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Aircraft in storage in May. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Ryan Ewing)

More Mainline Commercial Aircraft are Now Flying Than Stored

Global air travel has begun its journey to recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic decimated almost every aspect of travel. Now, the focus of the industry is addressing the post-COVID-19 challenges to navigate the industry to recovery.

As the light at the end of the tunnel begins to get clearer, the latest tracking data from Cirium collected by Flightglobal shows a positive uptick in the global aviation recovery.

11,500 passenger aircraft (Airbus and Boeing) were recorded in active service by mid-June, going back to mid-April this number was 8,025

The number of aircraft in storage has now dropped for the first time below those that are in service since March. In the wake of 2020 Cirium reveals 20,152 aircraft were in active service. Mid-April recorded the highest peak of aircraft in storage at 13,963. At the moment, there is a gradual rise of active fleets for the first time since the COVID-19 crisis. The stored fleet is at 10,454 which is now below the active fleet at 11,466.

“While the recovery of the active fleet is a positive development, the average utilization for those aircraft that are back in service is still more than 35% down over the start of 2019,” according to Peter Morris of Cirium, speaking to Flightglobal. He, however, cautions that other operational metrics must be considered.

Even as airlines are at the course of establishing a “confidence factor” to win over more of the travelling public, they are faced with government lockdowns and advice on social distancing which also has an impact on the recovery of the industry. Convincing the public that air travel is back may be easier said than done.

According to Morris, “If airlines started charging ticket prices at a level to make profit, with load factors that may be only 40 percent, they would have to double the fares. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they sat tight and fly no flights, eventually, they would go bankrupt anyway.”

Their main aim at the moment could be to kick-start the market rather than seeking profit.

“Airlines are going to need to stimulate demand through relatively low fares,” according to IATA chief economist Brian Pierce. He also acknowledges that as much as airlines are facing a tricky restart, they will only be able to recover their costs if the industry strengthens significantly.

Airlines across the globe will now expect that the travelling public may have written off their 2020 summer bookings and cutting their fares is essential to stimulate demand.

Asian-Pacific airlines have so far been on the forefront of the air-travel recovery with almost 75% of the region’s fleet now flying. Not to be forgotten is that they were the first to be impacted by the pandemic. North America could be 50/50 while Europe and Africa are still trailing in the recovery curve.


The industry is estimated at $10 trillion with more emphasis on leisure travel and as the industry is slowly finding its momentum of activities, a comprehensive approach and access to data and analytics can be among the surest ways the aviation stakeholders can use to navigate through the COVID-19 uncertainty.

Victor Shalton
Victor Shalton
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