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Industry outlook

Covid-19: Navigating the flight plan to recovery – DAILY UPDATE

August 25, 2020

The new weekly updates may be found here. August 25, 2020 Since the start of the global Covid-19 outbreak, Cirium […]

The new weekly updates may be found here.

August 25, 2020

Since the start of the global Covid-19 outbreak, Cirium has been tracking the changes to the market on a daily basis. We documented the surge of  aircraft being classified as stored between March and April 2020, see graph below. In addition, we have provided flights and aircraft activity updates for airlines and regions during the Hibernation phase. Now, there is a desire from everyone in the industry to start navigating the flight plan to recovery. Use Cirium’s data to stay ahead of the curve during Covid-19. 

Bookmark this page to read daily updates on:

  • Insight on the number of commercial passenger jets being classified as in-service vs stored
  • Flights and aircraft activity of airlines from around the world
  • Analysis on schedules, aviation asset values and fleets data all geared to spotting recovery trend

August 27 2020 – United Airlines (UA) passenger jet international arrivals

United Airlines on Wednesday 26th August operated fewer than a third of the ex-USA international flights it completed on the equivalent day a year earlier, while serving fewer than half the number of airports.

Since the low point of 18th April when only 20 United Airlines flights arrived at international destinations after departing from US airports, the Star Alliance member has struggled to make significant progress in recovering its operations in the face of ongoing government-imposed travel restrictions.

On 26th August its 68 international arrivals from the USA were flown using 17 Boeing 777s, 25 787s, 20 737NGs and five Airbus A320s. The top three destinations were Guam (with six flights) followed by Mexico City and Tokyo Narita (each with five).

A year ago London Heathrow topped the list with 16 arrivals, with Mexico City and Vancouver in joint second place with 13 each.

August 25 2020 – Global tracked passenger jet flights decline for the first time since April

Fewer scheduled passenger jet flights were operated by the world’s airlines in the seven days up to and including 24th August compared with the equivalent seven-day period a week earlier, marking the first week-on-week decline in activity since late April.

The seven-day rolling average flights total versus the seventh day prior declined by 0.2% on 24th August, when just over 46,000 services were tracked, which was just under half the number of flights tracked on the equivalent day a year earlier.

Weakening passenger demand in the huge US domestic market and continued restrictions on international travel continued to weigh heavily on airline recovery efforts. North America and Asia Pacific saw seven-day rolling average declines of 0.9% and 0.8% respectively on 24th August, while Europe’s positive rate continued to tail off with a further fall to 0.46%.

The proportion of the global passenger jet fleet in storage has remained stable at approximately 33% for the past two weeks. However fewer than 30% of narrowbodies were inactive versus more than 40% of widebodies, reflecting proportionally higher passenger demand for domestic and intra-regional travel compared with international longhaul.

August 20 2020 – Pace of recovery in scheduled passenger jet operations slowing across the globe

The pace of recovery in scheduled passenger jet operations is slowing across all global regions as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, government travel restrictions and associated economic impacts continue to take their toll on the travel industry.

By the key metric of percentage change in seven day rolling average daily passenger jet flight arrivals compared with the seventh day prior, North America had slipped slightly back into negative territory by 19th August, while Asia Pacific was at zero and Europe just below 1%. The smaller markets of the Middle East, Latin America and Africa, however, were faring relatively better with positive 4.5%, 4.8% and 6.7% respectively.

All regions were significantly down on recovery rates recorded in June and July, and as of Wednesday 19th August global tracked flight numbers were adverse by over 55% compared with Wednesday 21st August 2019. The overall percentage increase in the seven day rolling average versus the seventh day prior for 19th August was just 0.5%.

Tracked aircraft numbers meanwhile were down 42% compared with a year earlier, while flight hours were down 61%, reflecting the faster recovery of domestic and intra-regional operations compared with international longhaul services.

August 19 2020 – Top 5 country pairs by passenger jet flights tracked

Starting in mid-July the UK-Spain market experienced proportionally the fastest recovery in country-to-country international passenger jet flight numbers among the top five pairings globally. However, its impressive recovery rate was short-lived due to the UK government’s re-imposition of a 14-day quarantine requirement from late July.

Canada-USA was the most served international country pairing in mid-March with a rolling seven day average of more than 950 services, counting flights in either direction. But as of Tuesday 18th August this had slumped fewer than 85, and this market had fallen below Puerto Rico-USA since mid-June.

Comparing 18th August with Tuesday 20th August 2019, Puerto Rico-USA was down only 36%, while Canada-USA and Spain UK were down 93% and 69% respectively.

Ryanair is by far the largest operator on Spain-UK routes with approximately 200 flights in either direction on peak days. However the low-cost carrier has announced it is removing 20% of total flight capacity across its network for September and October due to weak passenger demand.

August 18 2020 – Emirates’ daily flights increasing, but still 80% down on last year

Emirates Airline is battling to restore its passenger operations despite over 150 destinations in its global network remaining subject to Covid-19-related travel restrictions.

On Monday 17th August, the carrier’s tracked scheduled passenger jet flights and hours were down more than 80% compared with Monday 19th August 2019, while 72% fewer of its aircraft were tracked in the air. However, daily flights were up more than 11% on a seven-day rolling average basis, compared with the seventh day prior.

The vast majority of the airline’s 133 passenger Boeing 777s have returned to service although many are operating cargo-only flights, according to Emirates president Tim Clark. In contrast, Cirium classifies a mere 13 of the airline’s 115 ultra-large Airbus A380s as having in-service status, and only six of these were tracked operating a commercial flight on 17th August (all more recently-delivered examples equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines rather than Engine Alliance GP7200s).

London was the top city served last year with 22 flights to and from Dubai, but only six were operated on 17th August 2020. Kuwait City meanwhile saw daily services drop from 15 last year to only two this year.

Clark says Emirates – which is seeking a financial bailout from the Dubai government – is only operating services capable of generating revenue higher than cash operating cost.

August 13 2020 – Newer aircraft are being preferred by airlines during the recovery phase

Fewer than half of passenger jets with any given build year prior to 2013 were used for commercial flights on Wednesday 12th August, highlighting the extent to which newer aircraft are being preferred by airlines during the recovery phase.

Airliners built in 2017 were most numerous in the skies on 12th August, with approaching 1,000 tracked in flight, while approximately 650 were not recorded as active. However, more than 1,400 of the 2017 cohort of aircraft were tracked in flight on Wednesday 14th August 2019.

The overall fleet of 2018-built widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets is larger, however fewer of these aircraft were tracked in flight both this year and the equivalent day last year, largely due to the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max since early 2019.

The Max grounding also led to the decline in the number of 2019-built aircraft that have entered the fleet so far, although 57% of other types that did were tracked in flight on 12th August.

Against the background of the collapse in passenger demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic, only 315 2020-build aircraft have been handed over to customers so far this year, but approximately 60% of those aircraft flew on 12th August.

