How COVID-19 has changed flight numbers and aviation

Mikael Robertsson of Flightradar24 explains how his industry is handling the unprecedented changes faced by airline passengers and professionals

While MarineTraffic offers information and positioning of vessels, Flightradar24, allows you to track planes, get flight status and airport details in real-time. 

Essentially, what MarineTraffic does in the water, Flightradar24 does for the skies. 

In this latest video, CEO of MarineTraffic, Demitris Memos chatted with Mikael Robertsson, Co-founder of Flightradar24 to learn about how COVID-19 has changed recent flight numbers and the aviation industry as a whole. 

Today, global air-traffic is still down about 75% from what it was prior to COVID-19. Mikael explains that it began to drop in January and by March was down about 80%. In April there was a small increase, and that trend has been slowly on the rise since. 

As the first country to have a significant drop, China is starting to recover. Now it’s only down about 50% comparatively. Europe and the Middle East are starting to increase as well. The United States will most likely be the last country to get air-traffic back to normal levels. 

Without Flightradar24’s map being as busy as usual, helicopters, private jets, and cargo planes are now clearly visible. Previously, these aircrafts were buried underneath the high volume of commercial planes. 

“We are getting many questions like, what is going on in the North Sea? Why are there so many helicopters? In fact, due to the oil rigs, helicopters have always been there. They just haven’t been visible because of the other air-traffic.” 

Regardless of how much traffic has decreased, people are still tracking flights. Between seeing the private plane of a famous athlete or checking specific healthcare flights mentioned by the media, even in these strange times, there’s still action in the air. 

Notably, there’s been a lot of interest in Antonov An-225 Mriya. It is the biggest plane in the world and is currently being used to fly medical equipment between China and Europe. 

Mikael believes the future of large airplanes (such as the A380) is uncertain. Not necessarily because of their size but because of the amount of fuel and funds required to operate. 

In addition, the iconic 747 probably won’t survive the pandemic as a passenger aircraft either. 

With this economy, airlines have to cut costs as much as possible. So, they’ll start with the largest and least cost-effective aircrafts. 

Although the impact of COVID-19 has been dramatic for the aviation industry, Flightradar24’s business has continued onwards. Fortunately, even when there isn’t much on the map, people still want to learn what’s flying overhead.

You can watch the interview in the video below:

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Claire Potak
Claire Potak is an American writer and photographer based in Athens, Greece. Her work often focuses on media, marketing, tech, and culture.