MONTREAL - More than 500 people died in plane accidents around the world last year, but the number of fatalities declined by 27 per cent, the International Air Transport Association said Thursday.
There were 692 deaths in 2007.
When taking into account the industry's expansion, the fatality rate decreased 56 per cent to 0.13 per million passengers, from 0.23 per million passengers a year earlier.
The global accident rate, however, deteriorated slightly. There were 109 accidents, compared to 100 in 2007. The number of fatal accidents increased by three to 23 in 2008.
''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,'' said Giovanni Bisignani, director general and CEO of the agency.
The global accident rate was 0.81, or one accident per 1.2 million flights.
Bisignani said last week's accident of a Bombardier (TSX:BBD.B) Q-400 turboprop operated by Colgan Air that killed 50 in Buffalo and all 502 fatalities in 2008 are reminders of the constant challenge facing the industry.
''Our target is zero accidents, and zero fatalities. Nothing less is an acceptable result,'' he stated.
The Commonwealth of Independent States recorded the worst rate of accidents at 6.43, or 7.9 times worse than the global average. It operates a relatively small fleet of Western-build jet aircraft.
North Asia had a perfect record of no accidents recorded as hull losses in which aircraft are destroyed or damaged enough not to be rebuilt. Europe followed while Asia/Pacific and North America tied.
North America's accident rate was 0.58, or one accident for every 1.72 million flights. That compared to a global rate of 0.81.
Runway excursions accounted for 25 per cent of all accidents last year. Ground damage accounted for 17 per cent. Airline deficiencies were responsible for 30 per cent of accidents.
IATA represents about 230 airlines comprising 93 per cent of scheduled international air traffic.