August 12 2020 – Ryanair ramps up scheduled flight operations further

Ryanair implemented phase two of its aggressive ramp up of scheduled flight operations at the beginning of August and is routinely deploying more than 80% of its 274 in-service Boeing 737-800s on commercial services daily.Europe’s largest low-cost carrier emerged from Covid-19-imposed hibernation at the end of June, when daily aircraft tracked jumped overnight from typically fewer than 50 to more than 160. This figure jumped again – to more than 230 – from 1st August.

As of 11th August Cirium classified all 274 Ryanair 737-800s as having been returned to in-service status. However as an operating unit its overall fleet size has declined significantly year-on-year – from 420 in August 2019 – due to nearly 170 aircraft having been progressively transferred to sister group carriers Buzz and Malta Air since 2018. Ryanair is also yet to take delivery of any of the nearly 170 737 Max 8 aircraft it has on firm order.

Therefore despite the fact that the Ryanair operating unit specifically has been achieving average flying hours per aircraft per day of nearly 10 on peak days since the beginning of August 2020, overall daily tracked flights and hours are still down approximately 55% compared with a year earlier, while roughly 45% fewer aircraft are being tracked daily.

August 11 2020 – Top 20 operators for intra-Asia Pacific international passenger jet flights

Although some Asia Pacific nations such as China have achieved strong recoveries in domestic air operations in the face of the ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic, intra-regional international flights are running at a small fraction of last year’s level.

China Airlines of Taiwan operated by far the highest number of scheduled intra-Asian international passenger jet services on Monday 10th August with just over 40 using 20 different aircraft, which was more than double that of Cathay Pacific in second place. On the equivalent day last year (Monday 12th August 2019) China Airlines flew close to 170 flights using 54 aircraft on such routes, while Cathay performed nearly 140 flights.

Only 11 airlines operated more than 10 intra-regional international services in Asia on 10th August, and United Airlines came in at number three with 15 flights, compared with 21 last year. Singapore Airlines – which has no domestic market to fall back on at its Changi Airport hub – managed only 11 flights using seven aircraft, compared with more than 200 with 76 aircraft on the equivalent day last year.

On Monday 12th August 2019, China Southern was the largest operator of intra-regional international flights with 286, but it completed just four on 10th August 2020. AirAsia was a close second last year but had no tracked international flights on 10th August this year.

August 10 2020 – Percentage of passenger jets in storage continues to fall

Airlines are likely to pass by the end of this week the milestone of collectively holding fewer than one third of their passenger jets in storage as the gradual recovery in global flight operations continues.

Behind this topline figure, narrrowbodies were clearly most in demand as the mainstay of domestic and intra-regional trunk routes, with only 29% of the global fleet remaining inactive. Meanwhile 37% of regional jets and 43% of widebodies are yet to be returned to duty.

As of 10th August Cirium classified a total of 8,750 widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets as having in-storage status, while nearly 17,500 were in service. More than two thirds of the global fleet has been in storage since late March.

By mid-April almost 11,000 single-aisles had been placed into storage, but this figure has since declined to fewer than 5,000 (including nearly 400 still-grounded 737 Max aircraft).

Despite the recovery of in-service numbers, average flight hours per aircraft per day remain well down compared with the equivalent date last year. On Sunday 9th August 2020, Boeing 737s flew an average of 7.22 hours while A320 Family types recorded 7.13, representing declines of 23% and 24% respectively, compared with Sunday 11th August 2019.

Widebody activity continues to be suppressed by Covid-19 related international travel restrictions and extended quarantine requirements.

New daily update for 06/08/2020

Latest tracking data highlights the extent to which the recovery of international passenger markets is being suppressed by cross-border travel restrictions and quarantine requirements, coupled with the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Global scheduled passenger jet flight numbers were down approximately 54% on Wednesday 5th August, compared with Wednesday 7th August 2019. However, domestic flights were down only 41%, compared with a 75% decline for international.

In absolute terms this meant that approximately four fifths of the nearly 42,000 tracked scheduled passenger jet flights that arrived on 5th August were domestic sectors.

Measured by available seat kilometres, international routes registered a 77% decline for 5th August compared with the equivalent day a year earlier, while the capacity drop for domestic was less than 40%.

Among the top five countries for number of domestic flights tracked on 5th August, the recovery was lead by China (down just 8% year-on-year), followed by Russia (-9%) and Japan (-18%). In the USA domestic flights were down by more than 48% and in India by nearly 74%.

New daily update for 05/08/2020

Airbus and Boeing had by 5th August collectively accumulated a backlog of more than 120 passenger jets that had their first flights more than 60 days ago but are yet to be delivered to customers (excluding the grounded 737 Max).

The Coronavirus crisis has presented unprecedented challenges both to the logistics of customer acceptance processes for new aircraft, as well as the ability of airlines to finance unneeded fleet additions in the face of the collapse in passenger revenue.

In 2019, an average of 60 days elapsed between the first flight of an Airbus twin-aisle aircraft and delivery, while the figure was only 24 days for Boeing widebodies. For narrowbodies Airbus registered an average of 17 days last year while Boeing achieved 26 days, prior to the suspension of the Max programme.

Topping the list of non-delivered aircraft so far in 2020 are four Hong Kong Airlines A330-300s which had their first flights between 650 and 900 days ago, in 2018. Vistara meanwhile is yet to receive four 787-9s that flew 300-400 days ago, in the second half of 2019.

The Airbus A320neo Family is the type with the most examples to have slipped beyond the 60-day threshold with more than 50, although by contrast more than 400 737 Max aircraft have flown but are yet to be delivered pending re-certification.

New daily update for 04/08/2020

Domestic trunk routes in South Korea, Japan and China topped the list of city pairs ranked by unidirectional passenger jet seats flown on 3rd August.

Seoul-Jeju saw by far the highest capacity with more than 25,000 seats on more than 130 flights provided in each direction by carriers including Asiana Airlines, Korean Air, Jeju Air, T’way Air, Jin Air, Air Busan and Air Seoul. The fact that capacity for this city pair is significantly higher year-on-year may be indicative of demand for domestic travel increasing in the face of Coronavirus-related international travel restrictions.

The Russian capital Moscow and Simferopol in Crimea were connected by nearly 10,000 available seats in each direction, making this the highest-ranked city pair outside of Asia.

For comparison, the highest-ranked international city pair on 3rd August was London, UK to Malaga in Spain with nearly 2,800 seats and 15 flights in each direction.

New daily update for 03/08/2020

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was visited at least once by 11% of the nearly 2,200 in-service International Aero Engines V2500-powered passenger jets in the seven days from 27th July to 2nd August. Singapore Changi Airport, meanwhile, was the leading location for stored V2500-powered aircraft with 40 out of the total of nearly 900, as of 2nd July.

The top six airports for actively tracked airliners equipped with V2500s were all in the USA, followed by Xi’an Xianyang International Airport in China with just under 190 aircraft tracked. The top 20 storage locations were spread more widely around the globe although US airports still accounted for five of the top 10.

All of the in-service aircraft are Airbus A319s, A320s and A321s, as the 26 remaining V2500-powered Boeing MD-90s are in storage.

Fewer than 1,700 in-service V2500-equipped Airbuses were tracked in flight on Sunday 2nd August – a decline of more than 41% compared with Sunday 4th August 2019. Total flights and hours tracked were down 56% and 58% respectively.

