Global air passenger traffic plunged by an unprecedented 66% in 2020 due to travel restrictions imposed over the Covid-19 pandemic, an industry group said today. 

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) also warned that the emergence of new, more transmissible variants of the coronavirus were hurting the prospects for recovery this year. 

Given that travel restrictions applied mostly to international travel, domestic passenger traffic fared better, dropping by 49%, compared to 76% for foreign passenger traffic. 

The travel restrictions imposed during the first wave of the pandemic saw global passenger traffic fall to just 5% of its normal level, with airlines forced to park planes on runways because not enough space was available. 

While traffic picked up during the summer, in December it was down by 70%, thus finishing out the year below average.  

IATA, which unites 190 airlines, did not formally lower its outlook for a pick up in traffic this year thanks to a rollout of vaccines, but warned the emergence of new coronavirus darkened the outlook.