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OVERVIEW OF AIRLINE FLEET OWNERSHIP STRUCTURE

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Airlines have recorded a significant increase in aircraft leases in recent years. In order to respond to market changes and offer corresponding capacity as promptly as possible airlines need flexible fleet. Flexibility which aircraft leases provide has motivated the authors to analyse fleet ownership structure. This paper gives an overview of airline fleet ownership structure, underlining differences that depend on business model, geographic distribution and alliance membership of large (more than 100 aircraft), medium (from 50 to 99 aircraft) and small (less than 50 aircraft) airlines. The analysis has shown that large airlines have a small percentage of leased aircraft, and vice versa, small airlines have a large percentage of leased aircraft. Moreover, it is noted that North American airlines have, in general, a smaller percentage of leased aircraft, and that membership in an alliance does not affect the fleet ownership structure.
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OVERVIEW OF AIRLINE FLEET OWNERSHIP STRUCTURE
Slavica Dožić*, Radovan Krnić
University of Belgrade – Faculty of Transport and Traffic Engineering, 305 Vojvode Stepe Street, Belgrade,
Serbia
*Corresponding author, e-mail: s.dozic@sf.bg.ac.rs
Abstract: Airlines have recorded a significant increase in aircraft leases in recent years. In order to respond
to market changes and offer corresponding capacity as promptly as possible airlines need flexible fleet.
Flexibility which aircraft leases provide has motivated the authors to analyse fleet ownership structure. This
paper gives an overview of airline fleet ownership structure, underlining differences that depend on business
model, geographic distribution and alliance membership of large (more than 100 aircraft), medium (from 50
to 99 aircraft) and small (less than 50 aircraft) airlines. The analysis has shown that large airlines have a
small percentage of leased aircraft, and vice versa, small airlines have a large percentage of leased aircraft.
Moreover, it is noted that North American airlines have, in general, a smaller percentage of leased aircraft,
and that membership in an alliance does not affect the fleet ownership structure.
Keywords: aircraft lease, low-cost airlines, full service airlines, geographic distribution, alliance membership
1. INTRODUCTION
Constantly changing global airline market forces airlines to improve their levels of service in order to retain or
even to strengthen the existing position. Nonetheless, airlines need to consider both passengers’ and their
own interests. They also need to satisfy different operational requirements and to make profit. Whereas the
growth in air travel passenger demand (according to the International Air Transport Association IATA) is
expected to more than double in the next two decades with a 3.8% average annual growth (2014 baseline
year), airlines need to adjust the capacity they offer. In order to accommodate rising demand, changes in
fleet size/structure are needed. Therefore, airlines may need to acquire an aircraft.
According to Holloway (2008), there are two main reasons for aircraft acquisition: replacement of existing
capacity and capacity growth. An aircraft should be replaced because of inappropriate characteristics, and
more effective aircraft which will have the same mission should be placed in the fleet. Capacity growth could
be growth within the existing network driven by the increase of demand. Moreover, growth could be induced
by introducing a new service such as, for example, long haul or ultra-long haul routes. An airline can use
different sources to finance an aircraft acquisition. Aircraft acquisition can be financed from the airline’s own
internal funds, or mixed internal funds and debt; furthermore, leasing options, which are the focus of this
paper, could be used.
Air travel demand is directly affected by permanently varying conditions in the airline market. In order to
respond to these changes and offer corresponding capacity as promptly as possible airlines need flexible
fleet. With flexibility being an important issue, aircraft lease appears to be a suitable option for airlines.
Whereas decisions related to aircraft lease are financial and connected to the airline policy, it is not
surprising that appropriate data are, usually, unavailable. The airlines’ reluctance to share their data limited
our work to an overview, rather than modelling. Hence, the purpose of this paper is to review and analyse
airline fleet ownership structure, namely to indicate the share of owned and leased aircraft in the airlines’
fleet. Airlines included in the analysis are seated in different regions and have different business models. We
distinguished between low-cost and full service airlines on the European and American market. Whereas
most airlines tend to join an alliance, we found it reasonable to analyse fleets of member airlines.