Global passenger jet flights declined on Thursday 30th July compared with the seventh day prior, marking the first week-on-week drop in the daily total since mid-May. The fall was mainly driven by a reduction in flights in North America.

This latest data suggests the global airline industry’s slow recovery from its late-April nadir – when daily tracked flights were down 84% year-on-year – is close to plateauing at a decline of around 56% compared with 2019 levels.

Just under 40,500 flight arrivals were logged by Cirium on 30th July, representing a decline of nearly 0.9% compared with the Thursday of the prior week. When measuring airline flight volumes it is important to compare equivalent days of the week as schedules typically follow a seven-day pattern of peaks and troughs.

The daily rate of recovery in flight volumes had been progressively slowing since 8th July, when the seven-day rolling average increase peaked at approximately 22.5%. This metric fell to below 2% on 30th July.

Despite the week-on-week decline in overall flight numbers for 30th July, Cirium nevertheless recorded a slight increase in the number aircraft tracked in flight, of 0.7%. Total flight hours remained virtually flat.

New daily update for 30/07/2020

The top 10 passenger jet storage locations have all seen modest declines in aircraft numbers between June and July with the exception of Kingman Airport in Arizona, which saw a net increase of two.

More than a third of the aircraft at Kingman are Bombardier CRJ100/200 regional jets operated by Endeavor Air, which are stored alongside additional examples of the type that were previously in service with Delta Air Lines and SkyWest.

ExpressJet Airlines, meanwhile, has parked nearly 40 Embraer ERJ-145s at Kingman.

Cirium classified over 9,100 widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets as having in-storage status as of 30th July, representing just under 35% of the global fleet.

New daily update for 29/07/2020

Having served for many years as the workhorse of intercontinental passenger jet operations for the world’s airlines, the Boeing 777-300ER widebody twin has been heavily impacted by the collapse in demand for international travel due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

While the aircraft offers the largest belly cargo capacity among twinjets, many operators are turning to smaller, latest-generation Airbus A350s and 787s, as their preferred choice for longhaul services during the recovery phase. Cirium classifies 63% of the global 777-300ER fleet as having in-service status – compared with 75% of 787s and 78% of A350s – although the type remains the most populous with more than 800 active.

As of 28th July, daily tracked flights for the 777-300ER were 56% down compared with the 364th day prior, on a seven-day rolling average basis. Flight hours, meanwhile, were down more than 62%.

Emirates maintains the largest fleet of 777-300ERs with 119 in service and four in storage, followed with Cathay Pacific (15 and 35) and Qatar Airways (47 and one).

New daily update for 28/07/2020

Latest tracking data highlights the fragile recovery in scheduled passenger jet flights between the UK and Spain is now under threat following the UK government’s decision to re-impose 14-day quarantine requirements for passengers arriving from the southern European country.

More than 220 scheduled passenger jet flights operated between the UK and Spain on Saturday 25th July, but following the UK’s announcement that evening, just over 180 flights operated on 26th July, and this fell further to fewer than 160 on 27th July. On the equivalent three days a week earlier, 175, 150 and 135 flights operated, respectively.

On a seven-day rolling average basis, flights tracked between the UK and Spain were up 17% as of 27th July, compared with the seventh day prior. However, this metric has shown a clear downward trend for the past seven days.

Ryanair was the leading operator between the two countries on 27th July with approximately 50 flights, followed by Jet2 and EasyJet with nearly 40 each. British Airways flew fewer than 20 services while fellow IAG Group carrier Vueling completed a handful of services.

New daily update for 27/07/2020

Europe’s top five airports for scheduled passenger jet operations have collectively recorded a steady upward trend in activity led by Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG), which had recovered to just over 41% of 2019’s level of daily flights by Sunday 26th July on a seven-day rolling average basis.

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, London Heathrow and Frankfurt had restored scheduled flight arrivals to approximately 36%, 31% and 29% respectively, compared with Sunday 28th July 2019. Moscow Sheremetyevo International Airport, meanwhile, was at 23% of last year’s level.

Across all European airports, just under 2,900 passenger jets were tracked making at least one scheduled landing on 26th July, compared with nearly 6,400 on the equivalent day a year earlier. The vast majority of these were Airbus A320s (more than 1,200) and Boeing 737s (nearly 950), reflecting the faster recovery of domestic and intra-regional services compared with longhaul widebody flights.

Meanwhile, China’s top five airports for scheduled flights (at Guangzhou, Chongqing, Chengdu, Kunming and Shenzhen) recorded passenger jet arrivals for 26th July above 90% of the number seen 364 days prior, underscoring the country’s more advanced recovery from the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

New York and New Jersey continue to lag behind California, Florida and Texas in restoration of passenger jet flights, having suffered the earliest and deepest impacts from the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, in the USA from the end of the first quarter.

Daily passenger jet arrivals at airports in the two East Coast states remained down by approximately two thirds on 23rd July – on a seven-day rolling average basis, compared with the 364th day prior.

Florida, Texas and California reported the highest numbers of new Covid-19 cases in the past seven days, but flight arrivals were down 44%, 43% and 57% respectively on 23rd July.

Rising numbers of Coronavirus cases throughout the USA have led to a levelling off in flight activity since around 12th July. For the USA as a whole, seven-day rolling average tracked passenger jet flight arrivals were down 50% on 23rd July compared with the 364th day prior, while tracked aircraft and flight hours were down 39% and 55%, respectively.

New daily update for 23/07/2020

One of the most important things to note is that none of the Base Value revisions we have made are caused by Covid-19 or the global recession itself. George Dimitroff (Head of valuations, Ascend by Cirium) provides an update on the values changes affecting the A330-200.

A330-200 – Current Base Values were reduced by up to 18% in a permanent impairment. The impairment is due to Market Values underperforming Base Values for more than five years, and some vintages had Market Values as low as 65% of Base Values. The percentage of the impairment is so large that it makes no visible difference. While we have said we are not impairing any types because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is difficult to envision Market Values ever recovering to Base Value levels – if they weren’t able to in the last five years of traffic growth and strong airline performance, then they never will, unless Base Values are adjusted downwards to a more reasonable level. Future Values 10 years out decreased by 13-24% as curves were further steepened. We do believe that the type will remain in service throughout the coming decade and a number will be converted to freighters, but for all this to happen, the market needs to be stimulated with low pricing, which is exactly what is happening at the moment. Full-life Values have also come down by up to 17%, both because of the “half-life” impairment, and also because we discounted LLPs on all three engine types powering the A330 further below OEM list prices, since there is limited demand for them in the secondary market.

A330 ceo and 777-300ER/200LR significant impairment to both current and future values due to Market Values having been below Base for the last 5 years in a strong market. If you are interested in more detail on the 777-300ER/200LR values then you can contact us here.

New daily update for 22/07/2020

Latin America’s largest airlines are experiencing mixed fortunes in their efforts to restore passenger jet operations in the face of the Coronvirus pandemic, latest tracking data shows.

