IATA stats confirm 2020 was worst year on record

Recent airline industry figures show 2020 was the toughest year on record thanks to effects of the pandemic 

Data released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) confirms that last year was the worst for the industry since records began.  

IATA released its World Air Transport Statistics (WATS) publication which revealed the damaging impact COVID-19 had on global air transport.  

Key indications from the publication include that only 1.8 billion passengers flew in last year, compared to the 4.5 billion in 2019, a decrease of 60.2%.  

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Total international passenger demand dropped by 75.6% compared to the previous yearm, while domestic air passenger demand fell by 48.8%.  

Air connectivity also declined by more than 50% meaning that the number of routes connecting airports fell dramatically at the start of the pandemic. Total revenues for passengers decreased by nearly 70% to $189bn in 2020 with net losses in the passenger industry totalling at $126.4bn.  

Regional rankings based on total passengers carried on scheduled services by airlines registered within the specific regions saw Asia-Pacific placing first with 780.7 million passengers. North America placed second with just over 400 million travellers, while Europe came in third with just under 400 million passengers.  

 Star Alliance maintained its position as the largest airline alliance in 2020 with 18.7% of total scheduled traffic, followed by SkyTeam (16.3%) and oneworld (12.7%). 

Meanwhile, cargo was the silver lining in the industry during 2020, as the market changed to suit new needs and keep goods moving internationally.  

Vaccines, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies provided suitable operational need to keep some airlines afloat.  

At the end of 2020, industry-wide cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs) had returned close to pre-pandemic levels. However, the annual decline in cargo demand was still the largest decrease since the Global Financial Crisis in 2009.