Airlines from Australia to the UK have slashed capacity to kick off 2021, with available seats worldwide falling 50 per cent year-on-year.

This is a marked decline from mid-December, when seats were only down 43 per cent compared to the same week a year before.

Late last month, governments around the world imposed a fresh round of travel bans following the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant in the UK and South Africa.

Globally, carriers had 53.4 million seats available as of January 18, a level not seen since July 2020. Worldwide capacity was at 55.2 million a week before that, meaning 1.8 million seats were cut in a matter of days, according to flight data analytics company OAG.

OAG also reported year-on-year capacity cuts in the UK of 86.7 per cent, Australia by 64.6 per cent, and the US by 45 per cent.

Even China, where domestic traffic nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels in 2020, saw seat capacity trimmed by 14.7 per cent from the same week last year.

The world’s second largest economy has seen traveller confidence further wane with outbreaks escalating across the country.

The outlook for the airline industry is unlikely to improve anytime soon without a widespread vaccine rollout and a harmonised approach to cross-border travel. Under President Joe Biden, the US is set to impose even tougher public health measures on international travel.