After the introduction, literature review and the main definitions are given. The third section presents an
overview of leased fleet depending on airline business model and geographic distribution. Finally, the last
section points out concluding remarks and paper contributions.
2. LITERATURE REVIEW
Although available airline data related to financial information is rather limited, certain researches have been
conducted and presented in the academic literature. Vargas and Saaty (1981) apply the Analytic Hierarchy
Process (AHP) to structure the problem and decide whether to lease or buy fleet in industry as a whole (not
specifically for the airline industry). They suggest that, apart from economic factors that affect the final
decision, non-economic factors such as company image, comfort and performance need to be considered
because of their impact on the final decision. Oum et al. (2000) focus on operational effects of aircraft leasing
rather than on financial implications. They indicate that for an airline which needs additional capacity leasing
of aircraft represents a better option than buying, because a large leasing company can provide aircraft in
short time periods and at lower prices than the manufacturers. Furthermore, they point out that an operating
lease gives airlines the flexibility to accommodate their fleet as air travel demand changes, in order to adjust
their capacity and demand. The authors develop a model which offers optimal share of owned-leased aircraft
in the fleet, considering that air travel demand is uncertain and cyclical. Empirical results based on the data
from 23 leading airlines indicate that optimal share of leased aircraft would be in the range between 40% and
60%. Gibson and Morrell (2004) indicate the advantages of operating lease over purchasing of an aircraft
and, also, emphasize the issue of fleet flexibility provided by operating leases. They observe that airlines use
operating leases for flexibility when adopting a new aircraft type.
Financial decisions should be made depending on airline’s finances, its credit rating, as well as market
conditions and global economy. In downturns of the economy, aircraft lease is a better option compared to
buying the aircraft (Vasigh et al., 2012). However, financial decisions are not subject to long-term planning
and should be made when acquisition procedure starts. It is noticeable that airlines operating the same
market with the same business model have different shares of leased and owned aircraft (Mancilla, 2010),
i.e. the ownership structure is not dependant on the fact whether the airline is full service or low-cost, as well
as on geographic distribution.
Different researchers deal with optimization problems in order to help airlines make the right decision at the
right time. They answer the question when an airline should be purchased, leased or retired. Hsu et al.
(2011) propose a stochastic dynamic programming approach to aircraft replacement scheduling. The model
is used to optimise airline’s decisions related to purchasing, leasing or disposing of aircraft over time. The
model was applied to an airline in Taiwan, and showed a growing interest for leasing over buying, especially
in the time of severe demand fluctuations. Bazargan and Hartman (2012) propose a binary-integer
programming model that minimizes total discounted costs over the planning horizon. The model is used for
strategic fleet planning to help airline planners decide how many aircraft should be bought, leased and sold
in the time period considered. After applying the model to two US airlines with different business models (full
service and low cost) and after analysing the results obtained, the authors conclude that the solutions are
similar for both business models. The recommendations they arrive at are the following: a new aircraft is
favoured both for leasing and buying, short term leases are preferable, aircraft older than 12 years should be
sold, fleet diversity is not encouraged, and leasing is a preferable option in comparison with buying. Analysis
of airlines also shows that low-cost carriers have greater percentage of leased aircraft in comparison with the
full service airlines, which is in contrast to previous research (Mancilla, 2010).
In view of the relevant literature cited above, one can conclude that aircraft lease has been playing a greater
role in recent years in the airline market, which has motivated the authors to research it. Before the overview
of airline fleet ownership structure is presented, it is necessary to give certain definitions related to aircraft
lease and airline business models.
2.1. Main definitions
An aircraft lease will be defined as a contract whereby the owner of an aircraft (the lessor) grants to another
party (the lessee) the exclusive right to the use of the aircraft for an agreed period, in return for the periodic
payment of rent (the fee) (Morrell, 2013). Essentially, there are two basic forms of aircraft leasing, operating
and financial. Wet, dry, cross-border and sales/lease back are forms of leasing which can be arranged
through operating and finance agreements.
