Covid-19's impact on air transport

Aside from the massive drop in traffic, the shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic is going to have longer-term and significant impacts on air transport and the wider economy.

The actual job losses may be either more or less severe; firms can and often do take short term losses, cut wages, and reduce dividend payments to retain employees during difficult periods, and this would lessen the number of jobs lost relative to those that are at risk due to muted business activity.

46 million

Potential employment loss in jobs supported by air transport globally (-52.5% reduction compared with pre-Covid levels)

4.8 million

Direct aviation jobs may be lost due to Covid-19 impact (a 43% reduction from pre-Covid levels).


Drop in passenger traffic April 2020 vs April 2019. This includes a 98.9% drop in international passengers and a 90.7% drop in domestic.

The impact of the Covid-19 crisis on all aspects of the economy and society is well known. Aviation has been particularly acutely impacted which will have far-reaching implications on the industry for many years.

There have been reductions in passenger traffic caused by shocks in the past, but never a near total shutdown of the global system. At the peak of the stoppage in mid-April 2020 revenue passenger kilometres fell some 94% compared with April 2019. This has had a devastating impact on travel and tourism and on the frontline companies operating the aviation system and the rest of the supply chain.

Governments must ensure that air transport is given appropriate levels of assistance and support so that aviation’s benefits can bounce back strongly, once the pandemic is under control.

Around 58% of all tourists arrive at their destination by air and the stop in air traffic has created a massive negative effect on that industry as well. Over $630 billion in reduced GDP benefits from air travel-related tourism will be matched with 26.4 million jobs lost. But tourism in a wider sense is also very hard-hit, with analysis suggesting the pandemic could translate into a drop of 850 million to 1.1 billion international tourists and a loss of $910 billion to $1.2 trillion in export revenues from tourism, putting 100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk.

Air transport was not only impacted by Covid-19, it also responded to the needs of countries and citizens across the world:



Special registration flights by airlines transported over 5 million citizens to their homes after borders were closed around the world in March 2020.


Special cargo flights transported some 1.4 million tonnes of cargo, mostly medical equipment, to areas in need during the height of the pandemic response.