Worldwide airline passenger demand fell 14.1 percent in February, compared with February 2019, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to take hold, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) says.
IATA data show that passenger demand, measured in terms of total revenue passenger kilometers, registered the sharpest decline since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The February decline was most pronounced in the Asia Pacific, where revenue passenger kilometers were off 41.3 percent from the same period of the previous year.
“Airlines were hit by a sledgehammer called COVID-19 in February,” IATA Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said Thursday. “Borders were closed in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. And the impact on aviation has left airlines with little to do except cut costs and take emergency measures in an attempt to survive in these extraordinary circumstances.”
He described the pandemic as “without a doubt … the biggest crisis that the industry has ever faced.”
The February decline was largely a result of a decline in domestic passenger travel in China, the first country hit hard by the pandemic, and in international flights to, from and within the Asia Pacific, IATA said.
The World Health Organization said that, as of today, the pandemic has sickened 976,586 people around the world and killed 50,492.