The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced full-year global passenger traffic results, revealing revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) fell by 65.9% because of the pandemic spread. It is the sharpest ever air travel declines in commercial aviation history.
In 2020, international passenger demand was 75.6% below 2019 levels. Capacity (measured in revenue passenger kilometers) reduced 68.1% percent, and load factor decreased to just 62.8% from 82%. Domestic air traffic in 2020 was down 48.8% compared to 2019.
“Last year was a catastrophe,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s CEO. “There is no other way to describe it. What recovery there was over the Northern hemisphere summer season stalled in autumn, and the situation turned dramatically worse over the year-end holiday season, as more severe travel restrictions were imposed in the face of new outbreaks and new strains of COVID-19.”
Many have had hopes for the beginning of 2021, but future ticket bookings do not look promising – in January, they were 70% down compared to the same period last year. If heavy travel restrictions remain unchanged, there is a risk that the demand will improve just 13% over 2020 levels, and the industry itself would be only at 38% of 2019 levels.