March witnessed a historic drop in air traffic as COVID-19 travel restrictions expanded and demand for air travel evaporated. The total number of flights tracked by Flightradar24 in March 2020 was 4,294,685, down 21.6% from 2019. Commercial flights tracked in March were 27.7% lower than 2019. But monthly figures don’t capture the full picture.
The impact of COVID-19 on air traffic took hold in the third week of January when traffic in China experienced a nearly 75% decline. After falling more than 80% by mid-February, in the final week of February into the first week in March, traffic in China recovered to 40% of normal.
European declines began in Italy in the fourth week of February, but were limited until the second week in March when global air traffic began to grind to a halt. In the first week of March, total global traffic was still up 4.5% compared to 2019. In the final week of March, total flights tracked by Flightradar24 were 55.7% fewer than 2019.
Commercial traffic levels declined below 2019 in early February, but trended upwards into early March before plummeting. In total, commercial traffic was down 27.7% below 2019 levels for March, but again full month figures fail to capture the dramatic decline in the latter half of March. In the first week of March, commercial traffic was down 3.9% below 2019 levels. In the final week of March, commercial traffic declined 62.9% from the same period in 2019.
Around the world, over 100 airlines have now either completely or nearly completely stopped service. The animation below shows flights around the world at 15:00 UTC each day in March.