Findings that 2020 was the worst year on record for air travel have been confirmed by IATA.
Covid-19 has devasted the global economy and left industries such as travel and tourism in tatters. In its latest World Air Transport Statistics (WATS) report, the International Air Transport Association, or IATA, has revealed the substantial losses experienced for 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. 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 recognised 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,” highlighted Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

Notable losses
Among other findings, IATA noted the devastating impacts as follows:

  • 2020 saw a decrease of 60.2% in air travel with 1.8 billion passengers compared to 4.5 billion in 2019
  • Industrywide demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometres, or RPK) fell by 65.9% year-on-year
  • International RPK dropped by 75.6% while domestic RPK decreased by 48.8% compared to 2019
  • Total industry passenger revenues were $189 billion in 2020, with net losses recorded at $126.4 billion

IATA infographic

In Africa, the continent saw a total of 34.3 million passengers travel in 2020, equating to a decrease of 65.7% compared to the previous year.

For the first time, in 2020, China became the world’s largest domestic market with increases in passenger numbers of between 35% and 43% in its most visited hubs. The release of IATA’s WATS findings follows a briefing held by IATA on 28 July 2021. This can also be viewed below.

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