Global air passenger numbers fell 60% last year, as aviation’s net losses spiralled to $126b, data from the International Air Transport Association has shown.
The release of 2020’s end-of-year figures demonstrate the ‘devastating effects on global air transport during that year of the COVID-19 crisis’, IATA said.
A total of 1.8b passengers flew in 2020 – mainly on domestic routes – down from 4.5b in 2019.
Industry-wide air travel demand, measured in revenue passenger-kilometers (RPKs) dropped 66%, with international demand tumbling 76% and domestic demand down 49%
Passenger revenues fell almost 70% to $189 billion leading to a combined net loss of $126.4b.
IATA said the decline in air passengers was the largest recorded since global RPKs started being tracked around 1950.
Director General Willie Walsh paid tribute to the resilience of the airline industry.
“2020 was a year that we’d all like to forget. But analysing the performance statistics for the year reveals an amazing story of perseverance,” he said. “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.”
Europe and the Middle East recorded the sharpest declines in passenger traffic, both down around 67%, followed by Africa.
North America and Latin America saw 61% slumps while Asia Pacific lost 53% of traffic.