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Air travel dropped by half until April 19, research says

Air travel between January 1 and April 19 fell to half to what it was during the corresponding period of 2019, with flight arrivals in the CEE region dropping by 50.4%, according to research by travel analytics firm ForwardKeys.

Globally, the cancellation rate peaked in mid-March and global aviation seat capacity has fallen from over 40 million seats in operation to less than 10% of that number today.

The drop-off in flight arrivals has been most severe in the Asia Pacific region, where the coronavirus outbreak started, down 56.1% year-on-year. The extent of the decrease in Europe as a whole was 50.2%, roughly the same as the CEE rate. Travel to Africa and the Middle East is down 42.6%, and travel to the Americas is down 39.8%.

ForwardKeys’ analysis of flight bookings shows that they are 86.8% down compared to the first 15 weeks of last year. Bookings from the Asia Pacific are down by more than 100%, meaning that new bookings were outweighed by cancellations.

Bookings from Europe decreased by 84.7%. Bookings from the Americas were down by 75.9%, while the decrease was 71.4% in the case of Africa and the Middle East.

ForwardKeys says that despite the negative trend, consumers are still researching foreign travel, and they have a disproportionate interest for travel in Q3 and Q4 2020.

"Whilst we are currently looking at a catastrophic contraction of the aviation market, with a tiny proportion of flights still in the air, carrying cargo, repatriations and essential travel, there are some noteworthy patterns in the data to bear in mind," Olivier Ponti, VP insights, ForwardKeys, says. "First, the peak for summer holiday bookings is in May, so if the lockdown can end soon, there may yet be a chance to rescue the summer season, at least partially. Second, flight search data strongly suggests that consumers aspire to travel; so, once the restrictions are lifted, the market will eventually come back."