The International Air Transport Association's report on
global passenger traffic in 2020 puts specific numbers to what has been known
intuitively for some time – it was a historically bad year for the air travel
IATA says demand –
measured as revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs – declined by nearly 66%
compared to the full year of 2019, making it the sharpest drop in air passenger
traffic in aviation history.
And as COVID infection
rates and related travel restrictions continue to shift in countries around the
globe, consumers are not booking future travel in the way some had hoped. IATA
says in January bookings for future travel were down 70% compared to one year ago,
“putting further pressure on airline cash positions and
potentially impacting the timing of the expected recovery.”
the arrival and initial distribution of vaccines would lead to a prompt and orderly
restoration in global air travel have been dashed in the face of new outbreaks
and new mutations of the disease,” says Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director
general and CEO.
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“The world is
more locked down today than at virtually any point in the past 12 months and
passengers face a bewildering array of rapidly changing and globally
uncoordinated travel restrictions.”
international passenger demand saw the sharpest decline, dropping 75.6% below
2019 levels. Domestic demand was down 48.8% year-over-year.
IATA’s baseline forecast
for 2021 predicts an improvement of 50.4% over 2020 demand, which would bring the
industry to 50.6% of 2019 levels. But the organization cautions that if more
severe restrictions are put in place due to new COVID variants, demand could be
limited to an improvement of just 13% over 2020 figures, equating to a
full-year figure of 38% of 2019 levels.
governments to work with industry to develop the standards for vaccination,
testing, and validation that will enable governments to have confidence that
borders can reopen and international air travel can resume once the virus
threat has been neutralized,” de Juniac says.