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The official, albeit preliminary, numbers are in, confirming what most in the aviation industry already knew. Travel by air took a beating in March, with passenger numbers dropping by 51.5 percent compared to March 2019, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The data represents filings form 24 airlines that carry 99 percent of passengers. The 51 percent decline was the largest year-to-year decrease on record, and the 38.7 million passengers flown in the month is the lowest level of air travel in almost two decades. April passenger counts are expected to be far worse, illustrating the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 51 percent decline in U.S. airlines passengers from March 2019 to March 2020 followed 29 consecutive months of increases from the same month of the previous year, dating back to October 2017.

BTS said the number of U.S. airlines domestic passengers declined 51 percent from March 2019 to March 2020 following 29 consecutive months of increases from the same month of the previous year, dating back to October 2017. The number of international passengers on U.S. airlines declined 53 percent from March 2019 to March 2020 following 22 consecutive months of increases from the same month of the previous year, dating back to May 2018.