Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 28 May 2020

March 4 versus April 4: the skies over the world's five busiest airports then and now

The last month has changed airspaces across the world

The world's skies on Wednesday, March 4, left, and on Saturday, April 4, right. Flightradar
The world's skies on Wednesday, March 4, left, and on Saturday, April 4, right. Flightradar

Over the past month, the world's airports have gone from thriving portals to the world to far quieter places, some resembling parking lots.

As the coronavirus pandemic grinds the world to a halt, and travel restrictions have been imposed by different countries, passenger flights have dwindled.

And so the world's skies look different.

Images and data collected from flight tracking service FlightRadar24 have shown how the five busiest airspaces in the world have changed in the last month.

Each of the below visualisations (slide to see the difference) capture 12pm local time exactly one month apart – on Wednesday, March 4 and Saturday, April 4.

Meanwhile, the quoted flight data corresponds to the departures from each airport over the course of March.

1. Dubai International Airport (DXB)

March, by the numbers: Perhaps the most striking of the visualisations, given its status as the world's busiest airport in terms of international passenger numbers, the skies over Dubai have gone quiet over the last month.

In the UAE, it's been almost two weeks since all commercial passenger flights in and out of the country were grounded.

On March 1, 478 flights flew out of Dubai International. Just over two weeks' later, that number was 327 of a scheduled 459, and by March 30, five days after all passenger flights in and out of the country were grounded, just five flights flew out of Dubai. UAE carriers, including Emirates and Etihad, have now restarted repatriation passenger flights, so you may start to see the odd vapour trail overhead.

2. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

March, by the numbers: Although US President Donald Trump restricted flights from the EU Schengen Area on March 12, the skies are still fairly busy over the US. That's largely because, while international flights have since stopped, domestic flights in the US have continued, albeit with reduced frequency.

So, despite the country having the highest number of reported Covid-19 cases, connectivity between states has remained in place.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the busiest passenger airport in the world by total passenger numbers, and on March 1, 1,068 flights departed. By March 14, 1,159 flights still departed the airport of a scheduled 1,181. However, that all changed by March 30, when just 564 of a scheduled 1,212 flights flew out of Atlanta.

3. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

March, by the numbers: This is the second busiest airport in the United States, and the skies over LAX look vastly different this week than they did in early March.

The contrast here is far more evident than in Atlanta. On February 28, 922 flights took off from Los Angeles International. By March 14, 875 flights took off, from a scheduled 930. But by March 30, that number had halved – 431 flights out of a scheduled 866 took flight.

4. Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)

March, by the numbers: China's busiest airport was impacted by the coronavirus much before the rest of the world, so their flights began dwindling earlier. This means that the numbers didn't change too much over the course of the last month.

On March 1, 239 flights flew out of Beijing, whereas on March 30, 142 flights left the Chinese capital.

5. Haneda Airport (HND)

March, by the numbers: Tokyo International Airport, more commonly known as Haneda Airport, is one of two major international hubs serving the Japanese capital. Reported Covid-19 cases have not spiked as drastically in Japan as they have in most of the country's neighbours.

The country has not put a blanket ban on international travel, but they have restricted entry to those who have been in several countries – including the US, Europe, China and South Korea.

On March 1, 584 of a scheduled 630 flights left Haneda Airport. Two weeks later, that number dropped, but not drastically (442 of 630 scheduled), and by March 30, the numbers were about the same as they had been mid-month (434 of 622 scheduled).

6. The world, March 1 to March 30

This graphic, taken on March 1 and then March 30, gives an overview of the world.

While the US airspace remains busy, the most striking change has been over Europe and the Middle East; a reflection of strict travel restrictions in many countries in the regions.

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Updated: April 5, 2020 02:48 PM

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