According to Morrell (2013), a finance or capital lease is an agreement signed for the period between 10 and
26 years, which means that it is a long term agreement. The lessee cannot cancel the financial lease or can
do it only with a major penalty. In this arrangement the airline (lessee) enjoys some of the benefits and faces
some of the risks of ownership. In contrast, the operating lease is a shorter term agreement (usually between
one and seven years, or an average of five years), whereby the lessee can cancel the agreement and return
the aircraft to the lessor without major penalty (Vasigh et al., 2012). Because of its flexibility, the operating
lease is a common option for airlines. This statement is confirmed by the Boeing Capital Corporation, which
indicates that the percentage of active global commercial aircraft fleet under operating leases has grown
faster in recent years. Considering the period from 1980 to 2014, the increase from less than 2% in the 80s,
to approximately 40% by 2014, has been recorded. It is forecasted that operating leasing will account for
50% of the in service fleet by the end of this decade.
With regard to airline business models, in this paper we distinguish two of them: full service and low-cost. A
full service airline is “an air carrier, typically a traditional national or major carrier that operates on a relatively
extensive route network (thus also referred to as a network carrier) and provides a full range of services
including different seating classes, in-flight entertainment, meals and beverages, on-board store, and ground
facilities such as waiting lounges for premium class passengers or frequent flyer programme members”
(ICAO, 2004). According to this document, a low-cost airline is defined as “an air carrier that has a relatively
low-cost structure in comparison with other comparable carriers and offers low fares and rates”.
The following section gives an analysis of airline fleet ownership structure. Due to unavailability of the
corresponding data, the above defined leasing forms will not be separately presented. Hence, we will
analyse the ownership structure regarding the number/percentage of leased aircraft in total.
3. ANALYSIS OF AIRLINE FLEET OWNERSHIP STRUCTURE
From the supply side, lessors (leasing company) offer their aircraft (capacity) in the market, where airlines
appear on the demand side as players who need additional capacity. Whereas air travel demand is mainly
influenced by economic factors such as gross domestic product (GDP), and air travel demand further
influences aircraft demand, it is expected that the shape of GDP curve is very similar to the shape of lease
rentals of the leading leasing companies (BBAM, AerCap, AWAS). According to the World Bank’s (2016)
definitions, GDP is the sum of gross value added by all resident producers in the economy plus any product
taxes and minus any subsidies not included in the value of the products, while GDP per capita is gross
domestic product divided by midyear population. Our findings (Figure 1) confirmed this statement, with
significant values of coefficients of correlations between GDP and lease rentals by leasing companies
BBAM, AerCap, AWAS given respectively: r
GDP, BBAM
= 0.83, r
GDP, AerCap
= 0.72, r
GDP, AWAS
= 0.82.
7300
7400
7500
7600
7700
7800
7900
8000
8100
0
500
1000
1500
2000
2500
3000
3500
4000
Milions of US$
BBAM AerCap AWAS GDP per capita
Figure 1: GDP per capita and lease rentals by leasing companies BBAM, AerCap and AWAS
(GDP data source: http://knoema.com/mhrzolg/gdp-statistics-from-the-world-
bank?country=Europe%20%26%20Central%20Asia%20(all%20income%20levels); lease rental data source: Annual reports 2006-2014)
It should be noted that the global economic downturn characterized by the lowest value of GDP per capita in
the year 2009 is not accordingly followed by lease rentals (Figure 1). This exception can be explained by the
fact that aircraft lease is a preferable option for airlines in downturns of the economy (Vasigh et al., 2012)
because it enables desirable flexibility. It is worth noting that lessors belong among the airline industry sector
which achieved returns above the cost of capital, and they take the second place (after Computers
Reservation Systems – CRS) when it comes to return of invested capital (Pearce, 2012). Also, more
developed countries with higher value of GDP usually have better credit rating, which enables airlines from
these countries to obtain favourable credits for buying aircraft.
