Risks to airline passengers are changing

In calendar year 2015 worldwide airline accidents killed fewer passengers than they have ever done, but crashes caused by deliberate action confirms a rising risk to travellers that has its basis in global instability.

Last year there were nine fatal airline accidents in which a total of 176 people died. All of these fatal accidents involved small, propeller-driven aircraft , most of them carrying cargo only. There were no jet accidents.

There were also two jet disasters in 2015, but they were not accidents. One was the Germanwings crash in the French Alps, deliberately caused by the copilot in a bid for his own suicide and – perhaps – notoriety. He killed himself and the other 149 people on board. The second jet disaster was the sabotage of the Russian-bound MetroJet Airbus A321, in which all 224 people on board died. Evidence points to a bomb having been placed on board the aircraft at its departure airport, Sharm el-Sheikh.

So in 2015 more than twice as many passengers and crew – 374 – were killed on airliners by deliberate action compared with the number killed in genuine accidents.

In 2014 there were two such events resulting in 510 deaths. Malaysia Airlines flight MH370’s disappearance is believed (though not yet proven) to have been the result of deliberate action by someone on board, and then there was the missile shoot-down of MH17 over eastern Ukraine.

The indications are that the most significant future risk to airline passengers is now shifting away from accidents and toward security threats.