Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Global Air Passenger Traffic to Drop by 60% to 1.8B in 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the airline industry, as countries worldwide shut down borders and limited travel to control the spread of the virus.

Massive cancellations of flights since the beginning of 2020 caused staggering losses to the world's largest airline companies and huge drops in airline passenger traffic.

According to data presented by, the global air passenger traffic is expected to drop by 60% to 1.8bn in 2020.

Air Passenger Traffic Below 2004 Levels, Scheduled Flights Down by 43.5% YoY in December

Before the coronavirus outbreak hit the globe, the airline industry grew at a steady pace across all countries. The International Air Transport Association data showed the number of scheduled passengers handled by the global airline industry had been increasing for the last 15 years and jumped from 1.9bn in 2004 to 4.5bn in 2019.

Such an impressive growth of air travel was caused by the rise of the middle class, growing airport infrastructure spending led by the Asia Pacific, and the surge of low-cost carriers, who almost doubled their market share in this period.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the number of scheduled passengers boarded by the global airline industry dropped to only 1.8 bn people in 2020, below 2004 levels. Statistics show this figure is expected to recover to 2.8bn in 2021, still 40% less than pre-COVID 19 estimations.

The OAG Schedules Analyser data revealed the number of scheduled flights worldwide was down by 43.5% YoY for the week starting December 14th. Analyzed by countries, Singapore witnessed the most significant drop in scheduled flights, 89% less compared to the same month a year ago.

Hong Kong ranked second with an 87.7% year-over-year drop. Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy follow, with 76.6%, 73.5%, and 69.5% decrease, respectively.

Commercial Airlines' Passenger Revenue to Hit $287B in 2021, 50% Less than in 2019

Before the COVID-19, worldwide commercial airlines' passenger revenues grew each year and jumped from $323bn in 2005 to $612bn in 2019. However, the International Air Transport Association data revealed staggering financial losses caused by the pandemic, with revenues expected to drop by 67% YoY to $191bn in 2020. In 2021, this figure is forecast to recover to $287bn, still only half the 2019 revenues.

Analyzed by regions, the European airports are expected to witness the biggest financial hit, with revenues plunging by $38.8bn due to the coronavirus outbreak. The revenues of the Asia Pacific airports are forecast to plunge by $27.6bn year-over-year. North American airports follow, with a $21bn drop, respectively.

Statistics show the government aids issued directly to airlines in response to the COVID-19 shock amounted to $161.9bn as of September. Almost $100bn was provided as direct aid, and the rest were wage subsidies, fuel charges, and corporate tax reliefs.

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