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.
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3 Insights From the FED’s Latest Economic Snapshot
Stay up to date on the U.S. economy with this infographic summarizing the most recent Federal Reserve data released.
3 Insights From the Latest U.S. Economic Data
Each month, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York publishes monthly economic snapshots.
To make this report accessible to a wider audience, we’ve identified the three most important takeaways from the report and compiled them into one infographic.
1. Growth figures in Q2 will make or break a recession
Generally speaking, a recession begins when an economy exhibits two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. Because U.S. GDP shrank by -1.5% in Q1 2022 (January to March), a lot rests on the Q2 figure (April to June) which should be released on July 28th.
Referencing strong business activity and continued growth in consumer spending, economists predict that U.S. GDP will grow by +2.1% in Q2. This would mark a decisive reversal from Q1, and put an end to recessionary fears for the time being.
Unfortunately, inflation is the top financial concern for Americans, and this is dampening consumer confidence. Shown below, the consumer confidence index reflects the public’s short-term outlook for income, business, and labor conditions.
Falling consumer confidence suggests that more people will delay big purchases such as cars, major appliances, and vacations.
2. The COVID-era housing boom could be over
Housing markets have been riding high since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this run is likely coming to an end. Here’s a summary of what’s happened since 2020:
- Lockdowns in early 2020 created lots of pent-up demand for homes
- Greater household savings and record-low mortgage rates pushed demand even further
- Supply chain disruptions greatly increased the cost of materials like lumber
- Construction of new homes couldn’t keep up, and housing supply fell to historic lows
Today, home prices are at record highs and the cost of borrowing is rapidly rising. For evidence, look no further than the 30-year fixed mortgage rate, which has doubled to more than 6% since the beginning of 2022.
Given these developments, the drop in the number of home sales could be a sign that many Americans are being priced out of the market.
3. Don’t expect groceries to become any cheaper
Inflation has been a hot topic this year, especially with gas prices reaching $5 a gallon. But there’s one category of goods that’s perhaps even more alarming: food.
The following table includes food inflation over the past three years, as the percent change over the past 12 months.
|Date||CPI Food Component (%)|
From this data, we can see that food inflation really picked up speed in April 2020, jumping to +3.5% from +1.9% in the previous month. This was due to supply chain disruptions and a sudden rebound in global demand.
Fast forward to today, and food inflation is running rampant at 10.1%. A contributing factor is the impending fertilizer shortage, which stems from the Ukraine war. As it turns out, Russia is not only a massive exporter of oil, but wheat and fertilizer as well.
Mapped: A Decade of Population Growth and Decline in U.S. Counties
This map shows which counties in the U.S. have seen the most growth, and which places have seen their populations dwindle in the last 10 years.
A Decade of Population Growth and Decline in U.S. Counties
There are a number of factors that determine how much a region’s population changes.
If an area sees a high number of migrants, along with a strong birth rate and low death rate, then its population is bound to increase over time. On the flip side, if more people are leaving the area than coming in, and the region’s birth rate is low, then its population will likely decline.
Which areas in the United States are seeing the most growth, and which places are seeing their populations dwindle?
This map, using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, shows a decade of population movement across U.S. counties, painting a detailed picture of U.S. population growth between 2010 and 2020.
Counties With The Biggest Population Growth from 2010-2020
To calculate population estimates for each county, the U.S. Census Bureau does the following calculations:
From 2010 to 2020, Maricopa County in Arizona saw the highest increase in its population estimate. Over a decade, the county gained 753,898 residents. Below are the counties that saw the biggest increases in population:
|Rank||County||Point of Reference||State||Pop. Growth (2010–2020)|
|#1||Maricopa County||Phoenix, Scottsdale||Arizona||+753,898|
|#3||Clark County||Las Vegas||Nevada||+363,323|
|#5||Tarrant County||Fort Worth, Arlington||Texas||+305,180|
|#6||Bexar County||San Antonio||Texas||+303,982|
|#7||Riverside County||Riverside, Palm Springs||California||+287,626|
Phoenix and surrounding areas grew faster than any other major city in the country. The region’s sunny climate and amenities are popular with retirees, but another draw is housing affordability. Families from more expensive markets—California in particular—are moving to the city in droves. This is a trend that spilled over into the pandemic era as more people moved into remote and hybrid work situations.
Texas counties saw a lot of growth as well, with five of the top 10 gainers located in the state of Texas. A big draw for Texas is its relatively affordable housing market. In 2021, average home prices in the state stood at $172,500—$53,310 below the national average.
Counties With The Biggest Population Drops from 2010-2020
On the opposite end of the spectrum, here’s a look at the top 10 counties that saw the biggest declines in their populations over the decade:
|Rank||County||Point of Reference||State||Pop. Growth (2010–2020)|
|#5||Suffolk County||Long Island||New York||-20,064|
|#9||Kanawha County||Charleston||West Virginia||-16,672|
The largest drops happened in counties along the Great Lakes, including Cook County (which includes the city of Chicago) and Wayne County (which includes the city of Detroit).
For many of these counties, particularly those in America’s “Rust Belt”, population drops over this period were a continuation of decades-long trends. Wayne County is an extreme example of this trend. From 1970 to 2020, the area lost one-third of its population.
U.S. Population Growth in Percentage Terms (2010-2020)
While the map above is great at showing where the greatest number of Americans migrated, it downplays big changes in counties with smaller populations.
For example, McKenzie County in North Dakota, with a 2020 population of just 15,242, was the fastest-growing U.S. county over the past decade. The county’s 138% increase was driven primarily by the Bakken oil boom in the area. High-growth counties in Texas also grew as new sources of energy were extracted in rural areas.
The nation’s counties are evenly divided between population increase and decline, and clear patterns emerge.
Pandemic Population Changes
More recent population changes reflect longer-term trends. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the counties that saw the strongest population increases were located in high-growth states like Florida and Texas.
Below are the 20 counties that grew the most from 2020 to 2021.
|Rank||County||Point of Reference||State||Pop. Growth (2020–2021)|
|#3||Riverside County||Riverside, Palm Springs||California||+35,631|
|#4||Fort Bend County||Sugar Land||Texas||+29,895|
|#8||Montgomery County||The Woodlands||Texas||+23,948|
|#9||Lee County||Fort Myers||Florida||+23,297|
|#11||Pinal County||San Tan Valley||Arizona||+19,974|
|#12||Clark County||Las Vegas||Nevada||+19,090|
|#13||Pasco County||New Port Richey||Florida||+18,322|
|#14||Wake County||Raleigh||North Carolina||+16,651|
|#15||St. Johns County||St. Augustine||Florida||+15,550|
|#17||Bexar County||San Antonio||Texas||+14,184|
|#20||St. Lucie County||Fort Pierce||Florida||+12,304|
Many of these counties are located next to large cities, reflecting a shift to the suburbs and larger living spaces. However, as COVID-19 restrictions ease, and the pandemic housing boom tapers off due to rising interest rates, it remains to be seen whether the suburban shift will continue, or if people begin to migrate back to city centers.
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