Covid-19 has led to a dramatic drop in global air travel as the aviation industry marks its annual International Civil Aviation Day today, December 7.
“Collapse,” “an unprecedented decline in history,” and “stagnation” – these are the terms used by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to describe the current state of global air travel.
In its report, the ICAO says that in 2020, when the spreading virus forced the shutdown of many borders, the total number of international passengers worldwide declined by up to 74%, compared to 2019.
Airlines lost $371 billion in gross passenger operating revenues as they were forced to reduce the number of seats on offer by 66%. Airports lost more than 60% of passenger traffic and over $125 billion in airport revenues last year, compared to the pre-pandemic 2019.
For 2021, the ICAO predicts a moderate recovery in domestic travel, while international travel looks set to remain stagnant.
The agency says the actual figures for this year will depend on the duration and magnitude of the outbreak and containment measures, the degree of consumer confidence in air travel, and economic conditions, among other factors.
But with the new and potentially more vaccine-resistant Omicron variant spreading around the world, and countries introducing new restrictions, the future of civil aviation looks uncertain.
The ICAO actively monitors the economic impact of the pandemic on civil aviation and publishes reports and forecasts on a regular basis.
Before the pandemic, global airlines carried over four billion passengers a year, supported over 65 million jobs, and generated $2.7 trillion in global economic activity, according to UN estimates.
International Civil Aviation Day was established by the UN in the 1990s to commemorate the signing of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (also known as Chicago Convention) on December 7, 1944.
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