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You’re Grounded: The COVID-19 Effect on Global Flight Capacity

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Global Flight Capacity 6 Apr Update

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You’re Grounded: The COVID-19 Effect on Flight Capacity

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the world into a tailspin.

As the number of new cases continues to surge in parts of the world, numbers are beginning to decline in others as public health officials and governments tirelessly work to slow the contagion and reach of the virus.

The potent combination of trip cancellations and country-specific restrictions on international flights has had a staggering impact on the $880 billion global airline industry. Today’s visualization highlights data from the OAG Aviation Worldwide, which tracks how global flight capacity differs from last year’s numbers.

Note: this post has been updated on April 7, 2020 to reflect the latest data.

Asia Faced the First Hard Landing

Nearly all countries have some type of travel advisory in place, with many encouraging people to avoid non-essential travel even before COVID-19 was officially considered a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The earliest impacts of these were felt in February, as flight capacity in and out of China dropped sharply around Lunar New Year. Also, the country’s sharpest year-over-year drop was recorded on February 17, 2020, with a 71% drop in flights compared to the same date in 2019. However, there’s some good news: life in China is slowly returning back to normal, as Wuhan eases its lockdown after almost two and a half months.

Flight capacity for Hong Kong, which was already seeing its traveler numbers declining due to months-long protests, continues its slump. As of April 6, 2020, scheduled flights were down by an immense 92.3% compared to 2019—the most of any Asian jurisdiction represented in the data.

India showed one of the most drastic declines, from 1.8% down to -68% on March 30, 2020. This resulted from a 21-day lockdown order on March 24, 2020—with only four hours of notice for its 1.3 billion citizens.

Monitoring the Situation Elsewhere

Meanwhile in Europe, Italy saw a 22% drop in flights coinciding with the announcement of a national lockdown March 9, 2020. Now that the situation has intensified, flights to and from Italy have plummeted 89% from their normal rates.

Germany and Spain are seeing the highest declines in scheduled flights worldwide, with approximately 92.6% less capacity as of April 6, 2020. Flight capacity in the region has plummeted thanks to widespread restrictions.

On March 11, 2020, the U.S. enforced a 30-day ban on travelers from the Schengen Area, a free-travel zone consisting of 26 countries in Europe, and has since extended to include the UK and Ireland. As a result, U.S. flight capacity is beginning its descent, dropping 45.2% by April 6, 2020 as the ban may be extended, and to even more countries.

Meanwhile, as of March 17, the U.S.-Canada border is closed for all non-essential travel. This follows a previous announcement from the Canadian government that it would be curbing entry to only Canadian citizens, family members, permanent residents, diplomats, and Americans.

Broadly speaking, countries around the world are taking similar actions to limit the spread of the virus and “flatten the curve”:

Measure TakenExample Countries*
Suspending flights from specific countries🇺🇸United States, 🇹🇷Turkey
Returning citizens must enter through specific airports🇨🇦Canada, 🇺🇸United States
Mandatory screening🇮🇹Italy, 🇧🇴Bolivia
14 day self-quarantine 🇮🇱Israel, 🇬🇷Greece
Complete closure of borders🇬🇹Guatemala, 🇵🇪Peru

*As of March 17, 2020

More Turbulent Times Ahead?

As both COVID-19 and the global response to it continues to evolve, here are the largest flight capacity reductions across different regions in the past few weeks, compared to a baseline from Jan 20, 2020:

Region20 Jan 2020 Flights23 Mar 2020 Flights30 Mar 2020 Flights06 Apr 2020 Flights% Change (6 Apr vs 30 Mar)
Western Europe18,606,4247,595,2643,840,5362,476,034-35.5%
North America22,644,12122,236,62517,221,75111,658,243-32.3%
Eastern/Central Europe3,701,2411,176,1391,930,5461,393,600-27.8%
Central America2,444,3832,040,6771,548,4581,135,163-26.7%
Upper South America1,737,7131,011,930673,016513,056-23.8%
Southeast Asia10,866,6236,177,0934,810,9453,856,977-19.8%
South Asia5,160,9584,245,6351,538,9181,371,156-10.9%
Middle East4,930,0302,580,4661,760,8091,619,546-8.0%
Northeast Asia25,278,59413,782,87912,465,26711,730,667-5.9%

Source: OAG

Naturally, the economic impact on airlines has been immense. Many airlines worldwide face the threat of bankruptcy in coming months, if these declining trends continue. To hedge against these domino effects of the outbreak, U.S. airlines are requesting upwards of $60 billion in bailouts and direct assistance from the government.

COVID-19 is throwing everything up in the air—including the fate of airline companies. It’s not yet clear when these stringent travel restrictions may be lifted, but one can only hope that these airlines do not have to continue to weather the storm much longer.

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Misc

Where Unemployment Benefits are the Highest, in OECD Countries

Ranking countries and their unemployment benefits, measured by the percentage of previous employed income received after a year out of work.

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This chart ranks OECD countries by their level of unemployment benefits.

Ranked: Unemployment Benefits in OECD Countries

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

This graphic ranks OECD countries by their level of unemployment benefits offered. This is measured by the percentage of previous in-work income a person would earn after being unemployed for one year.

Calculations reference a single person without children, whose previous in-work earnings were 67% of the average wage in each country. Data for this graphic and article can be accessed at OECD.org.

ℹ️ As of 2024, the OECD has 38 member countries plus several accession candidates.

OECD Countries by Unemployment Support

Luxembourg tops the rankings of OECD countries by unemployment benefits. Workers in the country can receive 87% of their previous employed income for up to a full year out of work.

RankCountry% of previous in-work
income received
after 1 year
1🇱🇺 Luxembourg87
2🇧🇪 Belgium78
3🇩🇰 Denmark78
4🇧🇬 Bulgaria*77
5🇵🇹 Portugal75
6🇨🇭 Switzerland72
7🇳🇴 Norway67
8🇫🇷 France66
9🇪🇸 Spain66
10🇳🇱 Netherlands64
11🇸🇪 Sweden64
12🇮🇹 Italy62
13🇮🇸 Iceland61
14🇩🇪 Germany60
15🇫🇮 Finland58
16🇦🇹 Austria51
17🇲🇹 Malta*49
18🇬🇷 Greece47
19🇪🇪 Estonia45
20🇸🇮 Slovenia44
21🇳🇿 New Zealand42
22🇭🇷 Croatia*41
23🇨🇾 Cyprus*38
24🇯🇵 Japan38
25🇷🇴 Romania*38
26🇮🇪 Ireland35
27🇦🇺 Australia32
28🇵🇱 Poland31
29🇰🇷 South Korea23
30🇨🇦 Canada22
31🇮🇱 Israel22
32🇱🇹 Lithuania21
33🇨🇿 Czechia20
34🇬🇧 UK16
35🇱🇻 Latvia14
36🇸🇰 Slovakia10
37🇹🇷 Türkiye10
38🇭🇺 Hungary9
39🇺🇸 U.S.9

*Not formally in the OECD. Data unavailable for Costa Rica, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico. Figures current up to 2023.

However, there are stipulations to receiving this money. This includes being fit and willing to work as well as already registered in the National Employment Agency.

After a 10 percentage point gap, Belgium and Denmark all but tie at second place at 78%.

Bulgaria, Portugal, and Switzerland round out the top six, all supporting their unemployed with more than 70% of their previous incomes.

It’s worth pointing out here that five of these top six countries have some of the highest personal income taxes in the world.

On the other end of the rankings, the workers in the U.S. and Hungary only receive 9% of their earlier incomes after a year out of work.

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