Up to 46 million jobs at risk due to COVID-19 aviation downturn


The severe downturn in air traffic this year caused by Covid-19, followed by a slow recovery will result in a loss of up to 46 million jobs normally supported by aviation around the globe, according to new industry figures released today.

Under normal circumstances, aviation and the tourism it facilitates supports 87.7 million jobs worldwide. Over 11 million jobs are within the sector itself, employed at airlines, airports, civil aerospace manufacturers and air traffic management. The near-total shutdown of the system for several months, as well as the stop/start nature of the reopening, means that air travel will not recover to pre-COVID levels until around 2024.

Executive Director of the cross-industry Air Transport Action Group, Michael Gill said: “With the expectation that we will see less than half the passenger traffic this year than we carried in 2019, we know that a lot of jobs in air transport and the wider economy relying on aviation are at risk. Some companies are already making difficult decisions, with many colleagues being impacted by the downturn.

“Our analysis shows that up to 4.8 million jobs in aviation may be lost by the beginning of next year, a 43% reduction from pre-Covid levels. When you expand those effects across all the jobs aviation would normally support, 46 million jobs are at risk. These include highly-skilled aviation roles, the wider tourism jobs impacted by the lack of air travel and employment throughout the supply chain in construction, catering supplies, professional services and all the other things required to run a global transport system.

“It is absolutely incumbent on governments to do whatever they can to help the sector get back on its feet so we can bring back those jobs and that economic activity. And this must go beyond schemes to support employment. Passengers and businesses need certainty around travel – not to be subject to random quarantine declarations and constantly changing lists of acceptable and unacceptable destinations.

“We know it is tough to make these decisions. But as testing improves and the prospect of a vaccine becomes clearer, we hope that more stability in the travel environment also leads to a more stable return to the wider economic role of air transport.”

Key facts outlined in Aviation: Benefits Beyond Borders, include that in a normal year:

  • Air transport supports 87.7 million jobs and $3.5 trillion in global economic activity.
  • Over 11 million people work directly for the industry itself. Aviation jobs are, on average, 4.3 times more productive than other jobs in the economy.
  • Air travel carries 35% of world trade by value ($6.5 trillion worth in 2019), but less than 1% by volume (61 million tonnes in 2019).
  • Airfares today are around 90% lower than the same journey would have cost in 1950 – this has enabled access to air travel by greater sections of the population.
  • Scope of the industry: 1,478 airlines flew 33,299 aircraft on 48,000 routes between 3,780 airports in airspace managed by 162 air navigation service providers.
  • 58% of world tourists travel to their destinations by air.

Impact of Covid-19:

  • Aviation-supported jobs potentially fall by 46 million to 41.7 million (-52.5%)
  • Direct aviation jobs (at airlines, airports, manufacturers and air traffic management) fall by 4.8 million (a 43% reduction compared with pre-COVID situation)
  • Nearly 39,200 special repatriation flights took nearly 5.4 million citizens home after borders closed in March 2020.
  • Nearly 46,400 special cargo flights transported 1.5 million tonnes of cargo, mostly medical equipment, to areas in need during the height of the pandemic response

The report, which can be downloaded at www.aviationbenefits.org, was prepared by ATAG along with other global aviation industry associations and builds on extensive research by Oxford Economics.