The International Air Transport Association said in its annual safety report that 641 people died in airline accidents in 2014. Its figures do not include the 298 people killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was downed over Ukraine.
There were 210 deaths in 2013 and the five-year average is 517 deaths.
The group said last year was marked by two “extraordinary and tragic events” both involving Malaysia Airlines: Flight 17 and, earlier in the year, the disappearance of Flight 370, which was carrying 239 people.
The figures do not include Flight 17 because the plane was shot down by anti-aircraft weapons and it was not classified as an accident. The number of fatal plane crashes fell to 12 last year from 16 the previous year and the five-year average of 19.
The group said that, translated into one serious accident in which an aircraft is destroyed or severely damaged for every 4.4m flights, it is a record low.
In 2013, the so-called hull loss rate was one plane written off for every 2.4m flights.