Just 1.8 billion passengers used air travel last year, almost three billion less than 2019
The UN agency for civil aviation has concluded its latest economic impact analysis of COVID-19, revealing that there was a 60% decline in passenger traffic during 2020.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) reported that seat capacity fell by 50% last year, with a total of just 1.8 billion passengers using air travel compared to 4.5 billion in 2019.
Airline’s lost a total of $370 billion (£271 billion) due to the impact of the pandemic. Airports lost a total of $115 billion (£85 billion) and air navigation services providers (ANSPs) lost a further $13 billion (£9 billion).
In January of 2020, air travel began to drop, however it was only limited to a few countries. By the end of March, air transport had completely frozen as the virus spread globally.
With stringent restrictions in place, by April the overall number of passengers had dramatically dropped by 92%.
Slight recovery was made in the summer of last year, after travel restrictions were eased. However, when the second wave of infection hit in September, the restrictive measures were reintroduced.
ICAO stated that domestic travel was more resilient and therefore dominated traffic recovery, especially in China and Russia.
Domestic passenger traffic dropped by 50% in total, comparatively international traffic fell by 74%.
In May of last year, the ICAO Asia-Pacific and North American regions upheld the recovery in passenger traffic due to their domestic markets. Europe made initial positive steps although it was hit hard by the second wave of COVID-19.
There were improvements for Latin America and Caribbean aviation as they saw advancements in the fourth quarter. There was a limited amount of recovery in Africa and the Middle East.
Frozen revenue streams caused by the dip in air traffic have placed liquidity strains across the aviation chain, according to the ICAO. This could mean that millions of people could lose their jobs globally.
The organisation expects there to be an improvement in travel figures in the second quarter of 2021, dependent of pandemic management and vaccine administration.
A prediction of the most optimistic scenario reveals that passenger numbers should recover by 71% of their 2019 levels by June of this year – 53% for international and 84% for domestic.
Since its creation in 1944, countries have adopted a total of 12,000 standards and practices through ICAO which help to address national regulations relating to safety.