"Pandemic year was the worst ever for airlines," IATA estimates

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said Tuesday that 2020 was "a year to forget" for the sector, after it suffered declines of 60.2% in passenger numbers and 69% in revenue from the previous year.

According to the data released by IATA, last year the number of passengers was 1.8 billion while the revenue was $189 billion, with a net loss of $126.4 billion due to the impacts of the pandemic.

By 2019, passenger numbers will rise to 4.5 billion.

At the same time, cargo flights were "the bright spot," as the available cargo per tonne-kilometer (ACTK) ratio only fell by 21.4%, while the sector's load factor increased by seven percentage points to 53.8%, the highest since IATA began taking measurements in 1990.

"Two thousand and twenty was a year we would like to forget," IATA Director General Willie Walsh said in a statement, also mentioning the disappearance of one million jobs and losses of $126.4 billion.

Willie Walsh pointed out that at the worst time of the crisis, when governments around the world closed borders and imposed quarantines, 66% of the commercial aircraft fleet was idle.

The head of the association that brings together the world's leading airlines added that the statistics also reveal "an incredible story of perseverance," in which many governments have recognized "the critical state of aviation and provided financial and other forms of support."

Walsh called for "swift action by the airlines and commitment" from workers to get the industry through "the most difficult year in its history."

IATA data points out that in 2020, in available seats per mile, the industry's capacity collapsed by 56.7%. International routes were the most affected with a reduction of 68.3%.

The biggest drop in passenger traffic occurred in the Middle East, where the figure was 71.5% in revenue per passenger-kilometer (RPK), followed by Europe, with a reduction of 69.7% and Africa, with 68.5%.

Meanwhile, China became the world's largest domestic market for the first time in history, as air travel was faster to recover after the pandemic was brought under control.

Asia-Pacific was the world's top region for passengers with 780.7 million (down 53.4%), followed by North America with 401.7 million passengers (down 60.8%) and Europe with 389.9 million passengers (down 67.4%).

In turn, Latin America traveled 123.6 million passengers (-60.6%), the Middle East 76.8 million passengers (-67.6%), and Africa 34.4 million passengers (-65.7%).

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