Newly published data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) shows that London has seen a 67 per cent decline in international air connectivity over the last year.

As a result the UK capital has fallen from first to eighth in the list of the world’s most connected cities, with the Chinese cities of Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu now occupying the top four spots.

IATA said that Covid-19 “has had a devastating impact on international connectivity, shaking up the rankings of the world’s most connected cities”.

Earlier this month Heathrow airport warned of a “catastrophic decline”, as traffic dropped by 82 per cent in October.

Heathrow warns of “catastrophic decline” as traffic drops by 82 per cent

London is not alone in seeing a dramatic decline in connectivity – New York saw a 66 per cent decline, falling from third in the rankings in 2019, to outside the top ten this year.

Tokyo and Bangkok also dropped out of the ten, seeing a decline in connectivity of 65 per cent and 81 per cent respectively.

As international air travel continues to be decimated by the pandemic, cities with a large number of domestic connections now dominate in the rankings. Aside from the four Chinese cities listed above, the US cities of Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta also fared relatively well – the Windy City moved up from tenth to fifth position, while Dallas and Atlanta entered the list at ninth and tenth respectively.

Sebastian Mikosz, IATA’s senior vice president for Member External Relations, stressed that the rankings “did not shift because of any improvement in connectivity”.

“There are no winners, just some players that suffered fewer injuries,” said Mikosz. “In a short period of time we have undone a century of progress in bringing people together and connecting markets. The message we must take from this study is the urgent need to re-build the global air transport network.”

“The systematic testing of travellers is the immediate solution to rebuilding the connectivity that we have lost. The technology exists. The guidelines for implementation have been developed. Now we need to implement, before the damage to the global air transport network becomes irreparable.”

“Governments must realize that there are major consequences for peoples’ lives and livelihoods. At least 46 million jobs supported by air transport are in peril. And the strength of the economic recovery from Covid-19 will be severely compromised without the support of a functioning air transport network.”

IATA said that the air connectivity index measures how well connected a country’s cities are to other cities around the world, which is “critical for trade, tourism, investment and other economic flows”.

In terms of continents both Africa and Europe saw the biggest decline in connectivity (-93 per cent), followed by Latin America (-91 per cent), the Middle East (-88 per cent), Asia-Pacific (-76 per cent) and North America (73 per cent).