In spite of Boeing taking roasting over the 737 MAX safety issues following a high-profile passenger jet crash in Ethiopia, 2019 was one of the safest years for air travel on record.

According to Dutch consulting firm To70 last year commercial aviation incidents fell by over 50 per cent. There were 86 accidents last year involving commercial passenger planes, eight of which were fatal. With 257 deaths recorded among passengers and airline staff, this equates to 0.18 flights per million recording a fatality.

From almost 31 million recorded flights that would result in one fatal incident in every 5.58 million takeoffs.

This makes it one of aviation's safest years with under half the incidents of 2018, which saw 160 incidents.

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Reuters quoted To70 as saying the year was spent focusing on "future threats" such as drones in shared airspace. However it could not ignore the ongoing 737 MAX safety investigations, saying they are "a reminder that we need to retain our focus on the basics that make civil aviation so safe: well-designed and well-built aircraft flown by fully informed and well-trained crews."

While the 737 MAX saga is linked to another 2018 plane crash in Indonesia, it is hoped that the outcome of the FAA investigations might lead to greater safety standards for passenger aircraft.

2017 is still the safest recorded year for air travel, with just two recorded incidents.

Meanwhile a separate report has gone as far as to name the safest airlines.

Airlines Ratings has released its annual airline safety rankings of 405 international and domestic carriers.

Assessing the audits from aviation's governing bodies, industry and government audits as well as the airlines' fleet age and serious incident records - they have ranked the safest air seats in the world.

In second place on this table is Air New Zealand, with 7 out of 7 for a stellar IOSA (IATA Operational Safety Audit) and service record.

However, the New Zealand national carrier was knocked off the top post by trans-Tasman rivals Qantas.

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While there was little separating the airlines for safety, it was the long running pedigree of Qantas's safety record that saw it named "World's safest airline 2020."

"Over its 99-year history the world's oldest continuously operating airline [Qantas] has amassed a truly amazing record of firsts in operations and safety and is now accepted as the industry's most experienced airline," said the report's editors.

At the very bottom of the rankings, with just one star, was Nepal Airlines which though endorsed by the FAA has failed to produce an IOSA report and is on the European Airspace blacklist.

World's Safest Airlines 2020

1 Qantas
2 Air New Zealand
3 EVA Air
4 Etihad
5 Qatar
6 Airways
7 Singapore Airlines
8 Emirates
9 Alaska Airlines
10 Cathay Pacific Airways,
11 Virgin Australia
12 Hawaiian Airlines
13 Virgin Atlantic Airlines
14 TAP Portugal
15 SAS
16 Royal Jordanian
17 Swiss
18 Finnair
19 Lufthansa
20 Aer Lingus
Source: AirlineRatings.com