Air Traffic Data Shows Signs of a Comeback: Green Shoots Appear in the Middle East

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The pandemic winter for aviation has passed. The first green shoots are out.

This data story featuring Middle-East, is the second from the four part Spire Aviation world series.

The travel lockdown wiped out the demand for global air travel. The first travel restrictions were enforced in China. Spire Aviation data focuses on specific geo locations for a deeper, more granular look at this crisis. The Middle East, home to legacy airlines flying intercontinental long haul flights, saw the biggest drop in aircraft traffic. Data shows how empty the skies were on Apr 25th compared to Jan 25th. The number of aircraft flying in the region plummeted over 75% between the same dates and dropped from 1,409 in January to just 375 in April.

Air traffic over Middle East viewed within specific coordinates on 25 Jan 2020 (left) and 25 Apr 2020 (right)

Spire Aviation data caught the decline and continues to chart the gradual upswing in the coming months. Huge portions of airline fleets including Emirates A380 grounding, A350 and B777s were grounded across this timeline in the Middle East. Airline activity hit rock bottom around week 11. Whereas, the 3 largest airlines in China had already grounded the majority of their fleet weeks earlier.

Weekly number of flights by largest airlines in the middle east before covid19 and after lockdown

Number of flights by Emirates, Qatar Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Etihad and FlyDubai per week (Jan-May 2020)

Drop in flights began about four weeks later compared to the drop in China. Chinese airlines cancelled flights from Week 4, whereas airlines in the ME were still flying close to normalcy till week 9. That’s almost a full month after the lockdown was enforced in China. By week 9, the traffic had already started to pick up among the three largest airlines there. Data reveals traffic to be picking up in the Middle East from week 16.

It was a deadly winter for aviation, which saw all airlines severely impacted. Data now shows the darkest hour has passed and we now see the first green shoots to a long recovery.

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