Collectively, Latin American operators flew more than 55% fewer scheduled passenger jet flights on Monday 20th July, compared with Monday 22nd July 2019. Approximately 44% fewer aircraft were tracked in flight and flight hours were down just over 62%.

However daily flights, hours and tracked aircraft all show a gradual, but steady upward trajectory – with seven day rolling average increases of 6.1%, 6.4% and 4.7% respectively for 20th July, compared with the seventh day prior.

Gol, Volaris, Azul, Latam Airlines Brazil and Aeromexico had the largest active passenger jet fleets on 20th July, although a significant proportion of their combined fleets did not fly. Cirium classifies 719 passenger jets as having in-service status with Latin American operators, while 877 are in storage.

New daily update for 21/07/2020

South Africa’s airlines are struggling to build momentum in their efforts to restart passenger services in the face of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, latest fleet and tracking data shows.

Cirium classifies more than three quarters of the 191 passenger jets registered to South African operators as being in storage as of 20th July. Airlink is flying a handful of its Embraer regional jets, while the bulk of Safair’s 18-strong Boeing 737 fleet is seeing regular activity with 15 flights tracked on 19th July.

Flag-carrier South African Airways – which is undergoing a major financial restructuring – is operating just three Airbus A320s and four A340s, having placed 14 single-aisle aircraft and 17 widebodies into storage. However, low-cost subsidiary Mango has nine of its 14 737NGs in service.

Overall, daily flight numbers for South African operators have stabilised at approximately 95% below last year’s levels.

New daily update for 17/07/2020

British Airways’ (BA) decision to end commercial Boeing 747 operations, deals a further blow to prospects of a recovery in market demand for four-engined passenger widebodies – following the dramatic decline in usage of these types since the onset of the Coronavirus crisis.

The world’s airlines logged just 320 flight hours with 32 passenger configured Airbus A340s, A380s and Boeing 747s on scheduled services on Wednesday 16th July 2020 – compared with more than 5,800 hours flown using 423 aircraft on Wednesday 18th July 2019.

Emirates – which has the world’s largest fleet of passenger quadjets, has begun returning some of its 115-strong A380 fleet to service and four of these aircraft were tracked in operation on 16th July. Other major operators including BA, Thai Airways, Korean Air and Singapore Airlines did not fly any of their four-engined widebody types during the seven days prior to 16th July.

Cirium classifies just seven of the global fleet of 239 A380s as having in-service status, while 114 of the 169 remaining A340s are in storage. Meanwhile, 139 of the remaining 170 passenger 747s are parked.

For the first time since May, tracked aircraft, flights and flight hours for US airline-operated domestic passenger services were all down on Wednesday 15th July compared with the seventh day prior.

This apparent slowing of progress in the recovery of US airline operations follows comments by some airlines that rising numbers of Covid-19 cases in many states are impacting on ticket sales and fuelling demand for refunds.

The most recently-released Transportation Security Administration passenger checkpoint processing numbers, meanwhile, show throughput of 540,000 travellers on 14th July, which is more than 100,000 down on the same day in the previous week.

On a seven-day moving average basis, US domestic flights and aircraft flight hours were nevertheless up over 16% on 15th July compared with the seventh day prior, while tracked aircraft were up nearly 10%. However these rolling seven-day averages are now clearly trending downwards as flight activity begins to decline on a day-to-day basis.

Passenger jet aircraft returned to service in the past 24 hours – 34
Percentage of passenger jet fleet stored – 37%

Tracked daily flights of Airbus A320 Family aircraft have more than doubled over the past two months, to around 15,000, while average daily flight hours per aircraft have also increased by around 10% to just over 6.5 hours. More than 4,100 A318s, A319s, A320s and A321s flew at least once on 14th July 2020, compared with just over 2,100 on 15th May.

Flight activity is increasing as airlines begin to restore their domestic and intra-region networks – pushing daily A320 Family flight hours to close to 27,000 on 14th July, which is more than double the figure for 15th May. Although, this total is still down more than 60% compared to the equivalent day a year earlier.

As of 14th July Cirium classified just over 5,800 A320 Family aircraft as having in-service status, while approximately 2,700 remained in storage.

Passenger jet aircraft returned to service in the past 24 hours – 222
Percentage of passenger jet fleet stored – 37%

Airlines are steadily returning passenger jets to service after many thousands of aircraft were parked during the initial peak of the Coronavirus crisis, during March and the first half of April. However, nearly 8,200 narrowbodies and widebodies remain classified as stored (as of Monday 13th July).

Just under 6,000 single-aisle aircraft – equating to 35% of the fleet, are in-active, while 44% of twin-aisles (around 2,200 aircraft) are out of operation.

It is clear that twin-aisle aircraft will be slower to return to service since these aircraft are typically used on long-haul international services, which given travel restrictions and wider economic impacts are expected to be amongst the last route groups to return to pre-Covid demand levels.

The surge in narrowbody return-to-service events in early July coincided with moves by several large European carriers to reinstate substantial numbers of intra-region services.

Passenger jet aircraft returned to service in the past 24 hours – 11
Percentage of passenger jet fleet stored – 38%

The three global airline alliances – Oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance – collectively account for more than half of the world’s air traffic and virtually all of their respective members have been heavily impacted by the Coronavirus-driven collapse in passenger traffic.

Chinese and US carriers accounted for the greatest proportion of passenger flights operated on Wednesday 8th July 2020 within each grouping, while Russia’s S7 flew the second-highest number of services for the Oneworld network.

Cirium tracking data shows that the majority of airlines operated well below half the number of flights they flew on Wednesday 10th July 2019, while many completed just a small fraction of their normal flying programme.

Cirium Core Tracked Utilization

Engine manufacturers together with their associated supply chains and maintenance, repair and overhaul networks are closely monitoring passenger jet return-to-service trends as they attempt to forecast future demand for their products and services.

The CFM International CFM56-7 – as the exclusive powerplant for the Boeing 737NG – is the market leader in terms of overall fleet size. Cirium tracking data shows that more than two thirds of 737NGs flew at least once during the seven days to Tuesday 7th July, equivalent to more than 4,300 aircraft.

The CFM56-5, meanwhile, is the most widely used engine for the Airbus A320ceo family, but relative to the -7 a smaller proportion of aircraft (just over half) with this engine type flew in the seven day period. The International Aero Engines V2500-A5 – as the alternative engine choice for the A320ceo – fared relatively well, with a greater proportion of this slightly smaller fleet seeing active service.

Large turbofans for widebodies – such as the GE Aviation GE90 and Rolls-Royce Trent 700 – equip relatively smaller fleets of aircraft but account for a proportionally greater share of the industry value chain. Utilisation of these engines may recover more slowly as longhaul markets are more exposed to coronavirus-related international travel restrictions.

European airlines are steadily ramping up capacity as many of the region’s governments begin to relax lock-down measures and permit cross-border travel in an effort to stimulate tourist traffic during what remains of the northern hemisphere holiday season.

At the forefront of the recovery drive are low-cost operators EasyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air. Ryanair and Wizz have returned the majority of their aircraft to in-service status although at significantly lower than normal levels of daily utilisation, while EasyJet appears to be flying a smaller proportion of its fleet more frequently.

