National travel restrictions, coupled with a decreased willingness to travel due to the coronavirus, have plunged global airlines into their worst crisis ever. Passenger traffic is expected to fall by 38 percent worldwide and industry traveller revenues will drop 44 percent this year.
Global air traffic has dropped to its lowest level since the beginning of the year, according to Flight Radar 24.
Tracking statistics from the world’s most popular flight tracker show that there were 94,477 flights carried out on Wednesday, a 52-percent drop from this year’s peak of 196,750 on 21 February.
Governments across the globe have imposed various restrictions on travel to contain the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The United States has restricted travel to China, South Korea, and much of Europe; the European Union restricted all non-essential travel into the bloc until mid-April, while Russia and India have imposed blanket bans on the entry of all foreigners until 1 May and 15 April, respectively.
With air travel being the primary means of spreading the virus, more than 50 airlines have already chosen to ground flights rather than fly empty aircraft – something they used to do at the start of the outbreak.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), a cartel representing some 290 airlines or 82 percent of total air traffic, said on Tuesday that it expects global passenger revenues to plummet 252 billion dollars, or 44 percent below last year’s figure.
Full-year passenger demand, calculated in revenue passenger kilometres, could decline 38 percent versus 2019, with the sharpest fall (65 percent) expected in the second quarter.
“The airline industry faces its gravest crisis. Within a matter of a few weeks, our previous worst-case scenario is looking better than our latest estimates,” IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac said in a statement on Tuesday.
“But without immediate government relief measures, there will not be an industry left standing. Airlines need 200 billion dollars in liquidity support simply to make it through.”