Nervous fliers may be able to breathe a sigh of relief with the release of data showing that flying is officially safer than ever.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced February 23 that the accident rate for last year using Western-built jets was the lowest in aviation history.

Of the 36.8 million flights which took off last year, IATA's figures showed that there were only 17 "hull loss" accidents (where an aircraft is destroyed or substantially damaged), equivalent to one for every 1.6 million flights.

That's an improvement on 2009, where the rate was one accident for every 1.4 million flights, and a whopping 42 percent cut from the accident rate recorded ten years ago.

However, a rise in the number of fatal incidents pushed the number of fatalities last year up by 101 to 786, although the majority involved carriers that are not part of IATA, which represents the world's major airlines.

IATA said that safety remained the number one priority for the industry, even though flying is safer than ever and its figures suggest that if you were to take a flight every day, odds are that you could go 4,491 years without an accident.

Of the accidents recorded, by far the most were in Africa, with the region accounting for 23 percent of the world's western-built jet hull losses despite carrying only two percent of global traffic - IATA calculates that the accident rate there is 12 times the global average and describes the figures as "not acceptable."

A total of 2.4 billion people flew last year.