2020 worst year on record for global airline industry — IATA

2020 worst year on record for global airline industry — IATA
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KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 4): Airline industry statistics have confirmed that 2020 was the worst year on record for the industry, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

In its World Air Transport Statistics (WATS) published yesterday, the association said performance figures for 2020 demonstrated the devastating effects on global air transport during that year of the Covid-19 crisis.

The report said some 1.8 billion passengers flew in 2020, a decrease of 60.2% compared with the 4.5 billion who flew in 2019.

It said industry-wide air travel demand (measured in revenue passenger-kilometres or RPKs) dropped by 65.9% year-on-year (y-o-y).

Meanwhile, international passenger demand (RPKs) decreased by 75.6% compared to the year prior.

Domestic air passenger demand (RPKs), on the other hand, dropped by 48.8% compared to 2019.

Air connectivity declined by more than half in 2020, with the number of routes connecting airports falling dramatically at the outset of the crisis and was down more than 60% y-o-y in April 2020.

Total industry passenger revenue fell by 69% to US$189 billion (about RM798.9 billion) in 2020, while net losses were US$126.4 billion in total.

The decline in air passengers transported in 2020 was the largest recorded since global RPKs started being tracked around 1950.

IATA director-general Willie Walsh said 2020 was a year that everyone wanted to forget.

However, he pointed out that the performance statistics for the year revealed perseverance.

“At the depth of the crisis in April 2020, 66% of the world’s commercial air transport fleet was grounded as governments closed borders or imposed strict quarantines.

“A million jobs disappeared. Industry losses for the year totalled US$126 billion.

“Many governments recognised aviation’s critical contributions and provided financial lifelines and other forms of support. But it was the rapid actions by airlines and the commitment of our people that saw the airline industry through the most difficult year in its history,” he said.

According to the report, the top five airlines ranked by total scheduled passenger-kilometres flown were:

  • American Airlines (124 billion)
  • China Southern Airlines (110.7 billion)
  • Delta Air Lines (106.5 billion)
  • United Airlines (100.2 billion)
  • China Eastern Airlines (88.7 billion)

Meanwhile, airfreight was the bright spot of air transport in 2020 as the market adapted to keep goods moving — including vaccines, personal protective equipment (PPE) and vital medical supplies — despite a massive drop in capacity from the bellies of passenger aircraft.

IATA said industry-wide available cargo tonne-kilometres (ACTKs) fell 21.4% y-o-y in 2020.

It said this led to a capacity crunch, with the industry-wide cargo load factor up seven percentage points (ppts) to 53.8%.

This was the highest value in the IATA series started in 1990.

At the end of the year, industry-wide cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs) had returned close to pre-crisis values.

However, the yearly decline in cargo demand (CTKs) was still the largest since the Global Financial Crisis in 2009 — at a sizeable 9.7% y-o-y in 2020.