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2020 was worst year for aviation, IATA confirms

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New figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have confirmed last year was the worst on record for the aviation sector. Releasing the annual World Air Transport Statistics publication, the organisation said 1.8 billion passengers flew in 2020, a decrease of 60 per cent compared to the 4.5 billion who flew in 2019.

Industry-wide air travel demand (measured in revenue passenger-kilometres, or RPKs) dropped by 66 per cent year-on-year. Total industry passenger revenues fell by 69 per cent to $189 billion in 2020, and net losses were $126 billion in total.

IATA added 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. The decline in air passengers transported in 2020 was the largest recorded since global RPKs started being tracked around 1950.

“Last year 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 per cent of the world’s commercial air transport fleet was grounded as governments closed borders or imposed strict quarantines,” said IATA director general, Willie Walsh.

“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.”

China became the largest domestic market in 2020 for the first time on record, as air travel rebounded faster in the domestic market following efforts to control Covid-19.

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