Small Is Beautiful For Global Airlines

During the last year as international travel plummeted airlines have been aggressively retiring fleets and resizing their active aircraft to more accurately reflect passenger traffic. It seems like now small is beautiful for global airlines.

According to OAG an airline data organizations, international airlines have significantly downsized the size of their fleets over the last 12 years, but also downsized the planes which they are actually flying.

In general gone are the A380 and B747, while single aisle jets grow in stature.

Across the Top 10 most frequently used aircraft types, some have clearly seen a reduction in use with the pandemic more than others, while others have clearly proved to be more useful in these difficult times. The two largest family groups have gained market share so that the A318/319/320/321 group now make up 41% of capacity while B737 aircraft make up 32%. Overall, their share of capacity has increased by 6%.

OAG explains the results of these changes by explaining that the aircraft which have fallen out of favour most are the larger, older aircraft such as the B777 and A330. They’ve seen capacity fall by 66% and 71%, respectively, between February last year and February this year, while the A340 has seen capacity fall by 78% and the A380 by 97%.

Unfortunately for the A380 operators, the types of routes they were purchased to fly are those most adversely affected by the changes in air travel brought about by the virus – long haul, international and connecting journeys. As of this month, only 4 of the 14 A380 operators from a year ago were actually flying any of these aircraft and these are Emirates, Asiana, Korean Air and China Southern Airlines.

Over half of all A380 flights were being flown by Emirates prior to the pandemic and A380’s made up 41% of their capacity, with all the remining seats flown on B777 aircraft. The list of airlines which are keeping their A380’s on the ground seems long and includes Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Qantas, British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France, Thai Airways and All Nippon.