On Monday 6th July the seven-day rolling average increase in passenger jet flights operated by Europe’s carriers – compared with the seventh day prior – was 70%. However total flights for that day, at fewer than 8,000, were still down by two thirds compared with Monday 8th July 2019.

Looking at aircraft utilisation, nearly 48% of the region’s passenger jets were tracked making at least one flight during the seven days up to and including 6th July, equivalent to just over 3,000 aircraft. With domestic and intra-regional markets leading the recovery, over 52% of narrowbodies saw active service during this period.

New daily update 07.07.2020

The number of passenger jets tracked flying at least once in a 24-hour period has exceeded 50% of last year’s pre-Coronavirus level for the first time since late-March, as airlines around the world make steady progress in restoring flight operations.

More than 10,500 passenger jets saw active service on Friday 3rd July 2020, compared with just under 20,600 on Friday 5th July 2019, marking the first time the 50% milestone had been breached since Tuesday 24th March, according to Cirium tracking sources.

However, despite the fact that more than half as many aircraft as last year are getting airborne on a typical day, their average daily flight hours remain below 6.5, compared with almost 9.9 a year prior. More than 15,600 passenger jets which Cirium classifies as in-service or in-storage were not tracked in the air on 3rd July.

As of Sunday 5th July, the increase in the seven-day rolling average for tracked aircraft compared with seven days prior was 12.4%, bolstered by European carriers including Ryanair and EasyJet which have begun operating several hundred flights per day.

More than half of the world’s Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 widebody passenger jets saw active service for scheduled flights during the seven-day period up to and including 1st July, underscoring how airlines are turning predominantly to latest-generation twinjets as they gradually restore widebody operations.

Over 64% of Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-powered A350s were tracked in flight during the period, together with more than 56% of 787s, which are offered with Trent 1000 or GE Aviation Genx engines.

By contrast, only 7% of four-engined passenger 747s were active, and only 2% of ultra-large A380s. More A380s are expected to return to operation later this month as Emirates begins to re-activate part of its 115-strong stored fleet.

Regarding age profile, significantly fewer than half of all widebodies built in 2015 or earlier flew during the week to 1st July. It remains to be seen how many older twin-aisle aircraft will make it back into service with most recovery scenarios not envisaging a return to 2019 traffic levels before 2023.

Southwest Airlines is quickly ramping up its passenger jet operations in stark contrast to US major rivals American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United, according to latest tracking data.

On Tuesday 30th June, Southwest flew more than 2,600 scheduled passenger flights using nearly 580 aircraft, equivalent to 64% of the volume it completed on the equivalent day a year earlier (Tuesday 2nd July 2019). By this metric, Southwest is ahead of the leading Chinese carrier China Eastern, which had recovered to 63% of last year’s flights total on this date.

Meanwhile, US mainline network carriers American, Delta and United – which have significantly greater exposure to international markets – operated approximately 33%, 29% and 15% of last year’s flight totals on 30th June, respectively.

Southwest has only 82 of its 702 Boeing 737NGs remaining in storage, alongside 34 grounded 737 Max aircraft. It could become the first airline to resume Max operations later this year, pending FAA re-certification of the twinjet.

Average daily flight hours per aircraft for Southwest were just under 7.7 on 30th June, compared with the global average of 6.2 for in-service 737NGs.

It remains to be seen whether Southwest’s momentum will be slowed by the rapidly increasing prevalence of confirmed Covid-19 cases in those US states that serve as its principal markets. In a recent trading update the carrier said it expected its July capacity to be 65-75% of last year’s level with an overall load factor of 45-55%. Operating revenue was projected to be 65-70% down compared with July 2019.

Analysis of latest Transportation Security Administration data by Ascend by Cirium consultancy for the seven days to 28th June showed a US system-wide load factor of approximately 50%, with passenger numbers having increased by 10% compared with the previous week.

Boeing has this week begun re-certification flight tests of the 737 Max having suffered an effective decline in the type’s order backlog which may be as large as one fifth since the beginning of 2020.

The US manufacturer started the year with an unfulfilled Max orderbook of 4,545, having delivered 383 aircraft prior to last year’s worldwide grounding order. However a series of order cancellations since January have reduced the official backlog by close to 7%, to 4,232.

This figure does not yet include the 92 Max cancellations announced by Norwegian earlier this week. Furthermore, an additional 507 aircraft listed in the backlog are classified under the ASC606 international revenue recognition standard, meaning they no longer meet the full criteria for inclusion as a customer commitment.

Excluding these 599 aircraft would leave Boeing with an orderbook potentially as low as 3,725 – almost 18% lower than January’s figure.

Covid-19 has had an unprecedented impact on the aviation market. Prior to this downturn the largest market shift to affect the industry was the 2008 global financial crash. The chart below shows the order of magnitude of difference between these two events. In this snapshot we have solely focused on the number of aircraft classified by Cirium as in service , on order and storage. Although in 2008 there was a reduction in orders that continued throughout 2009 the main difference between the events is the number of aircraft in 2020 that entered storage.

US low-cost carriers Frontier Airlines, JetBlue and Spirit Airlines all operate – among other types – a mix of Airbus A320s and larger A321s. However collectively the latter variant is seeing significantly lower usage with these three carriers compared with the baseline member of the European manufacturer’s single-aisle family, in the face of weak passenger demand.

Frontier has all but eight of its 74 180-186-seat A320s in service, but all 21 of its 230-seat A321s remain in storage. Similarly, Spirit is operating 83 of its 93 A320s, but all but eight of its 30 A321s are stored.

JetBlue, however, is taking a different approach, pressing just below half of its 72-strong A321 fleet into service, alongside nearly half of its 130 A320s.

Frontier and Spirit each operated just over 200 flights with their combined A320/A321 fleets on Saturday 27th June, down 46% and 59% respectively compared with Saturday 29th June 2019. JetBlue completed only 151 flights with these types on 27th June, which represented a 79% decline compared with the equivalent day a year prior.

Average flight hours per aircraft for all three airlines across both aircraft types was 6.5 on 27th June – about five hours below typical levels recorded prior to the onset of the coronavirus crisis.

Snapshot focus: Aviation asset values: George Dimitroff, Head of Valuations, (Ascend by Cirium) provides insight on market value and lease rate changes for the A320-200 (5B/A5) and Boeing 737-800.  Since 1st April our global team of appraisers have gathered more than 200 lines of market intelligence data points for commercial aircraft and engines which are directly related to aircraft sales and / or operating leases. These data points are critical to allow us to make evidence lead Current Market Values changes.

Airbus A320-200 (5B/A5) Market Values decreased by 16% on a fleet weighted average basis, with the largest reduction seen pre-2004 vintages, while younger examples remained at the same level they were in April. The decrease is largely driven by a reduction in CFM56-5B engine values and also airframe values as 40 A320 family aircraft were parted-out in the first quarter and now there is very little demand for the parts.

