Airlines Facing Aircraft Shortage


As airlines grapple with staff shortages and maintenance delays, they’re now facing an airplane shortage. According to Reuters, delegates to the annual Airline Economics conference in Dublin were told that manufacturers are missing their delivery targets and that could hamper an unexpected surge in travel prompted largely by China’s abrupt cancellation of many COVID restrictions. “We are seeing a very strong rebound in travel,” AerCap Chief Executive Aengus Kelly said “I think we will see a full return to 2019 in the middle of the year.”

The pandemic has disrupted supply chains for manufacturers and it’s expected that the shortages will be most acute in the bread-and-butter narrow body fleet. As many as 2,400 aircraft are behind schedule and the backlog will take years to clear. Air Lease Executive Chairman Steven Udvar-Hazy told the gathering that manufacturers had “grossly misjudged” their capacity. The shortage of new jets is compounded by maintenance delays. All MROs are booked solid, in part with post-storage inspections that take a lot of time. As with all shortages, the ultimate result is higher cost to the end user and air fares are expected to stay relatively high for the foreseeable future.

Another result of the supply disruption is the return of four engine aircraft that were retired in the pandemic. Some of the planes that didn’t get built are modern twins that airlines ordered with small first class cabins. There isn’t enough capacity for first class demand without the A380s, 747s and A340s that went to the desert during the pandemic so at least eight airlines are dusting off those planes to fill in until their new 777-9s and A350s are ready according to Travel Tomorrow.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Does no good to have more planes if you can’t get consumable parts to keep them flying. The biggest example I see is lack of tires. My company has to go through a lot to find new tires to keep our planes flying. Windscreen panels are another. I’m sure the manufacturers are having just as much trouble getting parts from their contractors to build planes.

  2. “Airlines Facing Aircraft Shortage”
    Well boo hoo.
    Obviously the “planners” in the airline industry are as inept with hardware as they are with personell.

    • Well, Art, did you read the article or just decide your spleen needed venting and the headline gave you the go-ahead it needed? Here’s a sample you obviously overlooked:

      “The pandemic has disrupted supply chains for manufacturers, and it’s expected that the shortages will be most acute in the bread-and-butter narrow body fleet. As many as 2,400 aircraft are behind schedule and the backlog will take years to clear.”

      Now, enlighten me please, drawing on your obviously deep reservoir of knowledge as to why, exactly, this is the fault of the customers, i.e. the airlines.

  3. Makes little difference if the airlines don’t have the pilots to fly them. But don’t feel sorry for airline management. They did this to themselves – for so long they made it so difficult and such a sh*try job nobody wanted to do it. Now they have to pay the piper (or pilot) !

  4. Pilots, aircrafts, crews, ground personnel, costs, etc., etc.. What were the leaders of airlines thinking when the pandemic started and the role of events that subsequently arise? Isn’t the capacity of foreseeing (the good and the bad) one of the qualities demanded for executives of airlines, as well of those others industries?
    Completely fail is in what mankind turned, at least in what concern the choosing of the executives and/or leaders.

  5. There are hundreds of otherwise serviceable aircraft sitting at various storage locations that could be returned to service even if operating costs are higher. After all, these are used aircraft and the higher costs of operations are balanced by not paying for expensive new planes. Parts availability is certainly an issue but as for the workforce, if you want good reliable workers pay to train them and pay them properly and that problem will be solved. You pay peanuts you get monkeys.