The number of global air passengers declined “dramatically” last year due to travel restrictions imposed over the Covid-19 pandemic, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Wednesday.

“The year 2020 brought an unprecedented challenge to the airline industry in a form of closed borders, strict travel controls, and depressed travel confidence – all effects of the pandemic,” IATA said. “In 2020 as a whole, passenger traffic plunged by 66 percent – by far the sharpest decline in the aviation history.”

The industry group also warned that the emergence of new, more transmissible variants of coronavirus were hurting the prospects for recovery this year.

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According to IATA, demand for air cargo decreased by 10.6 percent, compared to 2019. That was the largest drop in year-on-year demand since it started to monitor cargo performance in 1990.

“As countries strengthen travel restrictions in the face of new coronavirus variants, it is difficult to see improvements in passenger demand or the capacity crunch. 2021 will be another tough year,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

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