Air Traffic Data as a Proxy for Economic Activity in the Transportation Sector

Simeon Alder

Executive Summary:

The imposition of numerous social distancing measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed economic activity significantly. The impact, however, varies across industries and one of the challenges at this time is to measure the impact in a timely manner. One sector that has been affected significantly is air transportation. Measures ranging from outright quarantines to milder “Safer at Home” directives have been associated with a sharp decline in mobility – both internationally and domestically – and the number of airline passengers has fallen sharply in recent weeks.

In this brief we use daily departure information at Wisconsin’s three major commercial airports, General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Dane County Regional Airport in Madison, and Green Bay Austin Strobel International Airport in Green Bay to gauge the decline in activity between the beginning of March and April 6, 2020. We compare these trends to broader national air traffic patterns and some international developments.

Read Full Data Brief