Air operations

Top 5 ways to monitor an airline’s fleet — A look at British Airways

April 14, 2021

Cirium data experts have outlined five key methods to monitor airline fleets with accurate fleet data and advanced analytics.

Monitoring an airline’s fleet has never been as critical as it now. Over the past 12 months, commercial aircraft in-service figures have fluctuated from approximately 26,000, down to lows of 8,000 in 2020.  Recovery from COVID-19 is on the horizon and the fall out from the pandemic will impact the future make up of the fleets of many airlines.

Let’s review the five key methods Cirium data experts have identified, so aviation professionals stay ahead of the curve by using accurate fleet data and advanced analytics.

One: Track the status

On 30th March 2021, 26,392 commercial aircraft were registered in Cirium’s Fleets Analyzer either in service or storage. The pandemic has led to airlines removing and re-introducing aircraft on a frequent basis to adapt with changing passenger demand – often influenced by government restrictions. From the before mentioned 26,392 (30/03/21) commercial aircraft, 8,213 or 31% were classified by Cirium as in-storage.

To effectively analyze an airline, more detailed information is required. Below, the British Airways (BA) fleet is outlined by Cirium Profiles.

The widebody fleet figures indicate that BA is opting to use newer more fuel efficient aircraft such as the 787-8, 787-9 and A350-1000 over the larger A380 and older 777-200.

Two: Analyze the age of a fleet

Cirium Profiles analysis shows that on the whole airlines are opting to operate younger aircraft. However, the A380 is the exception to this rule and is in-storage due to the cost of operating a four-engine aircraft that is often configured with over 500 seats.

British Airways has opted to keep all 14 A320neo aircraft in service with a mean age of 2 years old.

In contrast, the BA A320-200 fleet has a mean age of 14.6 years, with a large cluster of aircraft older than 18 years and more than 50% of these A320-200 aircraft are in storage.

Three: Understand ownership status


The financing of an airline is often not known by the end traveler. However, it is a critical component for aerospace, leasing and banking.

In Cirium’s Profiles tool, users can view the breakdown of an airline’s fleet by operating lease, finance lease, encumbered owner operator and unencumbered owner operator.

Four: Assess the lessor market share

It is very common for large commercial airlines, such as British Airways, to work with multiple leasing organizations. It is important that leasing companies spread their fleets across airlines to mitigate financial risks if an airline defaults on payments due to financial difficulties.


Cirium’s Profiles shows that British Airways, as of 30/03/2021, worked with 23 known lessors and 1 unconfirmed leasing organization.

There have been several significant airline failures in 2020 due to the global pandemic and financial analysts and MRO companies should actively monitor the percentage split between aircraft owned by an airline vs leased.

Airlines that own aircraft could opt to generate capital through sale/lease back agreements and a number of these transactions have occurred due to the pandemic.

Five: View the high level summary of a fleet

In summary, interpreting specific fleet data in isolation will make it difficult to spot important trends for an airline. The critical story is often found when data are fused together to show the comprehensive makeup of an airline’s operations. The below image shows an overview of the British Airways fleet on 30/03/2021. This is perfect for displaying in company presentations and including figures within RFP responses.


Cirium Profiles provides accurate airline fleet data for more than 1600 operators. With Cirium Profiles, aviation professionals can respond to market developments quickly. Profiles data ensures there’s never a knowledge gap when working with an airline. Find out more.

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