Report: 2023 Was One of Safest Years for Air Travel Ever

Despite a few shocking incidents, 2023 saw the lowest "all accident" rate on record

An airplane taxiing on a runway
No hull losses, no problem.
Getty Images

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

Okay, it hasn’t actually, but even one instance of a door inexplicably coming off mid-flight feels like one too many. And with Boeing now falling under the FAA’s microscope following that Alaska Airlines incident last month, many travelers have been left wondering, “Is this shit even safe?”

Well, according to the 2023 Annual Safety Report for global aviation by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), commercial air travel last year was the safest it’s been…virtually ever. (Even with that off-duty pilot eating shrooms and trying to shut off the engine of that San Francisco-bound Alaska Airlines flight last fall!)

Per the report, there were 37 million aircraft movements in 2023 (jet and turboprop), an increase of 17% on the previous year. While there was a single fatal accident involving a turboprop aircraft resulting in 72 fatalities, there were no hull losses or fatal accidents involving passenger jet aircraft.

“2023 safety performance continues to demonstrate that flying is the safest mode of transport. Aviation places its highest priority on safety and that shows in the 2023 performance,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general. “Jet operations saw no hull losses or fatalities. 2023 also saw the lowest fatality risk and ‘all accident’ rate on record.”

“A single fatal turboprop accident with 72 fatalities, however, reminds us that we can never take safety for granted,” he continued. “And 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. This is what we have done throughout our history. And we will continue to make flying ever safer.”

The report highlights are as follows:

  • The all accident rate was 0.80 per million flight in 2023 (or one accident for every 1.26 million flights), an improvement from 1.30 in 2022 and the lowest rate in over a decade. This rate outperformed the five-year (2019-2023) rolling average of 1.19 (an average of one accident for every 880,293 flights).
  • The fatality risk improved to 0.03 in 2023 from 0.11 in 2022, and 0.11 for the five years of 2019-2023. At this level of safety, on average a person would have to travel by air every day for 103,239 years to experience a fatal accident.
  • IATA member airlines and IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) registered airlines experienced no fatal accidents in 2023.
  • A single fatal accident occurred in 2023, on a turboprop aircraft, resulting in 72 fatalities. This is reduced from five fatal accidents in 2022 and an improvement on the five-year average (2019-2023) which was five.

All of that said, the overwhelming majority of Americans don’t seem overly concerned with safety anyway. At least insofar as they don’t believe air travel is unsafe. A new poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs showed that around 7 in 10 U.S. adults say planes 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 airplanes are being properly maintained, or that they are safe from structural faults). The poll, it’s worth noting, was conducted after the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 door incident, too.

So maybe they aren’t actually left wondering, “Is this shit even safe?” after all.


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