More than 20 years of airline passenger traffic growth was erased in 2020, report finds

more than 20 years of airline passenger traffic growth was erased in 2020 report finds

A passenger checks flight information on a board in the departures hall at Madrid Barajas airport.

Paul Hanna | Bloomberg | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — More than two decades of growth in airline passenger traffic were erased in 2020, a new report found.

“The pandemic and its consequences wiped out 21 years of global passenger traffic growth in a matter of months, reducing traffic this year to levels last seen in 1999,” said Cirium, a travel data and analytics company.

“In comparison to last year, passenger traffic is estimated to be down 67% in 2020,” the firm said in a press release.

Only 2.9 trillion global revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) were recorded in 2020, versus 8.7 trillion in 2019. RPKs are used as a measure of airline traffic.

The aviation industry was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, as countries closed their borders in a bid to stem the spread of the disease.

According to Cirium’s data, airlines operated 16.8 million flights from Jan. 1 to Dec. 20, 2020. That’s down from 33.2 million in the same period in 2019.

More than 40 airlines completely ceased or suspended operations, and experts expect more to fail in 2021, according to Cirium.

Road to recovery

Asia-Pacific and North America were the “fastest to establish themselves on the long path to recovery,” according to Cirium’s Airline Insights Review 2020 report.

That trend was reflected in Cirium’s list of the world’s busiest airports, which was dominated by airports in the U.S. and China.

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