No one died in a jet plane crash in 2023, the safest year in aviation history — but 2024 is off to a rockier start for airlines

  • 2023 was the safest year for flying, IATA found.

  • On average, you would have to fly every day for over 100,000 years to experience a fatal incident.

  • But this year's Japan Airlines fire and Boeing blowout show room for improvement.

Last year was the "best ever" for flying safety, the International Air Transport Association said.

The trade group's annual safety report, released Wednesday, affirmed that flying is the safest mode of transportation.

It found that on average, a person would have to fly every day for 103,239 years before experiencing a fatal incident.

There was only one fatal incident in 2023, a crash involving a domestic flight in Nepal in which 68 passengers and four crew died, according to IATA. As it was a turboprop plane, that means nobody died in a passenger-jet incident throughout the year.

Even with a 17% increase in aircraft movements compared to the year before, the accident rate decreased. IATA found there was one accident for every 1.26 million flights last year, compared to a five-year rolling average of one in every 880,000.

There were also no hull losses of passenger jets last year, meaning when a plane is damaged beyond repair.

But hopes of repeating that this year ended just two days into 2024.

A Japan Airlines Airbus A350 caught fire on the runway at Tokyo Haneda Airport on January 2. It collided with a Coast Guard plane that was delivering supplies to victims of a recent earthquake.

Nobody died on the A350 as all 379 were evacuated, but five people died on the Coast Guard plane.

Three days after that came the Alaska Airlines blowout. A Boeing 737 Max 9 lost its door plug in midair, resulting in an uncontrolled decompression, which meant oxygen masks were deployed. It returned to Portland International Airport after 20 minutes with nobody seriously injured.

The incident has raised serious questions about Boeing's quality-control processes.

In its preliminary report, the National Transportation Safety Board said the plane — delivered just 66 days earlier — left Boeing's factory without the bolts designed to secure the door plug.

"Two high-profile 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 to improve," said Willie Walsh, IATA's director general.

"This is what we have done throughout our history. And we will continue to make flying ever safer," he added.

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