At the end of 2020, the airline industry was in a deep crisis. Though the crisis continues, we see rising industry confidence – even if that confidence is wishful thinking. Since running an airline is complex, fleet planning is always going to be a long game. Decisions made need to be lived with for typically 20 years.
But with the pandemic, airlines had an excellent opportunity to do fleet house cleaning. The pandemic is an ideal moment to offload parts of the fleet that are costing money and offer little or no long-term prospect of being economically useful. Bear in mind such decisions are not as easy – airlines have a lot of capital tied up in parts and crew training. Dumping an aircraft is not as simple it may appear.
A simpler fleet to offload is the Airbus fleet because of its common flight deck – it is easy for an Airbus pilot to switch models. What helps sell the Airbus in this case works in the reverse. This is why, perhaps, we see the rapid parking of A380s and some crews moving over to A350s. Sure the A380 is tough to justify at current loads and fares, but when the market recovers, it will be back in the game for markets like Heathrow-Los Angeles and the like. This may be why some airlines are not dumping their A380s. Mr. Al Baker excluded.
Using the global airline fleet, by country, with aircraft delivered since 2005, we get the following model for YE2020. Please select a country and you can also select an OEM to refine the results. The model lists a table with the number of aircraft, by model, in a national fleet and the average age of that fleet. The chart provides a graphical view of the status of the fleet by model type. A parked aircraft is likely to see a return to service. A stored aircraft may or may not come back into service. If you “mouse over” any of the colors on the chart you get the number of aircraft.
Remember to click the double arrow for max screen use.
- Decisions to park an aircraft are driven by a combination of age (and the need for MRO costs) as well as fleet size
- Some countries have no choice but to keep what they have operational
- As you go through the countries, you can see how tradeoff choices have been made – newer aircraft are favored