3.1. Fleet ownership structure depending on airline business model
This sub-section analyses ownership structure of airline fleet depending on airline business model and
geographic distribution. With regard to airline business models, as it is noted above, we analysed full service
and low-cost airlines. With regards to geographic distribution, we examined European as well as North
American airlines. The analysis is performed as follows.
Considering European full service airlines (35 airlines), it can be noted that airlines have different fleet sizes.
In order to analyse airline fleet ownership structure, airlines were divided according to total fleet size into
three categories: large (more than 100 aircraft), medium (from 50 to 99 aircraft) and small (less than 50
aircraft).
57
216
141
55
196
80 71
499
276
199
216
58
70 31
0
100
200
300
400
500
600
Lufthansa
Group
IAG Air France-
KLM
Turkish
Airlines
Aeroflot
Group
SAS Group Alitalia
Number of leased aircraft Number of owned aircraft
Figure 2: Fleet ownership structure: large European full service airlines
(Data source: https://www.planespotters.net/airlines)
It was determined that large airlines (seven airlines) had a smaller percentage of leased aircraft (Figure 2).
The exception, i.e. large percentage of leased aircraft (77%) in the case of the Russian airline Aeroflot group,
can be explained by the political situation in Russia. Namely, taxes for owning an aircraft of non-Russian
production are very high. In order to avoid this payment, Aeroflot group founded a leasing company in
Bermuda. This group bought and registered aircraft in Bermuda, and then, leased aircraft by itself. Alitalia is
the airline with the smallest number of aircraft among these seven airlines (Figure 2) and the credit rating in
Italy, according to Trading Economics, is recognized as lower medium grade, which could explain the large
percentage of leased aircraft (70%). The smallest percentage of leased aircraft can be seen in the case of
Lufthansa Group (10%), and it represents the policy of the Group. The total fleet of large European airlines
consists of 2165 aircraft, and 38% of them are leased (on average, 45% of the fleet per airline is leased).
Among 35 European full service airlines, there are only four medium size airlines. The percentage of leased
aircraft in their fleets varies from 39% to 78%. The total fleet of medium European airlines comprises of 235
aircraft, and 62% of them are leased (on average, 62% of the fleet per airline is leased).
Within small European airlines (24 airlines), as shown in Figure 3, the share of leased aircraft in total fleet is
wide-ranging, from 0% to 100%. Three airlines have completely leased fleets, but there are also two airlines
with completely owned fleets. Whereas Ural and Nordwind Airlines are Russian airlines, the fleets of which
consist of aircraft produced by Airbus and Boeing, it is not unexpected that whole fleets are leased (the
reason is the political situation, as in the case of Aeroflot). Air Malta is an airline registered in the country with
lower medium grade credit rating (Trading Economics), which could be used as an explanation. The reason
why TAROM has no leased aircraft in its fleet could be the majority ownership by the state. Luxair, on the
other hand, is an airline from the country with a stable economy and prime credit rating (Trading Economics),
hence it could afford to buy an aircraft. Total fleet of small European airlines includes 627 aircraft, and 59%
of them are leased (on average, 61% of the fleet per airline is leased).
100 100 100 97
90 89
85 85 83 80 77
65 63
58 56 53 50
42
25 24
18 16
0 0
0
20
40
60
80
100
%
Figure 3: Percentage of leased aircraft in fleets: small European full service airlines
(Data source: https://www.planespotters.net/airlines)
Upon summarizing all leading European airlines (including small, medium and large airlines) considered in
this analysis, it has been calculated that the percentage of leased aircraft ranges from 0% to 100%. Their
fleets consist of 3027 aircraft in total, and 44% of them are leased (58% per airline on average).
In the case of the seven leading North American full service airlines, certain regularities can be observed.
Actually, large airlines (five airlines), lease less than half of their fleet (Table 1). Total fleet comprises of 2814
aircraft, and 25% of them are leased (on average, 25% of the fleet per airline is leased). The remaining two
airlines have different fleet sizes (one medium and one small fleet) and different percentages of leased
aircraft in their fleets, as well.
