An Industry in Upheaval
This article was updated on July 31, 2020.
It is difficult to overstate the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on commercial aviation. In the months since the new strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19 first emerged, passenger air travel has come to a near standstill as a result of the need for social distancing and international travel restrictions to contain its rapid spread.
Air carriers around the world are facing extreme financial pressures and are cutting capacity at unparalleled rates in the absence of meaningful passenger demand. Some airlines have shut down completely, a portion of these may never return. There’s an effort to reopen the economy and Transportation Security Administration statistics are showing a slight move upward in the number of travelers screened at airports, but ticket sales took a hit in late June after COVID-19 cases surged in the United States.
To get an overview of how the industry is faring, our Aviation Market Intelligence team is busy integrating the fleet groundings, aircraft retirements, new production rates, and other announcements to ensure updated information is available. This webpage includes our update as of July 31, 2020.
Aircraft Return To Service But Who's Flying?
This is the July 31 update on the Oliver Wyman Global Fleet and MRO Forecast for 2020-2030.
Thanks to the relentless coronavirus pandemic, airlines still face challenges from a patchwork economic recovery. One of the biggest is deciding how much capacity to bring online. After pulling almost 70 percent of the global fleet out of service between January and early April, carriers now may be erring on the other side — putting too many planes back online before reliable demand materializes.
For airlines in Asia, adding back aircraft reflects developing demand for domestic travel. But putting planes back into service isn’t always tied to demand. For a few airlines, the decision to boost capacity reflects efforts to grab market share during this precarious period. And for many others, bringing back older planes allows them to defer, or even cancel, new aircraft orders and save precious cash.
Reading the direction of the market correctly is trickier than ever, with new COVID-19 outbreaks in regions where the virus was believed contained and with large economies considering new restrictions. In the United States, the recent re-opening of economies in Southern and Western states led to a surge in COVID-19 cases — even greater than what was experienced in April. What people expected to kickstart growth ended up putting the brakes on the early stages of a recovery in air travel demand. In mid-June — normally the early days of a busy summer travel period — US ticket sales dipped in response to surging numbers of COVID cases in several large states. This reversed some gains made earlier in the spring. By mid-July, sales were 81 percent down from the same week in 2019.
As of July 10, the global in-service fleet stood at about 19,200 aircraft versus the peak of almost 28,000 in early January — before the world became aware of COVID-19. That new fleet total reflects decisions by airlines to bring back some 9,800 planes in late spring when many believed the world might be out of the woods on the pandemic. At its worst, the fleet had been pared down to 12,724 planes, while over 18,000 had been sent to storage over a period of only a few months.
Keeping score on planes in and out of storage
Source: Oliver Wyman Global Fleet and MRO Market Forecast, 2020-2030, Revised
Given that some regions of the world have been emerging from the COVID-19 curse sooner than others, their airlines have been more aggressive restoring planes to service. For instance, in response to rising domestic air travel numbers, Chinese airlines have put back into service 91 percent of the aircraft they sent to storage, meaning the fleet is quickly approaching pre-COVID levels. But while demand has revived, there are new viral outbreaks that the Chinese government will have to contain to keep business growing.
In contrast, North America — a region that has not contained the virus yet — has restored only 46 percent. Even so, the region’s aircraft are seeing very low utilization, given the uncertain conditions and sporadic demand.
Most aircraft returning to service are narrowbodies. This reflects their current popularity with airlines because of cost efficiency. They also tend to dominate domestic travel, which is the first market segment that is showing signs of recovery. In contrast to widebodies, there have also been significantly fewer announcements on early narrowbody retirements by airlines.
But with all these planes moving back into service, where’s the demand. Based on Oliver Wyman modelling, domestic air travel won’t match 2019 levels until mid-2022. International travel is not expected to match 2019 totals until mid-2023.
Read the full article on why aircraft is being pulled back into service in Forbes. Click here.
AN UPDATE ON MRO SPENDING
Bottom line: The outlook is better with 2020 spending on maintenance, repair, and overhaul now expected to reach $50.3 billion, that represents 55 percent of the $91.2 billion that was expected pre-COVID. In May, the outlook for spending was only $42.7 billion.
MRO spend will be 45 percent less than what was expected US$ billions
Note: Forecast updated as of April 28, 2020
Source: Oliver Wyman analysis; Baseline scenario
To supplement the 2020-2030 Global Fleet & MRO Market Forecast Update, our COVID-19 impact interactive dashboard provides users with the ability to explore the near-term impact of COVID-19 on MRO demand in a deeper fashion. Both dashboard views include a summary table that quantifies the updated MRO forecast and the corresponding impact.
The dashboard is amended weekly based on new developments and insights and compares the original MRO forecast, released in February 2020, to an adjusted forecast baseline. As a result of new information to include more airline capacity reductions and revised OEM production announcements, the adjusted forecast baseline in the dashboard may vary from the baseline in the article above as data have changed since the article was published.
Within the dashboard, there are two tabs. One view shows the impact of COVID-19 by MRO segment and aircraft class with the ability to filter by region, allowing users to identify the most affected segments and classes within each region. An additional view focuses on the regional breakdown of the MRO impact with the ability to filter by class.
Please reach out to AviationMarketIntelligence@oliverwyman.com with any questions or customized impact requests and check the dashboard for updates to the forecast each week.