Last year was the safest in the history of commercial aviation, despite two high-profile crashes involving Malaysia Airlines aircraft in which hundreds of people were killed, a leading industry body said on 9 March in Hong Kong.

The 2014 safety report, presented by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) CEO, Tony Tyler, comes a day after the one year anniversary of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Malaysia Airlines said on Monday that an expired battery in the underwater locator beacon of the "black box" flight data recorder on missing Flight MH370 would have made no difference in the search for the plane.

Lawyers acting for some of the families of those on board said earlier that the fact the battery had not been replaced - revealed in a weekend report on the anniversary of MH370's disappearance - could be key in any legal action against the airline.

IATA CEO, Tony Tyler said conclusions shouldn't be jumped to in regards to the new information surrounding the batteries, and added it was important to take steps to ensure aircraft are tracked better.

"Well, I understand it's not knowing whether the batteries were out, what they know is that no record was made of whether it was changed or not. So I think we shouldn't jump to conclusions. Clearly, the tragedy of MH370 is immense.

"One's heart goes out to the family and friends of the loved ones on board, and clearly now it is important to make sure that something like that doesn't happen again.

"The whole industry is united in finding a way to track aircraft better and we need to make sure that those ways are developed and implemented as soon as we can," Tyler said.

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 March 2014, with 239 passengers and crew, has become one of the biggest mysteries in the history of aviation.

An extensive search in the southern Indian Ocean, where satellite data showed that the Boeing 777-200ER ended up after being diverted from its original flight path, has not found any sign of the plane. An investigation report that was released on Sunday did not reveal anything new.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations body that regulates global aviation, proposed after MH370 that commercial aircraft report their position every 15 minutes instead of the current norm of 30-40 minutes. This would improve the ability to track commercial aircraft globally and find remote crash sites much faster.

"However, there is technology being developed and particularly what's called space-based ADSB, so space-based satellite technology that promises to be able to identify aircraft wherever they are in the world and pretty much in real time, with no gaps in coverage.

"So poles, the remote oceans would all be covered. It may well be that this is the way we should go in the future, however that technology won't be available for two or three years to come," he said.

While more people died in air accidents in 2014 than the average in recent years, the number of fatal accidents compared with the total number of flights was a record low, according to the IATA.

IATA, which represents about 250 airlines, said in an annual safety report that there were 12 fatal accidents in 2014 with 641 fatalities, versus 19 fatal accidents and 517 fatalities per year in the five-year period between 2009 and 2013.

That translated into an accident rate, measured in "hull losses" per 1 million flights, of 0.23, or the equivalent of one for every 4.4 million flights. The 2013 rate was 0.41 and the five-year average rate 0.58 per million flights.

"Yes, 2014 was a year of contrasts. We did have some very high profile, very tragic accidents and in fact we had three jet hull losses which caused loss of life and so it was certainly a year where airline safety was very much in the headlines.

"However, when we look at the picture as a whole, it was in fact a year when air safety improved quite significantly and in fact only one flight in every 4.4 million had an accident resulting in hull loss," he said.

IATA's 2014 statistics did not include the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which was shot down by a surface-to-air anti-aircraft missile in Ukraine last June and so not classified as an accident.