Table 1: Fleet ownership structure – North American full service airlines
Airlines
Number of aircraft in
the fleet
Number of leased
aircraft
Percent of leased
aircraft
American Airlines 944 397 42
Delta Air Lines 823 97 12
United Airlines 720 110 15
Air Canada 164 77 47
Alaska Airlines 163 13 8
Aeroméxico 63 45 71
Hawaiian Airlines 48 16 33
(Data source: https://www.planespotters.net/airlines)
The leading full service airlines in the world, as shown in Figure 4, own more than a half of their fleets.
Hence, we can agree that these airlines do not favour leasing as an aircraft financing option. Each of these
airlines (19 airlines, from different regions in the world) has a large fleet consisting of more than 100 aircraft.
Their percentages of leased aircraft range from 3% (All Nippon Airlines - ANA) to 47% (Air Canada). Their
fleets consist of 7137 aircraft in total, and 26% of them are leased (26% per airline on average).
397
97 110 57 159 216 84 73 141 102 55 66 113 677 19 22 30 34
547
726 610
499 346 276
330 283 199 229 216 199 137
199 87 135 101 91 69
0
200
400
600
800
1000
Number of leased aircraft Number of owned aircraft
Figure 4: Fleet ownership structure: the world’s leading full service airlines
(Data source: https://www.planespotters.net/airlines)
In the case of the 13 European low cost airlines (Figure 5), we can observe three large airlines. Two of them
(Ryanair and EasyJet) have small percentages of leased aircraft (similar to any large airline), while this
percentage in Vueling is high. This “irregularity” could be explained by the credit rating of the originating
country. According to Trading Economics, the United Kingdom has the prime credit rating and Ireland has
upper medium grade credit rating, which enables Ryanair and EasyJet to buy aircraft. Spain is ranked as a
country with the lower medium grade credit rating, which therefore resulted in favouring lease options over
buying (Vueling). Total fleet of the large low-cost airlines includes 661 aircraft, and 28% of them are leased
(on average, 42% of the fleet per airline is leased). Percentages of leased aircraft in the six medium size
European low-cost airlines vary from 18% to 98%. Their fleets consist of 395 aircraft in total, and 47% of
them are leased (on average, 45% of the fleet per airline is leased). Small European low cost airlines lease
large percentages of aircraft. Eurowings, an airline fully owned by Lufthansa, is an exception, which is
expected because it is Lufthansa’s policy is to buy aircraft. Their fleets include 7137 aircraft in total, and 67%
of them are leased (on average, 68% of the fleet per airline is leased).
Percentage of leased aircraft in the European low-cost airlines, including small, medium and large low-cost
airlines, ranges from 13% to 100%. Their fleets consist of 1156 aircraft in total, and 38% of them are leased
(51% per airline on average).
43 51 91 44 34 65 16 16 10 26 714 20
294
171 11
38 34
1
46 45 46 719 70
0
100
200
300
400
Number of leased aircraft Number of owned aircraft
Figure 5: Fleet ownership structure: leading European low-cost airlines
(Data source: https://www.planespotters.net/airlines)
With regard to share of leased aircraft in the total fleet of low-cost carriers in North America, it is observed
that large airlines have smaller percentages of leased aircraft and vice versa, small airlines have larger
shares of leased aircraft (Table 2). The three large low-cost airlines have a total fleet of 1051 aircraft and
17% are leased (24% per airline on average). The six medium low-cost airlines have a fleet consisting of 403
aircraft in total and 61% are leased (on average, 64% per airline). The total fleet of the ten low-cost airlines
consist of 1495 aircraft, 30% of which are leased (on average, 51% per airline).
