Skip to Content

Global Air Passenger Traffic Dropped Over 60% in 2020

Share The Article

Last Updated

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) have released their latest economic impact analysis of COVID-19 on travel. 

The report has found that overall traffic for global travel in 2020 has suffered a 60% drop.

Subsequently, the effects of the global pandemic have brought travel to levels not seen since 2003. 

airport masks passengers

The ICAO further reports that seat capacity was reduced to half last year.

Overall travel numbers were at 1.8 billion, in comparison to 4.5 billion in 2019, marking a 60% decline. 

International tourism revenues for 2020 will decrease to between 910 to 1,170 billion, in contrast to 1.5 trillion generated in 2019.

The report states that 100% of worldwide destinations had some form of travel restrictions during the year. 

travelers in Italy masks

Rollercoaster Year For Travel

Granted that the severity of the pandemic was not realized from the onset of 2020, the overall numbers benefit from the limited time of regular travel levels during the start of the year.

The report notes that air transport activities came to a virtual standstill by the end of March, due to the arrivals of global lockdowns, border closures, and travel restrictions. 

By April, overall passengers had dropped by 92% from 2019 levels. The summer months witnessed a gradual rebound, however it was only momentary as the second wave of the pandemic in fall tightened restrictions once again. 

Travel Industry Hit

The sharp decline in travel demand accounted for significant damage to airline revenues. The report indicated a net $370 billion in financial losses for airlines as a result of COVID-19.

The report further finds that airports experienced a loss of $115 billion and air navigation services providers lost $13 billion.

According to recent estimates by FactSet, US airlines net losses for 2020 are in excess of $35 billion. The pandemic managed to provide Southwest their first annual loss in over 40 years. 

The weakening economic indicators for airlines led to significant drops in stock prices, with United shares down 51%, American Airlines down 45%, Delta down 31% and Southwest down 14%. 

The losses incurred by airlines is noteworthy to those looking to travel as it prompts airlines to shrink, cut routes and park aircraft. 

According to the ICAO report, 2020 saw an overall reduction of 51% in seats offered by airlines, with an expected reduction of 40-47% in seat offerings during the first half of 2021. 

Many airline executives have indicated they will operate at limited capacity, with American Airlines President, Robert Isom, declaring capacity for January and February 2021 will be 45% of 2019 levels.

Disparity Between Domestic and International Travel

The ICAO report acknowledges a disparity between domestic and international travel figures. 

Though overall travel for 2020 dropped by 60%, international travel numbers dropped by 74% while domestic figures fell 50%. 

mask traveler flight

The report further notes that domestic travel exhibits a stronger recovery as opposed to international travel, with markets such as Russia and China having already revived their domestic passenger numbers to pre-pandemic levels.

The disparity between domestic and international travel may be attributed to the closing of borders and travel restrictions, indicating that travel demand is not as impactful for the declines in 2020 travel as preventative measures.

girl in mark temperature check at US airport

↓ Join the community ↓

The Travel Off Path Community FB group has all the latest reopening news, conversations, and Q&A's happening daily! 

Subscribe to our Latest Posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to Travel Off Path's latest breaking travel news, straight to your inbox

Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories