The number of cities connected directly by air service was 36% below prepandemic levels at the end of October, according to a new report from IATA.
In raw terms, that means that of the more than 19,300 city pairs that were connected by regular air service at the start of 2020, approximately 7,000 aren't currently on airline schedules.
Cities that historically have a particularly wide array of international service have fared especially badly during the pandemic. For example, New York has lost 66% of connectivity according to the IATA metric, dropping from the world's third most connected city to outside the top 10. Los Angeles has also dropped outside the top 10 from No. 6 on the list. And London has dropped from the first to eighth.
Carriers will lose nearly $120 billion this year, and it could be another year before they begin turning a profit.
Conversely, China, where domestic flying has returned to 2019 levels, now has the four most connected cities: Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu.
During a media briefing Wednesday, IATA executives stressed the importance of air connectivity to broader activity within the economy.
IATA estimates that aviation accounts for 4.1% of global GDP. In addition, approximately 54% of international tourists travel by air. Globally, flyers spent $855 billion on tourism activities last year, a number that will drop to an estimated $347 billion this year.
The trade group cited those figures as a rationale for governments to continue to support airlines during the pandemic through subsidies, tax breaks and incentives to travel consumers and as a reason why governments must move faster to eliminate border closures and quarantines.
Thus far during the crisis, airlines have received $173 billion in subsidies, loans and other support from governments.
"This is not about saving the airlines. It's about how about important air traffic and their services given are to the wider economy," IATA chief economist Brian Pearce said.