The aviation industry was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, erasing two decades of global passenger traffic growth in just a few months. The restrictions imposed by governments around the world to keep the pandemic under control have led to a 65.9 percent decrease in traffic and reduced passenger numbers by 2.7 billion in 2020, while the reduced passenger demand has kept most of the aircraft fleet on the ground. Thus, last year only 16.9 million flights were performed compared to 38.9 million flights in 2019, while the lower activity in this sector also resulted in the loss of jobs worldwide. Therefore, each part of the value chain in the aeronautical sector was severely affected. Data shows that airports had losses of 129 billion U.S. dollars over the past year. At the same time, airlines reported net losses of 370 billion U.S. dollars. Problems in this sector could lead to more bankruptcies this year and the need for financial support for the entire industry.

Revenue of commercial airlines worldwide
373bn USD
Number of air passengers worldwide
Leading airline by brand value
Delta Air Lines

Market size

How big is the airline industry?
Market size of the airline industry worldwide from 2018 to 2021 (in billion U.S. dollars)
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As the global economy is becoming more and more connected, the airline industry was one of the fastest-growing transportation sectors. The coronavirus pandemic paralyzed the airline sector throughout 2020, causing its market size to shrink to 359.3 billion U.S. dollars. The airline industry includes passenger transportation on scheduled and nonscheduled routes both domestically and internationally, as well as cargo airlines.

Passenger airlines in Europe
Passenger airlines in the U.S.
Air cargo industry worldwide

Market segments

Air cargo is performing better than the passenger sector
Worldwide revenue of cargo airlines from 2004 to 2021 (in billion U.S. dollars)
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Air cargo has become a source of oxygen for airlines in the context of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The coronavirus outbreak led to an increased demand for a wide range of products; semiconductors and PC components were replaced by face masks, medical gowns, medical gloves, and ventilators. Air freight will be a bright spot for airlines, at least for this year, as more airline flights will be performed to quickly transport billions of doses of vaccines worldwide.

Air cargo market in the U.S.
U.S. air trade with NAFTA partners
Air freight in Australia

Industry trends

The rapid rise of low-cost carriers
Low cost carriers' worldwide market share from 2007 to 2020
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Over the last decade, low-cost carriers (LCCs) have increased their share in the global air travel market, accounting for 35 percent of the world’s capacity in 2020. Ryanair and Southwest Airlines are the main players in the low-cost category, which is attracting a growing customer base. In this segment, many carriers charge additional fees for services such as seat allocation, additional baggage, meals, and access to in-flight Wi-Fi to boost their ancillary revenue.

Southwest Airlines

Industry leaders

The most profitable airlines in the world
Leading airline groups worldwide in 2020, based on revenue (in billion U.S. dollars)*
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In 2020, Delta Air Lines was the third most profitable airline group, generating revenue of only 17.1 billion U.S. dollars. The airline company is one of the largest domestic airlines in the United States, with a market share of 15.5 percent in 2020. The company also boasts an impressive market value of 29.8 billion U.S. dollars.

Delta Air Lines
American Airlines

Regional overview

What is the largest air passenger market?
Largest origin-destination (O-D) air passenger markets in 2019, by country (in million passengers)
Further details: Visit original statistic

The U.S., China, India, and the European Union are ranked among the most important markets for air travel. The U.S. domestic market is the world’s largest air travel market, with 614 million air passengers traveling in the region in 2019. The largest airlines in the U.S. are legacy carriers American Airlines, Delta, and United. The country is also home to some of the world’s busiest airports. Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) kept its top spot as the busiest airport.

Air transportation in the U.S.
Civil aviation in China
Air transport industry in Germany

Industry definition

The aviation industry comprises all features of mechanical air transportation carried out using an aircraft and all activities that facilitate it. Within this sector, Statista provides information about passenger airlines, freight forwarders, and related infrastructure such as airports. Data on a global, regional, and country scale is available, complemented with information on the largest players and airline rankings.

More interesting topics from the industry "Aviation"


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