updated 3/7/2005 1:43:47 PM ET 2005-03-07T18:43:47

Airlines recorded their safest year in 2004, with 428 people killed out of the 1.8 billion passengers who flew, the International Air Transport Association said Monday.

“2004 was the safest year ever for air transport,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA director-general and CEO.

He said the number of accidents rose to 103 from 99 in 2003 while global traffic increased 15 percent.

But the number of fatalities has been declining steadily from a peak of 1,418 deaths in 1996, said IATA spokesman Anthony Concil. That number — compiled only from Western-built aircraft — was from 1.3 billion passengers flown. Concil said the number killed in non-Western-built aircraft in 1996 was unavailable, but it would have raised the total even higher.

The previous safest year was 2003, when 663 people were killed among 1.6 billion passengers flown.

That, in turn, was an improvement on the 974 killed among 1.6 billion passengers flown in 2002, Concil said.

Bisignani said IATA is pushing to reduce the accident rate even more through a system of safety audits.

“Air transport is safe,” he said. “And we are committed to make it even safer.”

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