IATA world air statistics show devastating impact of COVID-19

Posted: 4 August 2021 | | 2 comments

It will come as little surprise to many that the airline statistics confirm 2020 as the worst year on record for the industry.


The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released its World Air Transport Statistics publication, with performance figures showing the effects of COVID-19 on global air transport in 2020.

It will come as little surprise to many that the statistics confirm 2020 as the worst year on record for the industry.

Key points from the publication showed that:

  • 1.8 billion passengers flew in 2020, a decrease of 60.2 per cent compared to the 4.5 billion who flew in 2019
  • Industry-wide air travel demand (measured in revenue passenger-kilometers, or RPKs) dropped by 65.9 per cent year-on-year
  • International passenger demand (RPKs) decreased by 75.6 per cent compared to the year prior
  • Domestic air passenger demand (RPKs) dropped by 48.8 per cent 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 per cent year-on-year in April 2020
  • Total industry passenger revenues fell by 69 per cent to $189 billion in 2020, and net losses were $126.4 billion in total
  • The decline in air passengers transported in 2020 was the largest recorded since global RPKs started being tracked around 1950.

The Middle East region suffered the largest proportion of loss for passenger traffic* with a drop of 71.5 per cent in RPKs versus 2019, followed by Europe (-69.7 per cent) and the Africa region (-68.5 per cent). 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.

“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,” commented Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

“At the depth of the crisis in April 2020, 66 per cent 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.”

*  Air transport traffic (measured by revenue passenger kilometres) grouped by geographical region corresponding to the airline’s region of domicile.

2 responses to “IATA world air statistics show devastating impact of COVID-19”

  1. Diogo says:

    Is that a typo in your first bullet point. 8 billion passengers flew in 2020?

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