Impacts of COVID-19 on aircraft usage and fuel consumption: A case study on four Chinese international airports

Dabin Xue, Zhizhao Liu, Bing Wang, Jian Yang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


COVID-19 pandemic starting in early 2020 has greatly impacted human and industrial activities. Air transport in China shrank abruptly in February 2020, following a year-long gradual recovery. The airline companies reacted to this unprecedented event by dramatically reducing the flight volume and rearranging the aircraft types. As the first major economy that successfully controls the spread of COVID-19, China can provide a unique opportunity to quantify the medium-long impacts on the air transport industry. To quantify the corresponding changes and to elucidate the effects of COVID-19 in the wake of two major outbreaks centered in Wuhan and Beijing, we analyze twelve flight routes formed by four selected airports, using the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) data in 2019 and 2020. Our results show that the total flight volume in 2020 reduced to 67.8% of 2019 in China. The recovering time of flight volume was about 2–6 months, dependent on the severity. In order to unwind the severe challenge, airlines mainly relied on aircraft B738 and A321 between February and June in 2020 because the fuel consumption per seat of these two aircraft types is the lowest. Besides, fuel consumption and aircraft emissions are calculated according to the Base of Aircraft Data (BADA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization's Engine Emissions Databank (ICAO's EEDB). At the end of 2020, the ratios of daily fuel consumption and aircraft emissions of 2020 to 2019 rebounded to about 0.875, suggesting the domestic commercial flights were nearly fully recovered. Our results may provide practical guidance and meaningful expectation for commercial aircraft management for other countries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102106
JournalJournal of Air Transport Management
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • ADS-B
  • Aircraft emissions
  • Aircraft usage
  • COVID-19
  • Flight volume
  • Fuel consumption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transportation
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Law


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