The international airline industry will report record contractions in both revenue and net losses this year as COVID-19 continues to reduce passenger numbers.
The International Air Transport Association sees the industry posting a record $118.5 billion net loss for 2020 along with a 156% fall in revenue to $328 billion from $838 billion. It had expected a net loss of $84.3 billion in an earlier projection in June.
On a per passenger basis, airlines will be hit by a $66 loss on average this year. Passenger numbers are expected to fall to 1.8 billion - down 60.5% from 4.5 billion passengers in 2019.
In an August estimate, the association said the total number of passengers in 2020 was expected to fall 55% year on year compared with a 46% decline forecast in April.
Passenger traffic fell 86% year on year during the first six months. The association blamed "slow" virus controls in developing countries and in the U.S.
Passenger revenues are expected to fall 220% to $191 billion from $612 billion in 2019. Passenger yields are expected to be 8% lower compared with 2019. The load factor is estimated to average 65.5% - down from 82.5% in 2019.
Losses expected for 2020 will end 10 straight years of profitability for the industry.
"This crisis is devastating and unrelenting," outgoing association director general and chief executive Alexandre de Juniac said.
National government efforts to control the spread of the virus "have resulted in the greatest de-connecting of people since World War Two, he said. Borders are effectively closed. Our freedom of movement has been severely restricted. And the impact on aviation has been catastrophic."
Association chief economist Brian Pearce said the virus was the "biggest shock to hit aviation since World War Two."
World passenger traffic as measured in revenue passenger kilometers is projected to be 66% lower by the end of the year. Pearce said "all major operational parameters in the passenger business were negative" for the year.
In 2021 the industry expects big losses - but not as big as this year. The association projects industry losses next year at $38.7 billion compared with the estimated $118.5 billion net loss for 2020.
Total industry revenues are expected to grow to $459 billion - a $131 billion improvement from 2020. This figure is, however, 45% lower than $838 billion in 2019.
Pearce said the projected improvement in the industry's fortunes in 2021 assumes there would be some opening of borders by midyear owing to vaccinations.