Geneva, February 4 : The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced full-year global passenger traffic results for 2020 showing that demand (revenue passenger kilometres) fell by 65.9 per cent compared to the full year of 2019 -- by far the sharpest traffic decline in aviation history.
Besides, forward bookings have been falling sharply since late December.
International passenger demand in 2020 was 75.6 per cent below 2019 levels. Capacity measured in available seat kilometres declined 68.1 per cent and load factor fell 19.2 percentage points to 62.8 per cent.
Domestic demand in 2020 was down 48.8 per cent compared to 2019. Capacity contracted by 35.7 per cent and load factor dropped 17 percentage points to 66.6 per cent.
December 2020 total traffic was 69.7 per cent below the same month in 2019, little improved from the 70.4 per cent contraction in November. Capacity was down 56.7 per cent and load factor fell 24.6 percentage points to 57.5 per cent.
Bookings for future travel made in January 2021 were down 70 per cent compared to a year-ago, putting further pressure on airline cash positions and potentially impacting the timing of the expected recovery.
IATA's baseline forecast for 2021 is for a 50.4 per cent improvement on 2020 demand that would bring the industry to 50.6 per cent of 2019 levels. While this view remains unchanged, there is a severe downside risk if more severe travel restrictions in response to new variants persist.
Should such a scenario materialise, demand improvement could be limited to just 13 per cent over 2020 levels, leaving the industry at 38 per cent of 2019 levels.
"Last year was a catastrophe. There is no other way to describe it," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's Director General and CEO.
"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," he said.
Asia Pacific airlines' full-year traffic plunged 80.3 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019 which was the deepest decline for any region. It fell 94.7 per cent in the month of December amid stricter lockdowns, little changed from a 95 per cent decline in November.
Full year capacity was down 74.1 per cent compared to 2019. Load factor fell 19.5 percentage points to 61.4 per cent.
European carriers saw a 73.7 per cent traffic decline in 2020 versus 2019 and Middle Eastern airlines' annual passenger demand in 2020 was 72.9 per cent below 2019.
North American airlines' full year traffic fell 75.4 per cent compared to 2019 while Latin American airlines had a 71.8 per cent full year traffic decline compared to 2019.
African airlines' traffic fell 69.8 per cent last year compared to 2019, which was the best performance among regions.