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International air connectivity devastated by COVID-19

A recent report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reveals that the crisis generated by COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on air connectivity, leaving almost no international and intercontinental routes, particularly, to the regions of Europe, Latin America and Africa and, to a lesser extent, to North America, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. Reductions in air connections have shaken the pre-pandemic ranking of the world’s most connected cities, now dominating those with a large number of domestic connections. “The systematic tests to the passengers it is the immediate solution to rebuild the air connectivity that we have lost “, they point out from the employer’s association. “The recovery of the global economy from the coronavirus pandemic will be seriously compromised without the support of a functioning air transport network,” they warn.

Sebastian Mikosz, IATA Senior Vice President of External Member Relations, has stated that the technology and guidelines exist to implement a global testing system. “Now we have to, before the damage to the global air transport network is irreparable“, has indicated when presenting the report.

“Air transport is a vital engine for the recovery of the world economy. In normal times, aviation was the support of 88 M jobs and 2,935 M € in GDP. More than half of this employment, at least 46 M jobs, in addition to economic value, are at risk from the unprecedented slump in global demand for air travel “

Broken connectivity

The IATA Air Connectivity Index measures how well connected a country’s cities are to other cities in the world, which is critical for trade, tourism, investment, and other economic flows.

It is a composite measure that reflects the number of seats that are transported to the destinations served from the main airports in a country and the economic importance of those destinations.

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With these criteria, the study has analyzed the COVID-19 impacts on connectivity by region (April 2019-April 2020), measured according to the IATA air connectivity index (see full report).

Africa suffered a 93% decrease in air connectivity. Ethiopia managed to counter the trend. During the first peak of the pandemic in April 2020, Ethiopia maintained connections with 88 international destinations. Many tourism-dependent aviation markets, such as Egypt, South Africa and Morocco, were particularly affecteds.

Pacific Asia experienced a 76% decrease in air connectivity. The Nations with stronger domestic aviation markets, such as China, Japan and South Korea, performed better among the most connected countries in the region. Despite the relatively large domestic aviation market, Thailand was severely affected perhaps due to the country’s heavy dependence on international tourism.

Europe suffered a 93% drop in air connectivity. European countries experienced significant declines in most markets, although Russian air connectivity has held up better than Western European countries.

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The countries of middle East saw air connectivity decrease by 88%. With the exception of Qatar, the air connectivity levels of the five most connected countries in the region fell by more than 85%. Despite border closures, Qatar allowed passengers to transit between flights.

The air connectivity of North America decreased 73%. Canada’s air connectivity (-85% decrease) was more affected than that of the United States (-72%). In part, this reflects the large domestic aviation market in the United States, despite a significant decline.

Latin America suffered a 91% collapse in air connectivity. Mexico and Chile performed relatively better than the other more connected countries, perhaps due to the timing of internal closures in these countries and how strictly they were enforced.

Disconnected cities

  • London, the number one most connected city in the world in September 2019, has seen a decrease of 67% in air connectivity. By September 2020, it had dropped to number eight.
  • Shanghai is now the top-ranked city for connectivity with the four most connected cities in China: Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu.
  • New York (-66%), Tokyo (-65%), Bangkok (-81%), Hong Kong (-81%) and Seoul (-69%) have come out of the top 10.
  • The study reveals that now dominate cities with a large number of domestic connections, which shows to what extent international connectivity has been closed.
  • The world’s connectivity has been rearranged in recent months.
  • Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the growth of air connectivity was a global success story. Over the past two decades, the number of cities directly connected by air (city-pair connections) more than doubled, while during the same period, air transport costs fell by roughly half.

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