World aviation: again to the final century


  • The world passenger jet fleet in service at 2020 yr finish was again to 2008 ranges.
  • In 2020 passenger numbers have been again to 2003 ranges, and RPKs have been again to 1999’s quantity.
  • Passenger load issue fell to Eighties/Nineties ranges, and plane utilisation additionally slumped.
  • Air cargo visitors fell again solely to 2015 volumes, and cargo load issue rose in 2020.

On the finish of 2020, the passenger jet fleet in service was again to 2008 ranges

In line with the CAPA Fleet Database, the variety of passenger jets in service on the finish of 2020 was slightly below 16,700.

This was down by 29% in contrast with greater than 23,600 on the finish of 2019 and again to the quantity in service on the finish of 2008, when the world was gripped by the worldwide monetary disaster.

The variety of passenger jets in service on the finish of 2020 was significantly increased than on the lowest level of the pandemic. On the finish of Apr-2020, the determine had slumped to simply over 9,600, according to the tip of 1996.

The common month-end quantity in service via 2020 was roughly 15,900, down by 33% year-on-year, and solely simply above the determine final recorded on the finish of 2006.

As a share of all passenger jets, the quantity in service fell from 88.1% on the finish of 2019 to simply 35.8% on the finish of Apr-2020, earlier than ending the yr at 61.9%.


Passenger numbers in 2020 have been again to 2003 ranges

The yr finish 2020 passenger jet fleet in service worn out 12 years of progress (the 2020 common worn out 14 years), however the variety of scheduled passengers flown in 2020 eliminated 17 years of progress.

In line with ICAO, passenger numbers plummeted by 60% in 2020, to 1.8 billion – a determine final carried by the world’s airways as way back as 2003.


RPKs – prefer it’s 1999

For 2020’s degree of income passenger kilometres (RPKs), it’s obligatory to return additional nonetheless – 21 years, to 1999.

In line with IATA, world RPKs have been 66% decrease in 2020 than in 2019 and again to the quantity final recorded within the ultimate yr of the twentieth century.

The autumn in RPKs was greater than the autumn in passenger numbers as a result of lengthy haul visitors was disproportionately hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Passenger load issue fell to Eighties/Nineties ranges

The weaker efficiency of passenger visitors in contrast with the variety of passenger jet plane in service in 2020 displays a major collapse in capability utilisation.

In 2020 passenger load issue fell by 17.8ppts, to 64.8%, reversing a long run bettering development and taking the airline trade again 27 years to its 1993 degree (and broadly according to the load elements of a lot of the Eighties).


Plane utilisation additionally slumped

Even this massive drop in load issue doesn’t full account for the distinction between the autumn within the variety of passenger jets in service (down by 33%) and the autumn in RPKs (down by 66%).

Though knowledge are usually not at the moment accessible for example it, the distinction factors to a different important decline: within the each day utilisation charges of plane in service.

Many plane have been stored in service, to keep away from the prices of decommissioning and potential recommissioning and to keep up flexibility in responding to potential demand restoration, however have solely been flown sometimes.

Air cargo visitors fell again solely to 2015 volumes…

This evaluation emphasises the unprecedented scale of the influence of COVID-19 on airline passenger operations: taking the trade again to 2008 for jets in service, to 2003 for passenger numbers, to 1999 for RPKs, and to 1993 for passenger load issue.

The one relative brilliant spot for the world’s airways is the efficiency of cargo operations in the course of the pandemic.

In line with IATA, cargo tonne kilometres (CTKs) fell by 10.6% in 2020. This was nonetheless a giant fall by earlier requirements of normality, however a lot lower than the influence on passenger visitors. It worn out solely 5 years of progress, taking CTK ranges again to 2015.

…and cargo load issue rose

Furthermore, cargo load issue achieved a robust enchancment, rising by 7.7ppts to 54.5% in 2020, since cargo capability fell extra quickly than cargo visitors. The autumn in passenger capability – notably widebody capability – eliminated a major quantity of cargo capability in passenger plane stomach area.

It’s uncommon for cargo load issue to rise above 50%. Earlier than 2020, this was final managed in 2010.


World aviation will return to progress – after shedding the entire twenty first century’s progress

By essentially the most generally used measure of airline passenger visitors, RPKs, the COVID-19 disaster worn out all of the visitors progress achieved within the twenty first century. This was realised via a 66% drop in RPKs – a single-year decline that was beforehand unthinkable.

Certainly, earlier than COVID, any form of damaging progress in RPKs was very uncommon. Earlier than 2020, world RPKs had solely suffered annual declines 3 times in historical past (primarily based on knowledge from ICAO going again to 1929).

These have been a 2.6% drop in 1991, a worldwide recessionary yr; a 2.9% drop in 2001, the yr of the 9/11 assaults; and a 1.0% drop in 2009, in the course of the world monetary disaster.

The influence of the pandemic dwarfs these earlier crises and can result in lasting change within the airline trade.

Nonetheless, the historic long run progress in aviation over many a long time and the very rarity of annual falls in visitors present some confidence for the long run.

Future air visitors progress might not match historic charges, and it could be risky because the world adjusts to residing with COVID-19, however aviation will return to progress.


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