How world’s lost air routes reverse aviation’s ‘economic miracle’ amid pandemic

*A third of the world’s air routes lost due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

*Before the Coronavirus, aviation industry supported 65.5 million jobs with a global economic impact of $2.7 trillion: Report

Emmanuel Akosile | ConsumerConnect

Prior to the outbreak of the devastating Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, a decades-long aviation boom spawned a network of nearly 50,000 air routes that traversed the world’s airspace.

It was gathered that in less than a year, however, the pandemic has wiped almost a third of them off the map.

Among other destabilising factors, border closures, nationwide lockdowns, and the fear of catching COVID-19 from fellow passengers have crippled commercial travel, said agency report.

As thousands of domestic and international connections disappear completely from airline timetables, the world has suddenly stopped shrinking.

Report stated that the crisis is unwinding a vast social and industrial overhaul that took place during half a century of air-travel proliferation.

According to report, in the years ahead, overseas business trips and holidays will likely mean more airport stopovers, longer journey times, and perhaps an additional mode of transport.

Even when an effective vaccine is found, the economic reality of the recovery may mean some non-stop flights are gone for good.

With borders effectively shut from Europe to New Zealand, the bulk of the world’s dropped routes are inevitably cross-border.

But thousands of domestic legs have also been axed, reflecting the pressure airlines face at home as they cut jobs and retire aircraft to find a cost base that reflects their shrunken situation.

Report further showed that in late January 2020, for instance, 47,756 operational routes criss-crossed the world, more than half of them in the US, Western Europe and Northeast Asia, according to OAG Aviation Worldwide.

By November 2, there were just 33,416 routes on global schedules, the data show.

In Hervey Bay, a small tourist town on Australia’s east coast, residents are mourning their last direct air connection with Sydney, the nation’s main domestic and international gateway.

The flight was one of eight regional routes scrapped by Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd. after it collapsed in April under A$6.8 billion ($5 billion) in debt.

Darren Everard, Regional Council’s Deputy Mayor who’s responsible for economic development in the area, noted: “We’re living in hope that they come back.”

Among those hardest hit is a local manufacturer of truck body parts who relied on the flight to reach buyers in Sydney, he said.

In terms of global mobility, Hervey Bay relates tha, more than three hours’ drive north from Queensland’s state capital Brisbane is best known as a jumping-off point for whale-watching tours and trips to nearby Fraser Island.

The town’s Sydney flight is one of more than 14,000 connections that have been abandoned globally since the pandemic broke out, according to OAG.

Australia’s capital, Canberra, has been scrubbed from international maps, too. The city has no more direct flights overseas after Singapore Airlines Limited ceased services from Singapore in September.

Subhas Menon, Director-General of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, said: “It will take a good four or five years for connectivity to return to the same level we saw at the end of 2019. Some of these routes may never be put back.”

The association represents regional carriers including Singapore Air, China Airlines Limited and Cathay Pacific Airways Limited, said:

All this erodes aviation’s financial clout. But it’s the blow to airlines’ contribution to global mobility and social opportunity that’s harder to measure, said he.

It was further learnt that before the Coronavirus, the industry had supported 65.5 million jobs ─ more than half of them indirectly through tourism ─ and had a global economic impact of $2.7 trillion, according to the 2019 Aviation Benefits Report, a study by industry groups including UN agency the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

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