In the early days of commercial aviation, it was very much the case that airlines would buy aircraft rather than lease them. Since aircraft leasing companies began to develop critical mass in the 1980s, the leasing of aircraft has become a common option. Nowadays airlines making fleet planning decisions have to consider whether to buy or lease their aircraft assets, and as this decision-making trade-off is never a perfect science, we reached out to industry experts to identify some best practices to deploy in the current economic environment for aircraft acquisition.
The global commercial fleet today consists of 29,400 aircraft, both active and parked. “The percentage of those leased is still growing and is currently 45%, up from 2% in 1980. Growth has been spectacular but is now levelling out as operators balance their fleets with a mix of owned and leased aircraft. While the top line figure is 45%, there are differences among both aircraft types and geography. In the long term, leasing can be a more expensive option so it makes sense to purchase aircraft if possible, when comfortable with the technology and price,” says Paul Lyons, Head of Advisory at IBA.
In absolute terms, the number of leased aircraft is currently approaching 11,000 units of all types, but the narrowbody market comprises over 7,000 units and accounts for two thirds of the total. Widebody leasing accounts for nearly 2,000 aircraft, and the remainder is roughly equally split between regional jets and turboprops.
Leasing aircraft often seems an easy option but care needs to be taken, IBA’s Paul Lyons (Head of Advisory) identifies the pros and cons in this MRO Management article.