In comparison Boeing 737-800 Market Values decreased by an average 6%, with the largest declines for pre-2005 vintages due to a feeble part-out market -with airframe parts being in low demand and CFM56-7B engine values having fallen since our last revision in April. Post-2005 vintages remain at the same level as April, for now, as several sale-leaseback transactions affirmed our existing values. However, new deals that are currently in the pipeline suggest that further reductions may be on the way in the coming months. The total value reduction for the 737- 800 since the start of the year, in percentage terms, is now closer to that of the A320 but still not quite as much. We suspect the lack of Max 8 deliveries is one of the factors that has supported values so far… Demand for airframes for freighter conversion also supports residual value, although potential bidders are now aiming for lower price points and younger vintages than before.

Our team of appraisers, including seven with ISTAT and two with ASA certification, sit within our Ascend by Cirium consultancy team. If you want to find out more about aviation asset values  click here.

Cirium classified: passenger jet aircraft returned to service in past 24hrs – 103

Cirium classified: percentage of passenger jet fleet stored – 44%

Central-European low-cost carrier Wizz Air has been quick out of the blocks in relaunching its operations, although its UK division continues to be hampered by its host country’s ongoing 14-day quarantine requirement for arriving passengers.

Wizz Air Hungary is operating more than 200 passenger flights daily using its 96 in-service Airbus A320s and A321s, leaving only 15 in storage. The UK unit meanwhile has seven of its 10-strong fleet in service but is operating just a handful of flights daily.

For the group as a whole, average daily flight hours per aircraft exceeded seven earlier this month, but by 22nd June this had fallen back to just over 6.5.

Cirium Dashboard reported Wizz Air chief executive Jozsef Varadi as saying during a recent World Aviation Festival webinar that the carrier is well positioned to grow its market share as a result of the coronavirus crisis, with plenty of cash on hand. He expects the market for leisure-focused shorthaul point-to-point services to be the among the first to recover as European travel restrictions are progressively lifted.

Wizz took delivery of its first Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-powered A320neo earlier this month, having received its first A321neo in early 2019.

US airlines operated slightly more passenger jet flights than their Chinese counterparts on Sunday 21st June – the first time this has occurred on a daily basis since 4th May. The total for US operators was just above 9,000, while Chinese airlines fell slightly below this level.

These latest tracking figures highlight the trend towards the USA edging slightly ahead of China once again, after May became the first month in aviation history in which Chinese operators flew the most passenger jet services globally.

On a seven-day rolling average basis China is still slightly ahead, but the impact of a further coronovirus outbreak in Beijing has put the country on a slight downward trajectory. US airlines continue to gradually rebuild their operations, although reported coronavirus cases continue to grow in many states.

Comparing year-on-year figures, tracked passenger jet flights for Chinese operators were down 27% on 21st June, compared with a 64% decline for the USA.

However narrowbody passenger jet flights by Chinese airlines were down only 24%, reflecting the relatively faster recovery of domestic and regional operations relative to intercontinental. By aircraft family, the Airbus A320 was down 22% while the 737 was adverse by 27%, with the latter type having been impacted by the suspension of 737 Max deliveries.

By contrast, there were 70% fewer tracked widebody flights by Chinese carriers, comparing 21st June 2020 with Sunday 23rd June 2019.

The global commercial passenger fleet in service figure now stands at 13,994 aircraft. You can view this figure daily and see the specific figures split by aircraft type, owner, manager and operator by subscribing to Cirium’s fleet and analytics platform.

Snapshot focus: Latin America utilization figures

Latin American airlines have generally struggled to make progress in restoring operations since the arrival of Covid-19 decimated their scheduled passenger jet flight activity from late-March.

Tracked flights for the region were down 90% for Saturday 20th June – compared with Saturday 22nd June 2019 – although a gradual improvement in the seven day rolling average daily percentage increase suggests the pace of recovery may gradually be picking up.

Cirium classifies fewer than 600 passenger jets operated by Latin American airlines as having in-service status, meaning that more than 1,000 are in storage. Average daily flight hours per aircraft on 20th June was below six, compared with close to 10.5 in mid-January.

Among the region’s largest players, nearly two-thirds of Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris’ 79 passenger jets were tracked making revenue flights between 14-20 June. However less than 30% of the Latam Airlines Brazil fleet saw activity, and only five of Avianca of Colombia’s 88 aircraft were used for scheduled services during this period.

Ascend by Cirium appraisers report that Current Market Values and Lease Rates are experiencing negative pressure as Covid-19 creates a stress scenario unlike anything previously imagined.

In terms of Current Market Lease Rates, larger single-aisle types such as the Boeing 737-800 and -900ER and Airbus A321 remain relatively unscathed at present, with fleet weighted average declines of around 5% or less since 30th January. However the Airbus A330-200 has suffered a similar drop of nearly 20%.

Complicating the picture is the fact that the demand outlook for this year, 2021 and beyond remains unclear. Realistic recovery scenarios suggest in-service airline fleets will remain below end-2019 levels until 2022 at the earliest.

Airbus and Boeing delivery projections meanwhile are sensitive to a number of key assumptions, but the most pessimistic scenario is consistent with 3,500 single-aisle and 900 twin-aisle deliveries cumulatively through 2023. The same scenario also projects a net 3,000 retirements over the same time period.

A renewed spike in coronavirus cases in Beijing is showing an initial impact on the recovery of passenger jet operations in China, according to latest tracking data.

Cirium recorded a 0.5% decline in tracked scheduled passenger jet flights by Chinese operators for Tuesday 16th June, compared with Tuesday 9th June.

Of the country’s largest carriers, Beijing-based Air China appears impacted most. It operated approximately 730 flights on 16th June, versus nearly 900 on the same day a week earlier.

Meanwhile schedule and status data for yesterday (17th June) for the whole of China showed a total of 2,500 removed or cancelled flights, while just over 9,200 operated. On the equivalent day a week earlier, nearly 400 additional flights were flown while total flights scheduled were roughly the same.

May was the first ever month in which Chinese operators flew more scheduled passenger jet flights than their US counterparts, however current trends suggest this position could be reversed in the coming weeks.

In the past 24hrs Cirium’s data researchers classified an additional 165 commercial passenger jets as in service.

Latest passenger jet flight tracking data shows encouraging initial signs of a pick-up in activity for Western Europe-based operators, led by France, Italy and Germany where travel-related restrictions are being progressively relaxed. However on Monday 15th June, scheduled flights operated for these three countries were still down 85-87% compared with the equivalent day a year earlier.

UK and Ireland-based operators meanwhile continued to lag behind their mainland European peers, with demand suppressed by the requirement for arriving passengers to self-isolate for 14 days. Tracked flights for these two countries were 97% down on last year.

Looking at the seventh-day-prior metric – comparing flights flown on 15th June with Monday 8th June – UK operators lead the way from a very low base with a 67% increase, followed by Germany (52%), France (43%), Ireland (29%) and Italy (19%).

More than half of the world’s passenger jets are now in service according to Cirium’s latest fleet data update. Today’s milestone marks the first time for nearly three months that the proportion of stored aircraft has been below 50%, after this key threshold was originally exceeded in late-March as operators moved to park large numbers of aircraft in the face of collapsing demand.

The impact of the coronavirus crisis peaked in mid-April when we reported nearly two thirds of global passenger jets as stored. Yesterday’s figure was 48.5%, with nearly 13,500 aircraft active and just over 12,700 stored.

