certified cargo dronesAnalyzing Performance Statistics for 2020 Reveals Amazing Story of Perseverance

August 4, 2021by helo-10

(04 Aug 2021)
IATA has published the World Air Transport Statistics
(WATS) with performance figures for 2020 demonstrating the
devastating effects on global air transport during that year of
the COVID-19 crisis:

– 1.8 billion passengers flew in
2020, a decrease of 60.2% compared to the 4.5 billion who flew in

– Industry-wide air travel demand (measured in revenue
passenger-kilometers, or RPKs) dropped by 65.9% year-on-year;

International passenger demand (RPKs) decreased by 75.6% compared
to the year prior;

– Domestic air passenger demand (RPKs)
dropped by 48.8% compared to 2019;

– Air connectivity declined
by more than half in 2020 with the number of routes connecting
airports falling dramatically at the outset of the crisis and was down more than 60% year-on-year in April 2020;

– Total industry
passenger revenues fell by 69% to $189 billion in 2020, and net
losses were $126.4 billion in total; and

– The decline in air
passengers transported in 2020 was the largest recorded since
global RPKs started being tracked around 1950.

“2020 was
a year that we’d all like to forget,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s
Director General. “But analyzing 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 recognized 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.”

Key 2020 airline performance figures from WATS:


– Systemwide, airlines carried 1.8 billion passengers on
scheduled services, a decrease of 60.2% over 2019;

– On average,
there was a $71.7 loss incurred per passenger in 2020,
corresponding to net losses of $126.4 billion in total;

Measured in ASKs (available seat kilometers), global airline
capacity plummeted by 56.7%, with international capacity being hit
the hardest with a reduction of 68.3%;

– Systemwide passenger
load factor dropped to 65.1% in 2020, compared to 82.5% the year

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

– China became the largest domestic market in 2020 for the first
time on record, as air travel rebounded faster in their domestic
market following their efforts to control COVID-19.

regional rankings (based on total passengers carried on scheduled
services by airlines registered in that region) are:

Asia-Pacific: 780.7 million passengers, a decrease of 53.4%
compared to the region’s passengers in 2019

2. North America:
401.7 million passengers, down 60.8% over 2019

3. Europe: 389.9
million passengers, down 67.4% over 2019

4. Latin America:
123.6 million passengers, down 60.6% over 2019

5. Middle East:
76.8 million passengers, a decrease of 67.6% over 2019

Africa: 34.3 million passengers, down 65.7% over 2019

The top five airlines ranked by total scheduled passenger
kilometers flown, were:

1. American Airlines (124 billion)

2. China Southern Airlines (110.7 billion)

3. Delta Air
Lines (106.5 billion)

4. United Airlines (100.2 billion)

China Eastern Airlines (88.7 billion)

– The top five
route areas by passenger demand (RPKs), with the largest drop
being seen in routes within the Far East:

1. Within Europe
(290.3 million, down 70.7% from 2019)

2. Europe – North America
(122.9 million, decreased 80.4% from 2019)

3. Within Far East
(117.3 million, a decrease of 84.1% from 2019)

4. Europe – Far
East (115.3 million, a decrease of 79% from 2019)

5. Middle
East – Far East (104 million, down 73.6% from 2019)

The top five domestic passenger airport-pairs were all in Asia and
outperformed top international routes as domestic recovery
returned faster, particularly in China:

1. Jeju – Seoul Gimpo (10.2 million, up 35.1% over 2019)

2. Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh
City (5.9 million, an increase of 54.3% from 2019)

3. Shanghai-Hongqiao
– Shenzhen (3.7 million, up 43.4% from 2019)

4. Beijing-Capital
– Shanghai-Hongqiao (3.6 million, increased by 11.8% from 2019)

5. Guangzhou – Shanghai-Hongqiao (3.5 million, up 41.2% from

– The top five nationalities traveling by air
(international) were:

1. United States (45.7 million, or
9.7% of all passengers)

2. United Kingdom (40.8 million, or
8.6% of all passengers)

3. Germany (30.8 million, or 6.5% of
all passengers)

4. France (23.3 million, or 4.9% of all

5. India (17.4 million, or 3.7% of all passengers)


– Air freight was the bright spot in air
transport for 2020, as the market adapted to keep goods
moving—including vaccines, personal protective equipment (PPE) and
vital medical supplies—despite the massive drop in capacity from
the bellies of passenger aircraft.

– Industry-wide
available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs) fell 21.4% year-on-year
in 2020.

– This led to a capacity crunch, with the industry-wide
cargo load factor up 7.0 percentage points to 53.8%. This is the
highest value in the IATA series started in 1990.

– At the end
of the year, industry-wide cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs) had
returned close to pre-crisis values. However, the yearly decline
in cargo demand (CTKs) was still the largest since the Global
Financial Crisis in 2009, at a sizeable 9.7% year-on-year in 2020.

– The top five airlines ranked by scheduled cargo tonne-kilometers
(CTKs) flown were:

1. Federal Express (19.7 billion)

United Parcel Service (14.4 billion)

3. Qatar Airways (13.7

4. Emirates (9.6 billion)

5. Cathay Pacific Airways
(8.1 billion)

Airline Alliances

– Star Alliance
maintained its position as the largest airline alliance in 2020
with 18.7% of total scheduled traffic (in RPKs), followed by
SkyTeam (16.3%) and oneworld (12.7%).

The complete set of WATS statistics, which includes
further figures and analysis, can be purchased from IATA


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