Panafrican News Agency

Air travel down 60 per cent, as industry losses top $370 billion: ICAO

Montreal, Canada (PANA) - A new report from the UN’s air transportation agency confirms there was a “dramatic” fall in international air travel due to coronavirus (COVID-19) of around 60 per cent over the course of last year to levels last seen in 2003.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) said on Friday that seating capacity fell by around 50 per cent last year, with just 1.8 billion passengers taking flights through 2020, compared with around 4.5 billion in 2019.

That adds up to a staggering financial loss to the industry of around $370 billion, “with airports and air navigation services providers losing a further $115 billion and $13 billion respectively”, said ICAO in a press statement.

It said as the coronavirus began its global spread, the air industry came to a virtual standstill by the end of March.

Following widespread national lockdowns, by April the overall number of passengers had fallen 92 per cent from 2019 levels, an average of 98 per cent drop-off seen in international traffic and 87 per cent fall in domestic air travel.

There was a moderate rebound during the summer travel period but recovery was short-lived, the statement noted.

“Sectoral recovery became more vulnerable and volatile again during the last four months of 2020, indicating an overall double-dip recession for the year,” ICAO said.

The report notes “a persistent disparity between domestic and international air travel impacts resulting from the more stringent international measures in force”.

Domestic travel proved more resilient and was the main driver of any glimmer of recovery to the industry, particularly in China and Russia, ICAO notes, where domestic passenger numbers have already returned to the pre-pandemic levels.

Overall, there was a 50 per cent drop in domestic passenger traffic globally, while international traffic fell by 74 per cent, or around 1.4 billion passengers.

The plunge in traffic has put the entire industry’s financial liability into question and threatens the viability of millions of associated jobs around the world, said ICAO.

It has also severely impacted global tourism, given that more than 50 per cent of international travellers used to reach their destinations by plane.

ICAO said that the regional breakdown in losses showed a $120 billion loss year-on-year in the Asia-Pacific region, $100 billion in Europe, $88 billion in North America, followed by $26 billion, $22 billion and $14 billion in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Africa, respectively.

-0-    PANA    MA/RA   16Jan2021