However tracked flights by widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets remain down more than 70% compared with last year, while flight hours are down more than three quarters, highlighting that those aircraft that are in service are being utilised at significantly lower rates than normal. The rolling seven-day average daily flight hours per aircraft figure is at just over six, compared with more than nine in early January.

Since Friday 12th June, Cirium’s data researchers have classified an additional 99 commercial passenger jets as in service. The stored fleet figure has reduced from 13,230 t0 13,146 aircraft.

Snapshot focus: Storage locations in Asia-Pacific 

Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport has dropped from first to 10th place in the list of top storage locations for passenger jets in Asia Pacific as India’s airlines begin to rapidly reinstate scheduled flights following an almost complete shutdown.

There are now just over 50 aircraft in storage at the airport, compared with more than 200 at the height of the country’s lockdown in March. Most other Asia Pacific airports have seen declines in storage numbers over the past three months, although at more gradual rates.

India’s largest low-cost carrier IndiGo flew 158 of its aircraft during the seven-day period to 13th June, accounting for approximately two-thirds of its fleet. Air India had 70 active aircraft (56%), Vistara 37 (90%) and SpiceJet 25 (34%).

In total, more than 2,300 passenger widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets remain in storage at 170 locations in Asia Pacific, while the region’s operators have just under 5,800 aircraft in active service.

In the past 24hrs a further 64 commercial passenger jets were classified by Cirium’s data researchers as in service.  The stored fleet reduced by 70 aircraft from 13,300 to 13,230.

Snapshot focus: A320neo vs A320ceo

Cirium tracking data suggests the more fuel-efficient Airbus A320neo is being favoured by airlines over older A320ceo models as we move further towards the recovery phase of the Covid-19 crisis. As of 10th June, daily tracked flights of A320ceos were down roughly 75% year-on-year, whereas A320neo operations were back to 50% of the 2019 level.

It should be noted that the total fleet of in-service and stored A320neos increased from just under 530 in January 2019 to nearly 1,000 by June 2020, whereas the global A320ceo inventory remained roughly constant at a little more than 4,200.

However, Cirium fleet data shows 54% of the A320ceo fleet remains in storage, whereas only 30% of the smaller A320neo fleet is currently inactive.

Between 10th & 11th June an additional  95 commercial passenger jets as in service. The overall share of the global stored fleet reduces  by 99 aircraft to 13,300 and remains in the 51% range of the global fleet.

Snapshot focus: ANA utilization figures 

In our airline overview we focus on the Japanese carrier ANA. The data below is split between their widebody and narrowbody fleet and presents the impact of COVID-19 on their operations.

Prior to the onset of the coronavirus crisis, the airline typically operated nearly 200 daily flights with its Airbus A320s, A321s and Boeing 737NGs.

All of the carrier’s 47 737NGs have been returned to service, while all but four of its 29 Airbus single-aisle aircraft are operational. The widebody picture is more mixed as international travel restrictions persist, with 47 out of 152 Boeing widebody twinjets classified as stored alongside both of the airline’s recently-delivered A380s.

Between the 9th & 10th June Cirium’s data researchers classified an additional  95 commercial passenger jets as in service. The overall share of the global stored fleet reduces to 13,399 and remains in the 51% range of the global fleet.

Snapshot focus: Aviation asset values during COVID-19

Passenger jet values and lease rates will be impacted with more than half of the global fleet in storage following the collapse in traveller demand resulting from the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

Ascend by Cirium frequently reviews values and implements step-changes as the market moves, which means that values do not drop overnight. Indicators that feed into this analysis include part-out values, OEM production rates, used aircraft availability, schedules data for specific aircraft types and asset liquidity.

Base values take a long term view and even if the market takes three or more years to recover from the coronavirus crisis, this is still considered to be a short period relative to the span of the forecast. Ascend by Cirium’s appraisers are monitoring fleet and utilisation data to determine where adjustments may be needed, with certain categories such as end-of-production twin aisle types seen as particularly vulnerable.

Market values and lease rates are meanwhile unsurprisingly generally trending downwards as airlines find themselves with significant excess capacity in the short to medium term.

Between the 8th & 9th June Cirium’s data researchers classified an additional 453 commercial passenger jets as in service. The overall share of the global stored fleet now stands at 13,494, 51% of the overall total.

Snapshot focus: Commercial passenger jets becoming freighters during COVID-19

China Eastern Airlines is leading the charge in deployment of passenger jets with seats removed for cargo services with 13 Airbus A330-200s now operating in this temporary configuration. These aircraft make up around a third of the roughly 40 aircraft that Cirium’s researchers have so far confirmed to have been re-roled in this way globally.

Air China has similarly modified three 777-300ERs, while China Southern is using a pair of A330-300s, Hainan Airlines two A330-300s and Xiamen Airlines four Boeing 737-800s.

Lufhansa Group carriers have also moved to exploit this market niche by reconfiguring five A330-300s (Lufthansa), two 777-200ERs (Austrian Airlines) and a 777-300ER (Swiss). Our data visual shows the number of tracked flights Lufthansa operated using its modified A330s in May.

Using passenger aircraft for main-deck cargo flights has become economically viable for certain routes where there is high demand for transport of goods such as personal protective equipment during the coronovirus crisis.

An increase of 19 commercial passengers jets entering service, presents a minor change to the global in-service fleet.  Please read our Thought Cloud post on the methodologies that our data researchers follow for classifying in-service or in-storage aircraft.

Snapshot focus: Passenger jet order cancellations between 1st March and 8th June 2020

Airbus and Boeing have between them received order cancellations for 301 passenger jets since 1st March – the significant majority comprising leasing company commitments for Boeing 737 Max narrowbodies.

The Max had already been facing commercial headwinds due to the safety-related worldwide grounding order imposed early last year, prior to the collapse in passenger demand triggered by the onset of the Covid-19 crisis.

Boeing announced the restart of 737 Max production late last month, with the total order backlog for passenger versions now standing at 4,248.

Airbus remains relatively unscathed in terms of cancellations so far, although it has suffered the loss of 19 firm twin-aisle commitments, made up of 10 A350s for Latam Airlines Brazil, five A350s for Kuwait Airways and four A330s destined for lessor Avolon.

Also since 1st March, Cirium has recorded 33 delivery deferral announcements encompassing 420 passenger jets, highlighting the challenge faced by airframe manufacturers in rapidly scaling back output in line with sharply reduced airline demand for new aircraft. Meanwhile, in excess of 14,000 passenger jets remain in storage.

In the past 24hrs there was an increase of 146 in-service commercial passenger jets from 12,088 to 12,234 . The stored figures declined from 14,169 t0 14,025.  Since Monday 1st June there has been an increase of 943 commercial passenger jets in-service, a change from 44% to 47% of the global fleet.

Snapshot focus: Utilization trends of in-service aircraft, YOY and 7 day prior 

Average daily flying hours utilisation of passenger jets globally has stagnated at just below six since mid-May, while the number of aircraft tracked continues to grow slowly but steadily.

