GENEVA — It’s no surprise to anyone in the travel industry, but IATA’s stats are sobering nonetheless: 2020 was the worst year ever for the world’s airlines.
The COVID-19 pandemic and all the travel restrictions resulted in a 60% decrease in airline passenger traffic, dropping to 1.8 billion from a high of 4.5 billion in 2019. Air travel demand (measured in revenue passenger-kilometres, i.e. RPKs), was down by almost 66%.
Air connectivity more than halved, with the number of routes connecting the world’s airports down sharply in the early months of the pandemic, to a low point of more than 60% in April 2020.
Total industry passenger revenues fell by 69% to US$189 billion in 2020. Net losses totalled $126.4 billion.
All in all the decline in air passengers transported in 2020 was the largest recorded since global RPKs started being tracked around 1950.
Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, says that while “2020 was a year that we’d all like to forget”, there are positive takeaways from the stats, showing “an amazing story of perseverance” for the world’s airlines.
“At the depth of the crisis in April 2020, 66% of the world’s commercial air transport fleet was grounded as governments closed borders or imposed strict quarantines. A million jobs disappeared. And industry losses for the year totalled $126 billion. Many governments recognized aviation’s critical contributions and provided financial lifelines and other forms of support. But it was the rapid actions by airlines and the commitment of our people that saw the airline industry through the most difficult year in its history,” said Walsh.
IATA’s newly released IATA World Air Transport Statistics (WATS) overview also shows that …
- There was an average $71.7 loss incurred per passenger in 2020, corresponding to net losses of $126.4 billion in total
- Global airline capacity fell 56.7%, with international capacity down 68.3%
- Passenger load factor system-wide dropped to 65.1% in 2020, compared to 82.5% in 2019
- Europe (67.4% drop), the Middle East (67.6%) and Africa (65.7%) were hit the hardest by airline passenger traffic drops, followed by North America (60.8%), Latin America (60.6%) and Asia-Pacific (53.4%).
- The top five nationalities travelling by air (international) in 2020 were: the U.S. (9.7% of all international passengers); the UK (8.6%); Germany (6.5%); France (4.9%) and India (3.7%).