IATA confirms that 2020 was the worst year for the airline industry

2 min reading time

Published on 05/08/21 - Updated on 17/03/22

 Airline industry

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released the IATA World Air Transport Statistics (WATS) publication with performance figures for 2020 demonstrating the devastating effects of the COVID-19 crisis on global air travel during that year.

The IATA World Air Transport Statistics (WATS) publication revealed that :

  • 1.8 billion passengers flew in 2020, down 60.2% from the 4.5 billion that flew in 2019
  • Industry-wide air travel demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometers, or RPKs) fell 65.9 percent year-over-year
  • International passenger demand (RPK) fell 75.6 percent year over year
  • Domestic air passenger demand (RPK) decreased 48.8 percent year-over-year
  • Air connectivity more than halved in 2020, with the number of routes connecting airports falling dramatically from the start of the crisis and down more than 60 percent year-on-year in April 2020
  • Total industry passenger revenues fell 69 percent to 159 billion euros in 2020, with net losses totaling 106 billion euros
  • The decline in the number of air passengers carried in 2020 was the largest recorded since global RPKs began to be tracked around 1950

2020 was a year we would all like to forget. But an analysis of the year's performance statistics reveals an amazing story of perseverance. At the height 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. One million jobs were lost. And the industry's losses for the year totaled $126 billion. Many governments have recognized the vital contribution of aviation and have provided financial and other support. But it was the swift actions of the airlines and the commitment of our people that got the industry through its most difficult year ever.

Willie Walsh, IATA Director General.




  • IATA Europe
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