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2020 worst year in history for aviation: IATA
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said that air travel demand suffered the biggest drop in the history of aviation in 2020 and warned of severe downside risks in 2021 if travel restrictions due to new Covid-19 variants persist.
The IATA's global passenger traffic results for 2020 issued on Wednesday revealed that demand (in revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) fell by 65.9 per cent compared to the full year of 2019, reports Xinhua news agency.
It was "by far the sharpest traffic decline in aviation history", the association said in a statement.
"Furthermore, forward bookings have been falling sharply since late December," the IATA warned.
International passenger demand in 2020 was 75.6 per cent below 2019 levels.
Domestic demand in 2020 also took a hit and was down 48.8 per cent compared to 2019, according to the Geneva-based association.
"Last year was a catastrophe," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's director general and chief executive officer (CEO). "There is no other way to describe it."
"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.
Bookings made in January 2021 were down 70 per cent compared to a year ago, the IATA noted, putting further pressure on airlines' cash positions and potentially impacting the timing of the expected recovery.
The IATA said that its 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," it said.
"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."