The International Air Transport Association (Iata), the representative body for the global airline industry, revealed on Wednesday the dramatic collapse in worldwide air connectivity caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the attempts by governments to contain it. Iata’s Air Connectivity Index is a composite measurement, incorporating the number of airline seats flown to places served by routes from a country’s major airports and also the economic significance of those places.
Of Iata’s regions, the two which suffered the worst collapse in connectivity were Africa and Europe, which each registered a 93% connectivity decline. They were followed by Latin America, where connectivity plummeted 91%, and then the Middle East with an 88% fall. The drop in Asia-Pacific came to 76% and the decline in North America was 73%.
“In a short period of time we have undone a century of progress in bringing people together and connecting markets,” warned Iata senior VP: member and external relations Sebastian Mikosz. “The message we must take from this study is the urgent need to rebuild the global air transport network.”
The Asia-Pacific and North America regions suffered less than the other ones because they contain large domestic air travel markets, such as China, Japan, South Korea and the US. Indeed, within North America, while the US experienced a connectivity drop of 72%, Canada, with a much smaller domestic market, saw a collapse of 85%.
Over the last 20 years, the number of cities that were directly connected by air increased by more than 100% while the cost of air travel dropped by some 50%. Countries which enjoyed particularly dramatic increases in air connectivity over this period were India (up 89%), China and Thailand (each up 62%) and the US (a 26% increase). The US was, and remained, the most connected country, with China second (India was fourth, Thailand ninth).
In terms of the most connected cities, the pandemic has had an especially dramatic effect. In September 2019, the ten most connected cities were (from first to tenth) – London, Shanghai, New York, Beijing, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Seoul and Chicago. In September this year, the list read – Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chicago, Shenzhen, Los Angeles, London, Dallas and Atlanta.
London’s connectivity had fallen 67%, New York’s by 66%, Tokyo’s by 65%, Bangkok’s by 81%, Hong Kong’s also by 81% and Seoul’s by 69%. Of all these major global cities, only London remained in the top ten of connectivity, at eighth place. Nearly all the cities in the latest top ten list are served by extensive domestic air travel networks.
“The dramatic shift in the connectivity rankings demonstrates the scale at which the world’s connectivity has been reordered over the last months,” highlighted Mikosz. “But the important point is that rankings did not shift because of any improvement in connectivity. That declined overall in all markets. The rankings shifted because the scale of the decline was greater for some cities than others. There are no winners, just some players that suffered fewer injuries.”