The number of passengers flying on scheduled airlines worldwide rose 7 per cent over last year’s total to a record 2 billion this year, the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) said today. New major safety measures also highlight a year in which no hijacking or act of sabotage has been reported by those airlines so far, according to ICAO, which sets international standards and regulations for the safety, security and efficiency of international air transport. “The global air transport system is fundamentally safe, yet a number of fatal accidents in August and September of this year focused attention on the urgent need to eliminate remaining systemic deficiencies so as to further improve aviation safety worldwide,” ICAO Council President Assad Kotaite said.“Accordingly, from 20 to 22 March 2006, ICAO will hold a worldwide safety conference of Directors-General of Civil Aviation to assess the current status of aviation safety, identify ways to achieve significant improvements and develop a global strategy for aviation safety,” he added.The Conference will take into account recent measures, including the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme which aims to help States better respond to safety threats. Under the Programme, 42 audits were performed this year, bringing the total to 103 since the initiative began in 2002.Other issues to be considered at the upcoming meeting include countries with significant compliance shortcomings on ICAO safety-related standards, such as licensing sub-standard airlines. The ICAO Council will communicate these countries’ shortcomings to all other contracting parties, the Montreal-based Organization noted.