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 Taken||Example 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:
|Region||20 Jan 2020 Flights||23 Mar 2020 Flights||30 Mar 2020 Flights||06 Apr 2020 Flights||% Change (6 Apr vs 30 Mar)|
|Upper South America||1,737,713||1,011,930||673,016||513,056||-23.8%|
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.
Ranked: America’s 20 Biggest Tech Layoffs Since 2020
How bad are the current layoffs in the tech sector? This visual reveals the 20 biggest tech layoffs since the start of the pandemic.
Ranked: America’s 20 Biggest Tech Layoffs This Decade
The events of the last few years could not have been predicted by anyone. From a global pandemic and remote work as the standard, to a subsequent hiring craze, rising inflation, and now, mass layoffs.
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, essentially laid off the equivalent of a small town just weeks ago, letting go of 12,000 people—the biggest layoffs the company has ever seen in its history. Additionally, Amazon and Microsoft have also laid off 10,000 workers each in the last few months, not to mention Meta’s 11,000.
This visual puts the current layoffs in the tech industry in context and ranks the 20 biggest tech layoffs of the 2020s using data from the tracker, Layoffs.fyi.
The Top 20 Layoffs of the 2020s
Since 2020, layoffs in the tech industry have been significant, accelerating in 2022 in particular. Here’s a look at the companies that laid off the most people over the last three years.
|Rank||Company||# Laid Off||% of Workforce||As of|
Layoffs were high in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, halting the global economy and forcing staff reductions worldwide. After that, things were steady until the economic uncertainty of last year, which ultimately led to large-scale layoffs in tech—with many of the biggest cuts happening in the past three months.
The Cause of Layoffs
Most workforce slashings are being blamed on the impending recession. Companies are claiming they are forced to cut down the excess of the hiring boom that followed the pandemic.
Additionally, during this hiring craze competition was fierce, resulting in higher salaries for workers, which is now translating in an increased need to trim the fat thanks to the current economic conditions.
Of course, the factors leading up to these recent layoffs are more nuanced than simple over-hiring plus recession narrative. In truth, there appears to be a culture shift occurring at many of America’s tech companies. As Rani Molla and Shirin Ghaffary from Recode have astutely pointed out, tech giants really want you to know they’re behaving like scrappy startups again.
Twitter’s highly publicized headcount reduction in late 2022 occurred for reasons beyond just macroeconomic factors. Elon Musk’s goal of doing more with a smaller team seemed to resonate with other founders and executives in Silicon Valley, providing an opening for others in tech space to cut down on labor costs as well. In just one example, Mark Zuckerberg hailed 2023 as the “year of efficiency” for Meta.
Meanwhile, over at Google, 12,000 jobs were put on the chopping block as the company repositions itself to win the AI race. In the words of Google’s own CEO:
“Over the past two years we’ve seen periods of dramatic growth. To match and fuel that growth, we hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today… We have a substantial opportunity in front of us with AI across our products and are prepared to approach it boldly and responsibly.”– Sundar Pichai
The Bigger Picture in the U.S. Job Market
Beyond the tech sector, job openings continue to rise. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed a total of 11 million job openings across the U.S., an increase of almost 7% month-over-month. This means that for every unemployed worker in America right now there are 1.9 job openings available.
Additionally, hiring increased significantly in January, with employers adding 517,000 jobs. While the BLS did report a decrease in openings in information-based industries, openings are increasing rapidly especially in the food services, retail trade, and construction industries.
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