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Photo for illustrative purposes. Image Credit: AP

The number of airliners in service has plunged since the start of the year amid fresh coronavirus restrictions, strangling off a partial recovery seen in the latter half of 2020, figures from travel-data specialist Cirium show.

The slump is most pronounced for deployments of single-aisle aircraft, which fell below 8,800 on Feb. 5, a drop of almost 15 per cent compared with January 3, when the highest number saw action since last spring's initial lockdowns.

Wide-body usage slumped 14 per cent from a December 19 peak, though bigger aircraft remain comparatively far less popular, with just half the number in service compared with pre-pandemic levels as long-haul travel remains largely out of bounds.

New strains of COVID-19 have wiped out hopes for an early recovery in air travel, with the gradual roll-out of jabs expected to allow only a partial rebound this year. Cirium estimates that a return to 2019 demand levels could take until 2025, depending on the pace of vaccinations and the crisis's economic impact.