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Covid impact on airlines cost $126bn in 2020

New Iata performance figures for 2020 confirm the devastating effects on global air transport during the year of the Covid-19 crisis.

Total industry passenger revenues fell by 69% to $189 billion in 2020, and net losses hit $126.4 billion.

The worst year on record for airlines saw passenger numbers more than half from 4.5 billion in 2019 to 1.8 billion as global travel demand slumped by almost 66%.

The decline in air passengers transported in 2020 was the largest recorded since global figures started being tracked around 1950, according to the airline industry body.


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The Middle East region suffered the largest proportion of loss for passenger traffic with a drop of 71.5% versus 2019, followed by Europe (-69.7%) and Africa (-68.5%).

China became the largest domestic market in 2020 for the first time as air travel rebounded faster following efforts to control Covid-19.

Star Alliance maintained its position as the largest airline combine in 2020 with 18.7% of total scheduled traffic, followed by SkyTeam (16.3%) and British Airways-backed Oneworld (12.7%).

The top five carriers ranked by total scheduled passenger kilometres flown were American Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Delta, United and Chine Eastern.

Iata director general Willie Walsh said: “2020 was a year that we’d all like to forget. But analysing the performance statistics for the year reveals an amazing story of perseverance.

“At the depth of the crisis in April 2020, 66% of the world’s commercial air transport fleet was grounded as governments closed borders or imposed strict quarantines. A million jobs disappeared. And industry losses for the year totaled $126 billion.

“Many governments recognised aviation’s critical contributions and provided financial lifelines and other forms of support.

“But it was the rapid actions by airlines and the commitment of our people that saw the airline industry through the most difficult year in its history.”

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