2014: Worst Year Ever For Air Travel?

2014 was a big year for air travel making headlines – unfortunately, it was for all the wrong reasons. With a total of 1,329 deaths, 2014 was the deadliest year for flying since 2005, when a staggering 1,463 people lost their lives.

The majority of these fatalities are the result of three large airplanes going down – the reasons behind each of these crashes have not been fully explained. Altogether, these crashes account for 699 deaths or about half of the total fatalities for this past year.

The first crash, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8th. It was discovered that the transponders signaling the plane’s location were turned off, and the plane wildly veered from its intended route. These factors have made it nearly impossible for investigators to know where to search for the plane, and the final resting spot of the 239 people aboard remains a mystery, nearly a year later.

Then, on July 17th, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down as it flew over Ukrainian airspace. It is widely believed that pro-Russian separatists using a surface to air missile are responsible for the disaster, though Russia and Ukraine both have placed responsibility for the crash on the other. MH17 was the deadliest crash of 2014, claiming 298 passengers and crew.

The third large airline disaster occurred at the end of 2014, when Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 crashed after the pilot requested to deviate from the original flight path due to bad weather conditions. A total of 162 people lost their lives four days before New Years. The wreckage has been discovered and there are ongoing efforts to recover all victims, as well as the aircraft’s black box to find out exactly what went wrong.

While these numbers are certainly discouraging, air travel is still one of the safest modes of transportation – far safer than traveling by car. About 1.24 million people die each year on the world’s roads, the World Health Organization said last year. One must also take into account the number of people flying each year: There was an estimated 3.2 billion passengers on flights in 2014 alone. This is a 6% increase in air travel from 2013, and the number is only going to increase.

2014’s number is still far less than the worst year on record for air travel: 1972 saw 3,346 people lose their lives aboard airline carriers.