COVID-19 impacts on connectivity by region (April 2019-April 2020, IATA Connectivity Index measure).

Africa suffered a 93% decline in connectivity, though Ethiopia bucked the trend. During the first peak of the pandemic in April 2020, many aviation markets reliant on tourism, such as Egypt, South Africa, and Morocco, were severely affected though Ethiopia maintained connections with 88 international destinations.

Asia-Pacific saw a 76% decline in connectivity. Stronger domestic aviation markets, such as China, Japan, and South Korea performed better among the most connected countries in the region. Despite the relatively large domestic aviation market, Thailand was particularly affected perhaps because of the country’s high reliance on international tourism.

Europe experienced a 93% fall in connectivity. European countries saw significant declines across most markets, although Russian connectivity has held up better than Western European countries. 

Middle East countries saw connectivity decline 88%. With the exception of Qatar, connectivity levels reduced more than 85% for the five most connected countries in the region. Despite border closures, Qatar allowed passengers to transit between flights. It was also an important hub for air cargo.

North American connectivity declined 73%. Canada’s connectivity (-85% decline) was hit more heavily than the United States (-72%). In part, this reflects the large domestic aviation market in the United States, which despite a significant passenger decline, has continued to support connectivity.

Latin America suffered a 91% collapse in connectivity. Mexico and Chile performed relatively better than the other most connected countries, perhaps due to the timing of domestic lockdowns in these countries.

Before the pandemic
Over the last two decades, the number of cities directly linked by air (city-pair connections) more than doubled and air travel costs fell by around half. 

IATA’s research explored the benefits of increased air connectivity. The standout conclusions were:

  • There is a positive link between connectivity and productivity. A 10% rise in connectivity, relative to a country’s GDP, will boost labor productivity levels 0.07%.
  • The impact is greater for developing countries. Investments in air transport capacity in countries where connectivity is relatively low will have a much larger impact on productivity and economic success than a similar level of investment in a relatively developed country. 
  • Tourism revenue may be reinvested to form capital assets. Air transport has contributed to greater employment opportunities and wider economic benefits through tourism catalytic effects, particularly in small island states. In emerging market economies, where there may be a structural shortage of demand, tourism spend can fill in the gap.
  • Tax revenues increase from enhanced economic activity. Air connectivity facilitates economic activity and growth in a given country, which may have a positive impact on government tax revenues.