The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the clearing house for global airlines has described 2020 as the worst year ever for aviation in the world occasioned by the devastating effects of COVID-19 that totally grounded the entire aviation sector save for skeletal cargo operations by some airlines.
The disclosure was made by IATA yesterday when it released the IATA World Air Transport Statistics (WATS) publication with performance figures for 2020 demonstrating the devastating effects on global air transport during that year of the COVID-19 crisis.
Breakdown of the statistics shows that 1.8 billion passengers flew in 2020, a decrease of 60.2% compared to the 4.5 billion who flew in 2019. In Africa, 34.3 million passengers were recorded, a figure down 65.7% over 2019; a situation that further signposts the precarious situation of the continent’s airlines. According the statistics, Industry-wide air travel demand (measured in revenue passenger-kilometers, or RPKs) dropped by 65.9% year-on-year, International passenger demand (RPKs) decreased by 75.6% compared to the year prior, while domestic air passenger demand (RPKs) dropped by 48.8% compared to 2019.
Air connectivity declined by more than half in 2020 with the number of routes connecting airports falling dramatically at the outset of the crisis and was down more than 60% year-on-year in April 2020 as total industry passenger revenues fell by 69% to $189 billion in 2020, and net losses were $126.4 billion in total. The decline in air passengers transported in 2020 is said to be the largest recorded since global RPKs started being tracked around 1950 According to the Director- General of IATA, Willie Walsh, “2020 was a year that we’d all like to forget. But analyzing the performance statistics for the year reveals an amazing story of perseverance. 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 totaled $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.” Systemwide, airlines carried 1.8 billion passengers on scheduled services, a decrease of 60.2% over 2019. On average, there was a $71.7 loss incurred per passenger in 2020, corresponding to net losses of $126.4 billion in total.
Systemwide passenger load factor dropped to 65.1% in 2020, compared to 82.5% the year prior. The Middle East region suffered the largest proportion of loss for passenger traffic* with a drop of 71.5% in RPKs versus 2019, followed by Europe (-69.7%) and the Africa region (-68.5%) IATA further stated that China became the largest domestic market in 2020 for the first time on record, as air travel rebounded faster in their domestic market following their efforts to control COVID-19.