Table 2: Fleet ownership structure – North American low cost airlines
Airlines
Number of aircraft in
the fleet
Number of leased
aircraft
Percent of leased
aircraft
Southwest Airlines 716 86 12
JetBlue 217 54 25
WestJet 118 40 34
Allegiant Air 86 4 5
Spirit Airlines 80 57 71
Virgin America 60 50 83
Volaris 59 55 93
Frontier Airlines 59 54 92
Interjet 59 25 42
Air Canada rouge 41 22 54
(Data source: https://www.planespotters.net/airlines)
86 43 51 54 104 40 50 70 444 57 134 65 16 50 13 32
630
294
171 163 38 78 63 35 82 38 23 79 34 145 10 43 18
0
100
200
300
400
500
600
700
800
Number of leased aircraft Number of owned aircraft
Figure 6: Fleet ownership structure: world’s leading low-cost airlines
(Data source: https://www.planespotters.net/airlines)
We can distinguish between eight large and ten medium low-cost airlines among the leading low-cost airlines
in the world, as shown in Figure 6. Percentage of leased aircraft in large airlines ranges from 12% to 73%.
Their fleets consist of 1970 aircraft in total, and 25% of them are leased (on average 36% per airline). The
percentage of leased aircraft in medium airlines ranges from 1% to 98%. Total fleet of medium airlines
encompasses 689 aircraft and 46% of them are leased (in average per airline 48%). Bearing in mind the
analysis performed, it can be noted that an airline’s business model does not play a significant role in the
fleet ownership structure. Both full service and low-cost airlines have similar percentages of leased fleet,
which mostly depend on fleet size.
With regard to geographic distribution of airlines and all the above, slight differences between European and
North American airlines can be observed. The European airlines prefer to lease aircraft more than the North
American ones. In the European full service airlines’ fleet, 44% of aircraft are leased compared to 26% in
North American fleet, while in the European low-cost airlines’ fleet 38% of aircraft are leased compared to
30% in the North American ones.
3.2. Fleet ownership structure depending on alliance membership
Whereas airlines tend to join some of the global alliances, it is interesting to analyse fleet ownership structure
of airlines that are members of alliances. Star Alliance, SkyTeam and OneWorld are the largest alliances;
therefore, we studied fleet ownership structure of their members.
Star alliance has 27 member airlines. The alliance’s fleet comprises of 3589 aircraft in total, and 28% of the
fleet is leased. Large member airlines (11 airlines) have a smaller percentage of leased aircraft (27% on
average). The exception is Avianca, the Colombian national airline (60% of the fleet is leased). It could be
explained by the credit rating of this country (lower medium grade). When it comes to airlines with medium
size fleets (11 airlines), ownership structure is diverse. Small airlines’ fleets (5 airlines) have larger
percentages of leased aircraft in their fleets than the airlines with large fleets. Ownership structure of the Star
Alliance member airlines fits very well with the pattern of fleet ownership structure observed in the case of
European and North American airlines, as previously described. SkyTeam alliance has 18 member airlines.
The alliance’s fleet comprises of 2932 aircraft in total, and 36% of the fleet are leased. It is worth noting that
ownership structure of these airlines does not fit well the previously described pattern of fleet ownership
structure. There are three exceptions among nine airlines with a large fleet (Aeroflot, Garuda Indonesia and
Alitalia). Oneworld alliance has 14 member airlines. The alliance’s fleet comprises of 2575 aircraft in total,
and 38% of the fleet are leased. Out of eight large member airlines, Airberlin is the one that does not fit the
observed pattern.
It is worth noting that none of the airlines which are members of an alliance has a completely leased fleet.
The maximum percentage of leased aircraft in their fleets is 90%. Also, it can be observed that the
membership in an alliance does not affect the fleet ownership structure.
3.3. Fleet ownership structure
Apart from the analysis presented in the previous sub-sections, we extended the list of analysed airlines to
airlines operating on the domestic market (Nikola Tesla Airport, Belgrade), as well as to additional leading
airlines in the world (132 airlines in total). The set of 132 airlines encompasses all airlines, irrespective of
their business models. In this set of airlines there are 43 large (Table 3), 37 medium, and 52 small airlines
(Table 3). Summarizing all data, we established that 77% (33 airlines) of large airlines leased less than a half
of the fleets; 51% (19 airlines) of medium and 69% (35 airlines) of small airlines leased more than a half of
their fleets.
