2020 "The Worst Year" In Aviation History Says Industry Head

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Despite the fact that millions of folks took to the skies to travel for the holidays, 2020 is set to be “the industry’s worst financial year, bar none” according to the International Air Transport Association CEO Alexandre de Juniac. And there’s not really an end in sight.

To get the full scope of the numbers, I’m just going to lay them out for you, courtesy of Business Insider:

  • The airline industry will lose $157 billion in 2020 and 2021—five times more than they lost during the 2008 financial crisis
  • Airlines lose $66 for every passenger carried this year
  • Airlines have cut costs by 46 percent but have still lost 60 percent of revenue
  • That equals cost cutting of about $1 billion per day

What’s even worse for the airline industry is the fact that we’re probably not going to see a return to pre-pandemic levels of air traffic until 2024—and that’s honestly feeling a little optimistic. Even seeing growth in air travel in 2021 is going to rely heavily on a readily-available vaccine and open borders. The IATA is predicting that they won’t even be able to predict the loss.


And that’s even with the holiday season coming up. The day before Thanksgiving saw the highest number of people flying in the United States since COVID-19 shutdowns began in March, with 1,070,900 people passing through TSA checkpoints. Even though that seems like a big number now, it’s a 40 percent decrease when compared to pre-Thanksgiving travel in 2019.

Other countries might see an uptick in travel around Christmas, but it’s not going to dig the industry out of the red.

That’s not to say it’s all bad. In fact, the dramatic decrease in air travel has contributed to a dramatic 8.8 percent drop in global carbon dioxide emissions during the first half of 2020 when compared to that same time period in 2019. Neither previous recessions nor the onset of World War II can match that drop. The BBC reported in September that aviation carbon emissions dropped up to 60 percent during the heat of lockdowns.

And, there’s that little fact that avoiding unnecessary contact with people is, y’know, probably going to save some lives.