Only 1.8 billion air passengers flew in 2020, 60% down on the 4.5 billion who flew in 2019.
According to figures from IATA out today, international passenger demand fell by 75.6% while domestic air passenger demand dropped by 48.8%.
The drastic drop in air passengers was the largest since global figures started being tracked around the year 1950.
Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, said: “2020 was a year that we’d all like to forget but analysing the performance statistics for the year reveals an amazing story of perseverance.
“At the depth of the crisis in April 2020, 66% of the world’s commercial air transport fleet was grounded as governments closed borders or imposed strict quarantines. A million jobs disappeared and industry losses for the year totalled $126 billion.
“Many governments recognised aviation’s critical contributions and provided financial lifelines and other forms of support but it was the rapid actions by airlines and the commitment of our people that saw the airline industry through the most difficult year in its history.”
On average, airlines lost $71.7 per passenger in 2020, corresponding to net losses of $126.4 billion in total.
Global airline capacity plummeted by 56.7%, with international capacity being hit the hardest with a reduction of 68.3%.
The Middle East region suffered the largest proportion of loss for passenger traffic, with a drop of 71.5%, followed by Europe (-69.7%) and the Africa region (-68.5%).
China became the largest domestic market in 2020 for the first time on record, as its response to the pandemic helped domestic air travel rebound faster.
The top five airlines ranked by total scheduled passenger kilometers flown were American Airlines (124 billion), China Southern Airlines (110.7 billion), Delta Air Lines (106.5 billion), United Airlines (100.2 billion) and China Eastern Airlines (88.7 billion).
The top five nationalities travelling by air on international routes were the US (45.7 million, or 9.7% of all passengers), the UK (40.8 million, or 8.6% of all passengers), Germany (30.8 million, or 6.5% of all passengers), France (23.3 million, or 4.9% of all passengers), and India (17.4 million, or 3.7% of all passengers).