Table 3: Ownership structure – key indicators
Airlines’ size Number of
airlines
Total number of
aircraft
Total number of
leased aircraft
Total
percentage of
leased aircraft
percentage of
leased aircraft
Large 43 11603 3484 30 36
Medium-large 15 1244 454 36 37
Medium-small 22 1295 754 58 58
Small 52 1240 770 62 63
(Data source: https://www.planespotters.net/airlines)
Considering the set of medium size airlines, it was noticed that by dividing medium airlines into two sub-sets,
medium-large (from 75 to 99 aircraft in the fleet, 15 airlines) and medium-small (from 50 to 74 aircraft in the
fleet, 22 airlines), certain similarities with the small and large airlines could be observed (Table 3). Namely,
medium-large airlines have indicators similar to large airlines’ indicators and they have smaller percentages
of leased aircraft in their fleets, while medium-small have indicators similar to small airlines’ indicators and
they have larger percentages of leased aircraft in their fleets. Taking into consideration these similarities, we
calculated the key indicators for large, medium-large, medium-small and small airlines (Table 3). Table 3
shows that the average percentage, as well as total percentage of leased aircraft, increases with the
decrease in fleet size, thus supporting our findings from the previous sub-sections.
4. CONCLUSION
Having in mind that airline industry is highly dependent on economic cycles and that airline market is price-
and time-sensitive, it is obvious that airlines need to react to market condition changes in a timely manner.
The ability of an airline to respond in an appropriate way to these changes could be provided by fleet
flexibility, which could be further provided by aircraft leases.
Based on the analysis of airlines from different countries and with different business models, the conclusions
we arrived at are as follows:
Airline’s business model does not affect fleet ownership structure significantly;
European airlines slightly prefer to lease aircraft compared to North American airlines;
Small number of aircraft in an airline fleet (less than 50) implies higher percentage of leased aircraft
(more than 50% of the fleet is leased);
Larger number of aircraft in an airline fleet (more than 100) implies smaller percentage of leased aircraft
(on average, approximately one third of the fleet is leased);
Membership in an alliance does not affect fleet ownership structure; member airlines fit very well in the
observed pattern of fleet ownership structure;
Average and total percentages of leased aircraft increase with the decrease of fleet size.
The paper results in practical contributions, providing an ownership structure analysis and summarizing all
data related to previous experiences of different airlines which could help an airline when considering
whether to lease or buy an aircraft. Furthermore, the analysis could help not only airlines, but leasing
companies as well, to define a target group of airlines to whom they could lease corresponding aircraft in
appropriate time.
AKNOWLEDGEMNT
This research has been supported by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development,
Republic of Serbia, as part of the project TR36033 (2011-2016).
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... According to the statistics of the aircraft operating leased fleet in 2017, the region would have the highest share of leased aircraft in Europe in 2017 (The Statistics Portal, 2018). Authors Dožić & Krnić reported that they have also witnessed a significant increase in aircraft leases in recent years (Dožić & Krnić, 2016). One of the aims of their article was to find out if fleet ownership structure underlining differences that depend on business model. ...
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Fleet is an essential element of the business model of airlines. The amount of aircraft operated, the way they are purchased and their use in service has a significant impact on the economy of the airline. This article focuses on the way of aircraft acquisition-operating lease. During the lease term or after termination, the aircraft is not owned by the airline, but the aircraft is rented. It is a specific form of outsourcing and the routine practice of airlines around the world. The article describes all the reasons, procedures and requirements of operating leases. It analyses the integration and reporting of operating lease costs in the carrier's cost structure. The main benefit of this research is the analysis of the development of the fleet ownership structure of the four largest low-cost airlines in Europe. The study focuses on leased fleet trends with respect to the total number of aircraft in the fleet age context. Each of the controlled airlines has its own specifics. In general, the total number of aircraft Operating lease as a specific form of airlines outsourcing 642 in the fleet is still increasing. However, the number of leased aircraft does not have this trend, and during the development we have seen the phases when the number of leased aircraft declined. The average age of aircraft in these companies was 5.4 years at the end of fiscal year 2017.
