2020 was the worst year in the history of aviation as both passenger and cargo flights declined by record numbers, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
IATA on Wednesday announced full-year global passenger traffic results for 2020 showing that demand (revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) fell by 65.9% compared to the full year of 2019, by far the sharpest traffic decline in aviation history.
On the other hand, demand for air cargo decreased by 10.6% in 2020, compared to 2019.
The decline in passenger and cargo flights demand is attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic which has had a devastating impact on many sectors globally.
For many months last year, airlines were forced to ground much of their fleets as countries shut down their borders in efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
The travel restrictions, added to curfews and lockdowns imposed to contain the virus hampered demand for both domestic and air travel.
According to IATA, African airlines’ traffic fell 69.8% last year compared to 2019, which was the best performance among regions. Capacity dropped 61.5%, and load factor sank 15.4 percentage points to 55.9%, lowest among regions.
Asia-Pacific airlines’ full-year traffic plunged 80.3% in 2020 compared to 2019, which was the deepest decline for any region.
“Last year was a catastrophe. There is no other way to describe it. What recovery there was over the Northern hemisphere summer season stalled in autumn and the situation turned dramatically worse over the year-end holiday season, as more severe travel restrictions were imposed in the face of new outbreaks and new strains of COVID-19.” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
As airlines were starting to recover from the hit with the gradual lifting of travel restrictions, came the new strains of coronavirus which have prompted some countries to re-impose travel restrictions.
“Optimism that the arrival and initial distribution of vaccines would lead to a prompt and orderly restoration in global air travel have been dashed in the face of new outbreaks and new mutations of the disease. The world is more locked down today than at virtually any point in the past 12 months and passengers face a bewildering array of rapidly changing and globally uncoordinated travel restrictions,” said de Juniac.
He urged governments to work with the aviation industry to develop the standards for vaccination, testing, and validation that will enable them to have confidence that borders can reopen and international air travel can resume.