The Airports Council International (ACI) World revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to cut the number of air passengers by 4.6 billion in 2021.

The ACI said in its 2021 World Airport Traffic Report (WATR) that global passenger traffic in 2021 is expected to reach only half of what it was in 2019, totalling only 4.6 billion of the 9.2 billion passengers served two years ago.

The world’s airports also saw a sharp decline in global aircraft movements in 2020, down by 39.5% to reach 62 million.

It stressed that domestic passenger traffic recovers faster than the international market from virus-related travel restrictions worldwide.

Domestic traffic is projected to rise to 3.1 billion passengers by end-2021, a level accounting for 58.5% of what was achieved in 2019.

The ACI World also announced that the Guangzhou Airport in China was the world’s busiest airport, attracting 43.8 million passengers in 2020.

It was followed by Atlanta Airport with 42.9 million passengers and Chengdu Airport with 40.7 million passengers last year.

It said that many Asia-Pacific international hubs suffered major losses due to their dependence on international passenger traffic and did not make the top 10 in 2020, such as Beijing, the busiest airport in 2019, and Tokyo, the second-busiest airport in 2019.

Although the air cargo volume boomed in 2020 with personal protection equipment and vaccine shipments, the decrease in passenger-aircraft movements – which severely limited the availability of belly-cargo capacity – offset its gains.

The report stressed that about 11.5 million metric tons less of air cargo were carried in 2020, returning the industry to 2015-2016 tonnage levels, and the COVID-19 crisis is expected to remove more than 3.6 billion passengers for 2022, representing a 28.3% decrease from 2019 levels.

Memphis Airport, the global hub for FedEx, saw the volume grow 6.7% last year, helping it take the top place in 2020 reclaiming the number one ranking held by Hong Kong (down 7.1% in 2020) since 2010.

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