Of the more than 18 million flights in Western Europe and North America in 2011, only one was a fatal crash involving a commercial passenger aircraft. A B737 crashed during an approach to Resolute Airport in Canada. Elsewhere, six people were killed in an accident involving a small turboprop plane in Ireland, which was the only fatal accident involving a commercial flight in Europe.

In 2011, there were 125 accidents reported worldwide involving commercial flights, of which 24 resulted in fatalities among those onboard. In 2011, 455 people lost their lives in airline accidents, which is the lowest figure recorded for the past 10 years, when on average there were 28 deadly crashes and 830 fatalities per year. There were relatively fewer accidents involving smaller aircraft in 2011, which contributed to the low total number of victims in 2011. These figures apply to commercial aircraft weighing more than 5.7 tons. These findings are based on preliminary figures released by the NLR-Air Transport Safety Institute (NLR-ATSI).

In 2011, a relatively large number of fatal accidents occurred in Russia (4) and Congo (4). Over the past 10 years, there have been 72 accidents in Congo, of which nearly half resulted in fatalities. Russia has comparable figures, although it must be noted that many more flights are operated in Russia than in Congo. The probability of a crash occurring in Congo is higher by a factor of 40 than it is in Russia.

The largest accident in 2011 involved a Hewa Bora Airways airliner that crashed short of the runaway during an approach in bad weather to an airport in Kisangani, Congo, killing 83 people onboard. Another major crash occurred at an airport in Orumiyeh, Iran, when an Iran Air plane crashed shortly after aborting a landing in bad weather, killing 78 people.

When viewed in a longer term perspective, commercial aviation continues to become increasingly safer. Since the 1980s, the probability of a fatal aircraft incident occurring during a commercial flight has dropped by more than 60%. However, in recent years, there are indications that this previous steady improvement has in fact stagnated.