The novel Coronavirus pandemic caused a 60% reduction in air travel worldwide in 2020 and short-term prospects are dim, according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Travel restrictions imposed the world over in an effort to curb the spread of the virus caused passenger numbers to plunge from 4.5 billion in 2019 to 1.8 billion in 2020, which was equivalent to the 2003 level, ICAO stated in a press release.
The drop in demand will continue the first quarter of 2021 and could even worsen, the Montreal-based agency noted.
Last year, passenger numbers went down by 50% on domestic flights and by 74% on international ones, which saw a reduction of 1.4 billion passengers compared to 2019.
As a result, the airlines suffered a combined loss of 370 billion U.S. dollars, while airports and suppliers of air navigation services lost 115 billion and 13 billion dollars respectively.
This has led “to severe liquidity strains across the aviation value chain, placing the industry’s financial viability in question and threatening millions of jobs around the world,” ICAO said.
The global tourism market has also been affected since half of all tourists usually fly to their destinations.
The airline industry could recover in the second quarter of this year, but that will depend on the success of vaccination efforts, which have begun in the developed countries, according to ICAO.