The year of 2020 was the worst year on record for the aviation industry, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The findings are from the organisation’s World Air Transport Statistics (WATS), which detail the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on global air transport last year.

The report showed that 1.8 billion passengers flew in 2020 compared to 4.5 billion in 2019, a decrease of 60.2 per cent. IATA states that the decline in air passengers transported in 2020 was the largest recorded since global revenue passenger-kilometres (RPKs) began being tracked around 1950.

Industry-wide air travel demand dropped by 65.9 per cent year-on-year. International passenger demand decreased by 75.6 per cent, and domestic air passenger demand by 48.8 per cent, compared to 2019.

The publication also revealed that air connectivity declined by over a half last year, with the number of routes connecting airports falling at the outset of the crisis – this was down by 60 per cent year-on-year in April 2020.

Total industry passenger revenues fell by 69 per cent to US$189 billion in 2020, and net losses were US$126.4 billion in total.

IATA also provided information on the performance of the industry in different parts of the world, revealing that the Middle East region suffered the largest proportion of loss for passenger traffic, with a drop of 71.5 per cent compared to 2019, followed by Europe (-69.7 per cent) and the Africa region (-68.5 per cent).

China, meanwhile, became the largest domestic market last year for the first time on record.

Star Alliance maintained its position as the largest airline alliance in 2020, with 18.7 per cent of total scheduled traffic, followed by Skyteam (16.3 per cent) and Oneworld (12.7 per cent).

Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, commented:

“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 totalled $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.”

See further findings from the WATS here.