Thanks to the boom in air travel that lasted for a decade, about 50 thousand air flights appeared on the planet. The coronavirus pandemic has forced almost a third of them to close in less than a year.
Border closures, nationwide lockdowns, and fears of contracting Covid-19 from fellow travelers at the airport or on the cabin have dealt a devastating blow to the commercial air travel industry. Even with the emergence of an effective coronavirus vaccine and economic recovery, some of the non-stop flights are likely to disappear forever.
With the closure of borders between states on a global scale, the closure of international routes is obvious and inevitable. However, thousands of domestic flights also fell under the “distribution”.
As of the end of January, there were 47,756 flights worldwide. More than half of them were, according to the world leader in the field of aviation information OAG Aviation Worldwide, in the United States, Western Europe, and Northeast Asia. As of November 2, the number of flights decreased by almost a third, to 33,416.
It is especially difficult now for residents of small towns, for whom the cancellation of flights often means an actual closure from the outside world by air. Moreover, we are talking not only about small towns but also about capitals. For example, the Australian capital Canberra after the cancellation of the last international flights by Singapore Airlines Ltd. in September. ended up in complete international isolation.
“It will take 4-5 years for air connections to return to the level of the end of 2019,” said Asia-Pacific Airlines CEO Subas Menon, making a disappointing forecast. “Moreover, some flights will never be back on schedule.”
All of this severely hurts the financial well-being of airlines and forces them to fire employees. Before the pandemic, the aviation sector supported 65.5 million jobs, more than half of them indirectly through tourism. According to the 2019 Aviation Benefits Report, the aviation industry generated $2.7 trillion. Now, these numbers have dropped sharply.
The aviation sector is trying to combat the effects of the pandemic by expanding domestic flights. So, as of the end of October, the aviation industry in the United States returned to pre-virus levels, according to FlightAware, by more than 50%, while in China the recovery was almost complete.
A landmark event took place this week in Singapore. Singapore Air has resumed non-stop flights from Singapore to New York.
In Asia alone, as of November 1, according to the analytical company Cirium, 790 new flights appeared, which were not there last fall. For example, the Chinese city of Yiwu in Zhejiang province, which has the world’s largest consumer goods market, will be linked to Beijing by 90 new flights in November.
Of course, the opening of new flights is good news, but it is significantly, almost three times less than the number of canceled flights. As a result of the pandemic, 2,279 flights were closed in Asia.
Director of American Airlines Group Inc. Doug Parker warns that entire parts of the United States risk being cut off from the rest of the country if the government does not provide additional support to the airlines. His company, for example, canceled flights to 13 American cities.