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Total worldwide flight traffic up 25% from 2020

written by Isabella Richards | July 16, 2021

An Air China Airbus A330 at Sydney Airport, September 2018 (Source: Bidgee/Wikimedia).

New data from Flightradar24 shows a positive snapshot of global air traffic from the first six months of 2021, as China and the US lead the way in post-pandemic recovery.

The results show global commercial flights are 11 per cent higher than 2020 levels, with the total number of flights up 25.2 per cent, as the industry recovers from the “induced lows” of last year.

Flightradar24, a real-time global flight tracker, reported the data from 1 January to 30 June, between 2019, 2020, and 2021.

Total global total flights are recovering at a rapid pace, now only down 11 per cent from the first half of 2019.

“Total flights are recovering faster than commercial flights with 28,957,911 total flights tracked in the first half of 2021, a 25.2 per cent increase over 2020,” according to Flightradar24.

Commercial flights showed a steady improvement, however were largely hindered by international travel traffic, which remains heavily subdued.

In the first six months of the year, 13,365,779 commercial flights were operated, according to the Flightrader24 data, which exceeds the number reported in the same period in 2020, however remains 33.8 per cent lower than 2019 figures.


“Commercial flights were helped by strong recovery in the United States and initially China as well,” Flightradar24 said.

“However, about mid-May COVID variants began reducing traffic flows in China, as well as continuing to hold back recovery elsewhere.”

Air China, China Eastern Airlines, and China Southern airlines – China’s ‘big three’ – saw major improvements in travel in the first half of the year.

Each airline tracked so well, they collectively added 54 new routes, after the pandemic slashed flights to many popular tourist destinations such as South China’s Hainan Province, Sanya, and Haikou.

While still on the rise, the Delta variant saw China’s aviation traffic fall drastically in June compared to previous months after strict lockdown measures were in place.

Compared to passengers in May, China Southern saw a decline of 28 per cent, China eastern saw a 14 per cent drop and Air China shrank 25 per cent, according to FlightGlobal.

Travel for China has fallen off track, but the nation still remains a core leader of the post-pandemic aviation recovery.

US carrier Delta Air Lines released its second quarter financial results yesterday ahead of competitors, tracking the first profitable one after a five-quarter loss streak.

The company announced a profit of US$652 million, with a GAAP pre-tax revenue of US$7.13 billion.

Flightradar24 notes the positive recovery is due to “vaccination levels and the easing of government restrictions,” even amid increasing variants.

China, along with India and the US, leads the way of increasing vaccination rates, as other nations follow closely behind.

China has given 1.38 billion doses, with 223 million people fully vaccinated (percentage is not disclosed). India has 5.4 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, with 377 million doses given.

The US is third in doses given – 334 million – yet 48.5 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated.

The data from Flightradar24 “varies widely by region and airline” and as the crisis continues, the tracker will report on signs of recovery.


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