance in 2023 continues to demonstrate that flying is the safest mode of transport. Aviation places its highest priority on safety and this is reflected in the 2023 results,” said Willie Walsh, IATA Director General. “Jet operations saw no airframe losses or fatalities. 2023 also saw the lowest fatality risk and ‘all accident’ rate on record.”

“However, a fatal turboprop accident with 72 deaths reminds us that we can never take safety for granted,” he continued. “And two significant accidents in the first month of 2024 show that even if flying is among the safest activities a person can do, there is always room for improvement.” This is what we have done throughout our history. And we will continue to make flying even safer.”

Highlights of the report are as follows:

  • The rate of all accidents was 0.80 per million flights in 2023 (or one incident for every 1.26 million flights), an improvement from 1.30 in 2022 and the lowest rate in more than a decade. This rate exceeded the five-year (2019-2023) moving average of 1.19 (an average of one accident for every 880,293 flights).
  • The risk of death has improved to 0.03 in 2023 from 0.11 in 2022 and 0.11 for the five years 2019-2023. At this level of safety, an average person would have to travel by air every day in for 103,239 years to survive a fatal accident.
  • IATA member airlines and IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) registered airlines had no fatal accidents in 2023.
  • In 2023, there was one fatal accident involving a turboprop aircraft, resulting in 72 deaths. This is down from five fatal accidents in 2022 and an improvement on the five-year average (2019-2023) of five.

All that being said, the vast majority of Americans don’t seem overly concerned about safety anyway. At least as long as they don’t believe that air travel is dangerous. A new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs survey found that about 7 in 10 U.S. adults say airplanes are a “very” or “somewhat” safe method of travel (despite the fact that only about 2 in 10 U.S. adults have a “great deal” of confidence that aircraft are properly maintained or protected from structural defects). It’s worth noting that the poll was also conducted after the Alaska Airlines 9-door Boeing 737 Max incident.

So maybe they aren’t really left to wonder, “Is this stuff even safe?” after all.

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