MANILA, Philippines — All international air travel was down 60 percent in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with airline industry losses topping $370 billion, according to a report from the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization.
ICAO noted that financial losses to the industry amounted to $370 billion, “with airports and air navigation services providers losing a further 115 billion and 13 billion, respectively.”
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.
As the coronavirus began its global spread, the air industry came to a virtual standstill by the end of March. Following widespread national lockdowns in April, overall number of passengers had fallen 92 percent from 2019 levels, a 98-percent drop in international traffic and 87-percent fall in domestic air travel during the period. There was a moderate rebound during the summer travel period, but that recovery phase was short-lived.
Overall, there was a 50 percent drop in domestic passenger traffic globally, while international traffic fell by 74 percent, or around 1.4 billion passengers.
The agency does not expect any improvement until the second quarter of 2021, subject to the effectiveness of pandemic management and vaccination rollout worldwide.
The agency described the near term outlook as one of “prolonged depressed demand, with downside risks to global air travel recovery predominating in the first quarter of 2021, and likely to be subject to further deterioration.”
In the most optimistic scenario, by June of 2021, passenger numbers will be expected to recover globally to 71 percent of their 2019 levels (or 53 percent for international and 84 percent for domestic flights).
A more pessimistic scenario foresees only a 49 percent recovery (26 percent for international and 66 percent for domestic), said ICAO.
However, domestic travel proved more resilient and was the main driver of any glimmer of recovery to the industry, ICAO notes, where domestic passenger numbers have already returned to the pre-pandemic levels.
The report attributes this recovery to the “persistent disparity between domestic and international air travel impacts resulting from the more stringent international measures in force.”