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Watch flight traffic literally disappear from the skies as the coronavirus hits travel demand

Data from Flightradar24 shows air traffic volume has significantly decreased to and from China’s 50 busiest airports.

Watch flight traffic literally disappear from the skies as the coronavirus hits travel demand
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As the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continues to spread in the United States, major American carriers such as United Airlines and JetBlue have begun to cut domestic flights and even waive some fees for flight changes. Globally, new restrictions on travel and general anxiety about being in close quarters with other human beings are wreaking havoc on flight traffic—to the point where the International Air Transport Association now expects industry losses of up to $113 billion, according to fresh estimates released today.

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None of this will be especially new news to air travelers in China, where the coronavirus first began to spread late last year. According to data from flight-tracking service Flightradar24, air traffic at China’s 50 busiest airports is down a staggering 80% since the beginning of the year. The country, which instituted a series of severe quarantines and draconian city lockdowns after the outbreak took hold, is usually among the most air-congested in the world.

But a time-lapse GIF shared by Flightradar24 on Twitter this afternoon shows the tracker’s bright yellow airplane icons literally disappearing from the skies. It’s a compelling sight to behold:

One bright spot in the GIF is that it indicates the worst may be over for China, with the biggest dip in air traffic appearing around the middle of February. It’s since recovered a bit, according to Flightradar24, even if flights are still down 61% from where they were in January.

All of this is a reminder that the world is more interconnected than it’s ever been, and all the various infrastructures that keep those connections going are entirely more fragile than we realize.

About the author

Christopher Zara is a senior staff news editor for Fast Company and obsessed with media, technology, business, culture, and theater. Before coming to FastCo News, he was a deputy editor at International Business Times, a theater critic for Newsweek, and managing editor of Show Business magazine

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