The COVID-19 pandemic-hit 2020 was recorded as the worst year ever in the history of global aviation, with the overall demand (revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) plunging by 65.9 percent, said a report released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on February 3.
International passenger demand fell by 75.6 percent vis-a-vis 2019, whereas, the cumulative drop in domestic aviation was 48.8 percent in 2020 as compared to the previous year.
Capacity, (measured in available seat kilometers or ASKs) declined 68.1 percent and load factor fell 19.2 percentage points to 62.8 percent.
The country facing the worst plunge in domestic air travel was Australia, followed by the US and India where demand receded by 59.6 and 55.6 percent, respectively.
On the other hand, Asia-Pacific airlines’ full-year traffic plunged 80.3 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, which was the deepest decline for any region. It fell 94.7 percent in the month of December amid stricter lockdowns, little changed from a 95 percent decline in November. Full year capacity was down 74.1 percent compared to 2019. Load factor fell 19.5 percentage points to 61.4 percent, showed the report.
The recovery in aviation sector may not be imminent, despite the easing of COVID-19-related restrictions in several parts of the world, the report said.
The December 2020 total traffic was 69.7 percent below the same month in 2019, whereas, the future bookings made in January 2021 were lower by 70 percent as compared to a year-ago period.
As per the IATA forecast, the demand for aviation would improve by 50.4 percent in 2021, that would bring the industry to around half of the 2019-level. The actual demand could be lower than the forecast if curbs due to new variants of coronavirus continue, the report said.
“Last year was a catastrophe. 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,” Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, said.