GENEVA — There’s been a “dramatic shift” among the world’s most connected cities as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, says IATA.
According to newly released data, cities with large numbers of domestic connections now dominate, showing the extent to which international connectivity has been shut down as a result of the pandemic.
Shanghai is now the top-ranked city for connectivity, with the top four most connected cities all in China (Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu). London, the world’s number one most connected city in September 2019, has seen a 67% decline in connectivity; by September 2020, it had fallen to number eight on the list.
New York (-66% fall in connectivity), Tokyo (-65%), Bangkok (-81%), Hong Kong (-81%) and Seoul (-69%) have all exited the top 10.
“The dramatic shift in the connectivity rankings demonstrates the scale at which the world’s connectivity has been re-ordered over the last months,” said Sebastian Mikosz, IATA’s Senior Vice President for Member External Relations. “But the important point is that rankings did not shift because of any improvement in connectivity. That declined overall in all markets. The rankings shifted because the scale of the decline was greater for some cities than others.
“There are no winners, just some players that suffered fewer injuries,” he added. “In a short period of time we have undone a century of progress in bringing people together and connecting markets. The message we must take from this study is the urgent need to rebuild the global air transport network.”
In North America specifically, connectivity declined 73%. Canada’s connectivity (-85% decline) was hit more heavily than the United States (-72%), which has a large domestic aviation market that has continued to support connectivity.
At IATA’s 76th Annual General Meeting earlier this week, it called on governments to safely reopen borders using testing.
“The systematic testing of travellers is the immediate solution to rebuilding the connectivity that we have lost,” said Mikosz. “The technology exists. The guidelines for implementation have been developed. Now we need to implement before the damage to the global air transport network becomes irreparable.”
Prior to the pandemic, the growth in air connectivity was a global success story, says IATA. Over the last two decades, the number of cities directly linked by air (city-pair connections) more than doubled while over the same period, air travel costs fell by around half.