We investigated aircraft reconfiguration trends through the lens of two narrowbodies, the Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A320.
Aviation intelligence data from IBA's InsightIQ shows that the Airbus A320-200 has become the most frequently utilised aircraft type by budget airlines since 2011, when it overtook the Boeing 737-800. Approximately 37% of A320-200 aircraft are currently operated by LCCs, which is 6% higher than the Boeing 737-800.
The single-class cabin layout was once a defining concept of the low-cost operation; however, an increasing number of flag carriers have adopted the layout for their in-service fleets. Notable examples include LATAM and Avianca. As such, the once clear boundaries between LCCs and flag carriers are becoming more blurred. This is driving an upward trend in aircraft single-class reconfiguration, which IBA expects to continue.
Europe's largest low-cost airline, Ryanair, has been operating its 737-800 aircraft since 1999, with all of its aircraft configured with 189 seats (currently the maximum seating density for the 737-800). Thanks to huge success in the past two decades, low-cost leisure airlines such as TUI and Jet2 have also been reconfiguring used 737-800 aircraft to accommodate the 189-seat cabin layout. This is essentially to lower the cost per seat and boost revenue. IBA also observes this configuration present in flag carriers, with one example being Ukraine International Airlines operating 13 single-class 737-800 aircraft.
Fleet data from IBA's InsightIQ indicates the market share of the single-class 737-800 aircraft has increased by around 20% from 2006 to 2021.
The Boeing 737-800 typically requires over 500 man-hours to transform from a two-class 158-seat cabin layout to a full-economy single-class configuration with 189 seats. In addition to the labour cost, this type of cabin reconfiguration would also involve the installations of the new economy seats, windows, Passenger Service Units (PSU) and other equipment, which would raise the cost to approximately $250,000 - $450,000 USD. Moreover, performing the base maintenance checks and acquiring the certification on reconfiguration modification will see the total expense rise sharply.
IBA's InsightIQ analysis platform flexibly illustrates multiple asset, fleet and market positions, actual and potential, to inform client choices and identify acquisition opportunities. Immediate access to crucial aircraft, engine, lease rate and fleet data eases appreciation of historic and future aircraft concentrations and operator profiles.
When it comes to recovery, the short haul market will be first and there are some positive signs, many engines re-entering service in North America, Europe and Asia. However, despite increased flight volumes and resultant higher engine utilisation, load factors remain low. Border restrictions persist across all regions and passenger confidence to travel continues to challenge.