Article
This third edition of Straight and Level thoroughly updates the previous edition with extensive comments on recent industry developments and emerging business models. The discussion is illustrated by current examples drawn from all sectors of the industry and every region of the world. The fundamental structure of earlier editions, now widely used as a framework for air transport management courses, nonetheless remains unchanged. Part 1 of the book provides a strategic context within which to consider the industry's economics. Part 2 is built around a simple yet powerful model that relates operating revenue to operating cost; it examines the most important elements in demand and traffic, price and yield, output and unit cost. Part 3 probes more deeply into three critical aspects of capacity management: network management; fleet management; and revenue management. Part 4 concludes the book by exploring relationships between unit revenue, unit cost, yield, and load factor. Straight and Level has been written primarily for masters-level students on aviation management courses. The book should also be useful to final year undergraduates wanting to prepare for more advanced study. Amongst practitioners, it will appeal to established managers moving from functional posts into general management. More broadly, anyone with knowledge of the airline industry who wants to gain a deeper understanding of its economics at a practical level and an insight into the reasons for its financial volatility should find the book of interest.
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This study presents a model to help airlines plan their strategic fleet acquisitions and disposals. It minimizes the discounted costs of owning or leasing and operating a fleet by identifying which aircraft to buy, sell and lease over the planning horizon. The paper explains how the related cost data were compiled and analyzed. The model is applied to two US airlines with different business models and shows that aircraft leasing is generally the preferred alternative with benefits from having newer aircraft and less fleet diversity.
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We show that there is no single “best solution” in the leasing versus company ownership problem for the fleet administration industry as a whole. Because of the different styles and traditions of firms and because of the emphasis on intangibles beyond economics, a unifying framework of reference including the variety of factors is developed as a hierarchy and evaluated for priorities serving as a useful tool to guide each company to make its decision whether to lease or to buy. This appears to be an effective way for assessing tradeoffs previously regarded beyond the realm of measurement.
Article
This study developed a stochastic dynamic programming model to optimize airline decisions regarding purchasing, leasing, or disposing of aircraft over time. Grey topological models with Markov-chain were employed to forecast passenger traffic and capture the randomness of the demand. The results show that severe demand fluctuations would drive the airline to lease rather than to purchase its aircrafts. This would allow greater flexibility in fleet management and allows for matching short-term variations in the demand. The results of this study provide a useful reference for airlines in their replacement decision-making procedure by taking into consideration the fluctuations in the market demand and the status of the aircraft.
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This paper explores the state of practice regarding aircraft financial evaluation. Traditional measures of aircraft economic viability, including direct operating cost comparison, ignore both the non-cash elements of costs, and the time value of money. Practitioners adopting more advanced techniques often go straight to the net present value calculation using an industry standard discount rate, ignoring critical problems such as estimating the cost of capital, quantifying the highly uncertain economic environment airlines face, and valuing the flexibility offered by manufacturer options and operating leasing. We propose taking advantage of the potential flexibility of the net present value approach by close attention to the choice of discount rates to flesh out investment/financing interactions, use of Monte Carlo analysis to quantify risk up front, and real options analysis to better understand the value of flexibility to aircraft operators.
Article
Operating lease of the aircraft gives the airlines flexibility in capacity management. However, airlines pay a risk premium to the leasing companies for bearing part of the risks. Therefore, the airlines face a trade-off between flexibility of capacity and higher costs. This paper develops a model for the airlines to determine their optimal mix of leased and owned capacity, taking into consideration that the demand for air transportation is uncertain and cyclical. Empirical results based on the model suggested that the optimal demand by 23 major airlines in the world would range between 40% and 60% of their total fleet, for the reasonable range of premiums of operating lease. For the leasing companies, this indicates huge potential of the market given strong forecast for the growth of air transportation in the next decade.
Aircraft Finance: Strategies for Managing Capital Costs in Turbulent Industry
  • B Vasigh
  • R Taleghani
  • D Jenkins
Vasigh, B., Taleghani, R., & Jenkins, D. (2012). Aircraft Finance: Strategies for Managing Capital Costs in Turbulent Industry. Fort Lauderdale, USA: J. Ross Publishing.
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