Air passenger traffic in Africa fell by 65.7 percent in 2020 as the global air transport industry witnessed the steepest fall in 70 years. Global industry losses topped $126 billion for the year, as disruption by Covid-19 impacted demand and the number of aircraft operated by airlines.

The grim numbers form part of the highlights of the International Air Transport Association’s World Air Transport Statistics report, released in Montreal recently. Only 1.8 billion passengers travelled by air during the year representing a 60.2 percent decline from the 4.5 billion that flew in 2019.

African airlines carried 34.3 million passengers during the year, representing 65.7 percent fall from the 95 million carried in 2019. The numbers represent the worst performance since the International Air Transport Association (IATA) started tracking global traffic demand in 1950.

Composite demand for air travel slipped by 65.9 percent year-on-year while the international segment saw a 75.6 percent decrease relative to 2019. The domestic sector fared better shrinking by 48.8 percent over 2019 as the number of international routes fell two-thirds.

Head of IATA Willie Walsh said that while “2020 was a year that we’d all like to forget,” the statistics for the year reveal “an amazing story of perseverance.” He said that 66 percent of the world’s commercial air transport fleet was grounded at the height of the crisis in April 2020, as governments closed borders or imposed strict quarantines.

“A million jobs disappeared. And industry losses for the year totalled $126 billion,” said Mr Walsh.