On Tuesday 3rd of June, Cirium tracked more than 7,000 passenger jets making at least one scheduled flight – the first time this has happened since 1st April. There are however just over 12,000 passenger-configured widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets classified by Cirium as having in-service status, showing that a substantial proportion of the fleet continues to experience regular ‘no-fly’ days.

The low-point for aircraft tracked was 21st April at just over 5,100, with average flight hours at 5. By comparison, on 8th January more than 20,000 passenger jets were tracked and average flights hours per aircraft was 9.3.

Government-imposed travel restrictions and quarantine requirements continue to severely constrain passenger demand in many major markets, although with some regions recording steady declines in Covid-19 cases and related deaths these is increasing optimism that the cross-over point of fewer than half of the global passenger jet fleet in storage will be passed in the coming days.

Snapshot focus: Cirium Expert View Video: The steps to recovery in China

Between the 3rd & 4th June there was an increase from 11,995 to 12,088 commercial passenger jets in-service. The stored figures declined from 14,302 to 14,169. Please note, if as in this case there is a variance between the number of aircraft reentering service and coming out of storage, it can be caused by a range of factors including but not limited to; retirements and new deliveries.

Snapshot focus: sales and lease backs during COVID-19

Increasing numbers of airlines are turning to sale-and-leaseback deals as part of efforts to shore up cash reserves during the coronavirus crisis, and multiple operating lessors have demonstrated their willingness to capitalise on these opportunities since the beginning of March.

Cirium fleet data records 27 sale-leaseback deals having closed for a total of 82 passenger jets since 1st March, the largest being BBAM’s acquisition of 12 Delta Air Lines Airbus A321s. KKR’s investment arm Altitude Aircraft Leasing also picked up six Delta A321s which will be managed on their behalf by Altavair. Southwest Airlines sold 20 of its Boeing 737s, evenly split between Standard Chartered Aviation Finance (10 737-800s) and BOC Aviation (10 Max 8s).

Another Covid-19-driven deal – closed in March – saw BOC Aviation acquire six Cathay Pacific 777-300ERs.

Many more deals are in the pipeline, as reported by Cirium Dashboard. For example, BOC Aviation has agreed transactions for nearly 70 aircraft since the pandemic began, including another 20 American Airlines 787-8s, plus batches of yet-to-be delivered United 787s and 737 Max 9s and Wizz Air A321neos.

Between the 2nd & 3rd June there was an increase from 11,682 to 11,995 commercial passenger jets classified by Cirium as in service. Cirium’s fleets solution consists of data on 400,000+ aircraft, our customers can filter  by but are not limited to operating airline, manager, owner, age, region, lease end dates, MRO contracts and airframe utilization figures. To see the full picture of an asset, clients can choose to merge this information with schedules and aviation asset values. Stay ahead of the curve with Cirium.

Spotlight focus: schedule vs actual flown for Chinese domestic operations

Latest developments in China’s domestic market show how we might expect future schedules to become an increasingly reliable indicator of how many aircraft will actually fly, as air travel markets around the world embark on the road to recovery.

Cirium schedule and flight status data for 2nd June reveals that just over 23% of flights originally timetabled were subsequently removed or operationally cancelled. This compares with the height of the coronavirus crisis impact on 13th February when only 1,812 scheduled flights were operated and 11,294 (86%) were removed or cancelled.

However there is still a significant way to go towards restoring normality. In mid-January, Chinese airlines were operating close to 13,000 flights daily, with the percentage cancellation rate in the low single digits.

Looking at all scheduled services operated by Chinese airlines – including international – tracked flights remain down approximately 30% compared with a year earlier. This nonetheless compares favourably with the USA where tracked flights remain down by almost three quarters.

Cirium’s data researchers classified an additional 391 commercial passenger jets as in-service, taking the overall  percentage up one point to 44% and reducing the stored fleet to 56%.

Snapshot focus: leased fleet in India, South Korea & Vietnam 

Air Lease Corporation’s portfolio of passenger jets placed on operating leases with Indian, South Korean and Vietnamese operators appears to have been proportionally less impacted by the coronovirus crisis compared with rival top five lessors for those countries, based on percentage change in daily flights tracked compared with a year earlier.

However it should be noted that the number of Air Lease aircraft in service or in storage with airlines in these three countries increased from 30 in January 2019 to 40 by May 2020, which at least partially accounts for the number of tracked flights on 31st May 2020 being only about a third down compared with the equivalent day a year earlier.

Avolon has the largest presence in the Indian, South Korean and Vietnamese markets with 84 aircraft placed, while Aircastle, Aviation Capital and BBAM all account for between 40 and 44 aircraft.

The top five airline clients for these five lessors across the three countries are IndiGo (58 aircraft), Vietnam Airlines (28), SpiceJet (26), Air India (21) and AirAsia India (20).

Over the previous weekend, Cirium’s team of data researchers classified an additional 29 commercial passenger jets as in-service, the small increase was not enough to change the overall percentage from 43%. The number of stored aircraft changed from 15,002 to 14,970, 57% of the global fleet and a reduction of 32 commercial passenger jets.

Snapshot focus – airframe utilization figures by operator and aircraft type in New Zealand 

New Zealand presents an interesting case study into how we can expect national aviation markets to begin their recovery phase after a Covid-19 outbreak has been largely brought under control.

Aircraft tracking data for New Zealand operators up to and including Sunday 30th May shows flight activity for regional turboprops trending strongly upwards, closely followed by Airbus A320 Family narrowbodies. Air New Zealand’s widebody twinjet operations, meanwhile, are recovering much more slowly. However it is notable that its comparatively smaller and newer 787-9s have overtaken its 777s in terms of tracked cycles.

These usage patterns are reflective of the expectation that domestic markets will recover first, followed by intra-regional and finally intercontinental.

Overall, New Zealand operators have just over half of their passenger aircraft in service. Flag-carrier Air New Zealand is using more than two-thirds of its 23 De Havilland Dash 8 Q300 turboprops but fewer than half of its 34 A320/A321s.

Its widedody usage is indicative of operational demand for both belly-hold cargo capacity and latest-generation efficiency. All eight of the carrier’s 777-200ERs remain in storage but all seven of its larger -300ERs are in service, while 11 of its 14 787-9s are also performing revenue flights.

Globally Cirium now classifies just under 15,000 passenger jets as stored, representing exactly 57% of the total fleet.

Note: as of today we are making a further adjustment to best reflect the current in service and stored fleets. Aircraft will now be classified as entering storage if any of the following criteria are met: 30 days of continuous inactivity; ferry to a known storage facility; or airline-announced grounding or retirement of aircraft with immediate effect.

Aircraft will now be returned to service if we see at least one flight – or in most cases one pair/set of flights – after a period of storage or inactivity (subject to review by our dedicated research team).

Full details of the revised methodology are available here:

We documented the shut down phase with a rise in stored aircraft from 3,254 aircraft on 19th March to 15,768 on 14/04/2020. Cirium’s team of data researchers have been monitoring the market and classifying aircraft as in-storage based on their strict criteria, read more about their methodology here.

Further analysis pieces on the impact of COVID-19 on the aviation market

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