Airline Passenger Traffic Down 67% in 2020: Cirium Report

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Cirium has today revealed a new 2020 review of aviation and air travel. The review includes key data insights from the past year and expert commentary from Cirium CEO, Jeremy Bowen, Henry Harteveldt, Dr. Mario Hardy and more.

Global aviation data firm Cirium today released its new Airline Insights Review 2020 which reveals the shocking impact on aviation of worldwide travel restrictions to curb COVID-19.

“Airlines will have a way before returning to 2019 levels particularly as international travel is significantly down and showing only slow signs of recovery, mainly China and Southeast Asia”

The report shows that the pandemic and its consequences wiped out 21 years of global passenger traffic growth in a matter of months, reducing traffic this year to levels last seen in 1999. In comparison to last year, passenger traffic is estimated to be down 67% in 2020.

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At the peak of the disruption in April, scheduled passenger flights dropped significantly to just 13,600 globally on April 25, compared to the year’s busiest day on January 3 when Cirium tracked over 95,000 scheduled passenger flights globally. This marks an extraordinary 86% reduction in flights.

  • From January to December airlines operated 49% fewer flights in 2020 compared to 2019 – down from 33.2 million flights to just 16.8 million (to December 20).

Domestic travel was down 40% this year, from 21.5 million flights in 2019, while international flights suffered an even more precipitous drop as they were 68% below the 11.7 million flights tracked the year before.

Jeremy Bowen, CEO of Cirium, said: “This severe setback shows the true extent of the challenge faced by the struggling aviation sector as it has sought to reset itself in the new post COVID-19 era.”

FLEETS IN STORAGE (BUT NOT THE A320)

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As airlines have been forced to drastically reduce the number of aircraft still in service, those still flying are operating significantly fewer hours.

While up to 30% of the global passenger fleet remains in storage there are signs of recovery on the horizon, with only 10% of short-haul Airbus A320neo aircraft currently in storage showing narrowbody aircraft leading the recovery and domestic and short-haul travel returning first.

With domestic and short-haul services ruling the day, the world’s most used aircraft type was the Airbus A320 with Cirium tracking 5.49 million flights throughout 2020.

SEVEN TRENDS IDENTIFIED BY CIRIUM

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“Airlines will have a way before returning to 2019 levels particularly as international travel is significantly down and showing only slow signs of recovery, mainly China and Southeast Asia,” Jeremy Bowen added.

“But Cirium is confident aviation will weather this difficult and terrible year and emerge in better shape – with younger more fuel-efficient aircraft and right-sized fleets – to gradually navigate their way to recovery in the years ahead.”

The seven key trends outlined by The Cirium Airline Insights Review 2020 for next year include:

  1. The consolidation of airlines, particularly in Asia-Pacific where more domestic competitors will merge or be acquired.
  2. New-generation aircraft like the A320neo and the return of the 737 Max, will provide reduced operating costs.
  3. Surplus aircraft will be retired and the Boeing 747 and the Airbus A380 are projected to support the rising demand in the denser leisure markets.
  4. In Q4 we saw a 78% plunge in bookings compared to the same period last year – this will naturally change the way the industry forecasts demand, we are seeing on-line search and sentiment becoming the primary indicators to calculate demand.
  5. Airlines will need to deploy more dynamic scheduling with the increased volatility of flight scheduling, as the booking window has fallen from six- to 12-months to just six- to eight-weeks.
  6. The implementation of AI technology will accelerate to automate the traveler experience and real-time proactive information will become more critical.
  7. Aircraft leasing will push past 50% becoming the major manner in which aircraft are financed.

To read the full Cirium Airline Insights Review 2020 – click here.

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Bowen thanked the OTP board members comprised of Henry Harteveldt at Atmosphere Research group and Dr. Mario Hardy at Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) for their insights and contributions to the Airline Insight Review 2020.

To read more click here.


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