Not a day goes by without news of Covid-19 and its devastating consequences — not only for humans, but for the economies of multiple industries, especially aviation. Since first appearing in Wuhan, China in late December, the virus has rapidly spread to multiple countries, directly impacting our lives and changing how we see the world. Human losses aside, the socio-economic impact produced by this pandemic has been huge, and its recovery will be a slow and complicated process.
Though almost all industries of the world will be affected by this crisis, aviation stands to suffer the brunt. In Europe, the outbreak began in Italy on February 21, when the amount of infected people began to increase uncontrollably, leading to a lockdown of 60 million residents on March 8th. As expected, other nearby countries like Spain, France or Germany followed suit, thus restricting airspace and cancelling all arrival and departure flights in order to curb the virus spread.
These restrictions have seriously disrupted the airline industry. Some estimate that the combination of trip cancellations and country-specific restrictions on international flights will cost the industry around $880 billion (ref). Many airlines have announced that they are at risk of going bankrupt due to the unexpected amount of cancellations and lack of customers. If one upside can be allowed from the Covid-19 pandemic having essentially “flat-lined” the industry, aviation emissions have drastically decreased in 2020, which have suddenly become unusually low (ref).
In this post, we will extract some insights by visualizing data. We have studied the evolution of aircraft operations during the last month to measure how Covid-19 has impacted the industry from a data science perspective. To build this report, we have mainly used flight plans that contain information about flight status to measure the amount of flights cancelled within Europe. In addition, we have also used the Covid-19 public dataset (ref), which contains the confirmed tested cases of Covid-19, the number of deaths from the disease, and recoveries, aggregated by country and worldwide.
We extracted the data from February 23 to March 23 for all flight operations that departed or arrived in European countries. The peaks correlate very well with the strict measures adopted by the governments of certain countries. For instance, observing March 8, we notice how flight operations surprisingly collapse in Italy due to lockdown restrictions. The same occurs in Spain on March 13, where an alarm state was announced to citizens. In fact, we can observe that Spain restricted inbound and outbound traffic despite having 2.143 fewer confirmed cases of Covid-19 than Italy at the moment they adopted identical contention measures. We encourage you to play with Dashboard 1 to extract further insights about the correlation between the Covid-19 measures and the descent in European flight operations.