May 11, 2020

Coronavirus: Monitoring passenger jet activity through the hibernation phase

 
 
 
 
Andrew Doyle & Ray Rigamonti review Cirium’s latest fleets & utilization data to monitor aircraft during the hibernation phase in Coronavirus times
 
 
 
 
 
 
At this point the time frames of the hibernation phase are unknown. We expect markets to enter the rebuild and the consolidation stages at different times depending on the spread of Covid-19. Find out more about how Cirium can help you understand how the industry is responding to Covid-19.
 

Hibernation phase fleet & utilization update – 13/05/20

A net decrease in the global stored passenger jet fleet of just under 130 since yesterday’s (12th May) update has taken the overall proportion of inactive aircraft down a single percentage point to 60%.

We classify an aircraft as stored following 14 days of inactivity, and return it to in-service status if it flies on three of the preceding seven days, or five of the previous 14. For the purposes of this daily update we include all widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets equipped with a passenger cabin regardless of whether they have been temporarily deployed for cargo-only services.

Tracking data for Monday 11th May showed a 4.5% increase in active aircraft, 5.4% uplift in flights and 8.1% improvement in flight hours, compared with the seventh day prior (4th May). Compared with 364 days prior, these metrics show declines of 70.3%, 80.7% and 82.3% respectively, bringing into stark relief the scale of the recovery challenge that confronts the industry.

Our data visual today shows fly/no fly days for individual aircraft in the British Airways narrowbody and widebody fleets over the course of the 90-day perior to 11th May. The comparison – where red indicates an aircraft did not fly – illustrates how the UK flag-carrier’s twin-aisle aircraft were typically grounded later than its shorthaul aircraft following the onset of the coronavirus crisis.

 

 

Hibernation phase fleet & utilization update – 12/05/20

A 9% increase in both average daily tracked flight hours and cycles for passenger jets was recorded for week 19 of 2020 (the seven days up to and including Sunday 10th May), compared with the previous week.

This represented the second consecutive week of improvement as week 18 (seven days to 3rd May) saw average daily hours and cycles improve by 8% and 7% respectively, compared with week 17 which had declines of 4% and 6%. Prior to that there were several consecutive weeks of decline in widebody, narrowbody and regional jet flight activity.

The latest seven day rolling average figures – for week 19 to 10th May – also indicate higher average daily aircraft utilisation compared with the previous week, with the number of in-service jets tracked up 4% but average flight hours per aircraft up 5%. The average number of aircraft tracked daily during the week was just under 5,800, and each flew an average of 5.7 hours per day.

 

 

Meanwhile a net decrease in the stored passenger jet fleet of just over 50 was recorded since yesterday’s (11th May) update. At approximately 16,000, the inactive passenger jet fleet remains at just under 61% of the global inventory.

 

 

 

Hibernation phase fleet & utilization update – 11/05/20

A net increase in the stored passenger jet fleet of just over 100 has been recorded since our previous update on Thursday 7th May. The newly withdrawn aircraft mainly comprised Boeing 737 NG, Airbus A320 Family and Bombardier CRJ models.

At approximately 16,000, the inactive fleet of widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets remains at just under 61% of the global inventory.

While the in-service fleet has stabilised at approximately 10,300 for the past week, we continue to record positive trends in tracking data.

Saturday 9th May saw active passenger jet aircraft up 6%, flight cycles up 14% and hours flown up 14% compared with Saturday 2nd May. However these global metrics remain adverse by 73%, 82% and 84% respectively compared with 11th May 2019 (364 days prior).

 

 

The seventh-day-prior metrics have remained mainly positive for nearly two weeks, with the exception of 7th May when slight declines were recorded.

On 10th May 2020, Avianca filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the USA and will shutter its Avianca Peru subsidiary as the shutdown of air travel amid the coronavirus pandemic obliterates revenues. Cirium’s utilization data shows the stark realities of the impact of Covid-19 on the carrier, as passenger jet flights fell dramatically from the middle of March 2020.

 

 

 

Hibernation phase fleet & utilization update – 07/05/20

The stored passenger jet fleet has again remained stable at just below 61%, with just over 15,900 widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets classified by Cirium’s researchers as inactive.

While the in-service fleet has stabilised at approximately 10,300 in recent days, we continue to record positive trends in tracking data.

Tuesday 5th May saw active aircraft up 7.3%, flight cycles up 19% and hours flown up 17% compared with Tuesday 28th April. However these global metrics remain adverse by 71%, 81% and 83% respectively compared with 7th May 2019 (364 days prior). These seventh-day-prior metrics have remained positive for eight consecutive days.

 

 

Hibernation phase fleet & utilization update – 06/05/20

Passenger jet tracking data for Monday 4th May extends the positive trend as measured by active aircraft (up 6%), flight cycles (14%) and hours flown (13%) compared with Monday 27th April. However these metrics remain adverse by 72%, 82% and 84% respectively compared with 6th May 2019 (364 days prior).

The improvement in the global picture observed over the past week continues to be driven primarily by Asia-based carriers where lock-downs in some countries are being eased and airlines are reinstating scheduled flights.

Our figures include jet airliners normally configured for passenger operations and therefore incorporate activity by such aircraft that are temporarily being deployed for cargo-only services (belly freight or in some cases packages transported in the passenger cabin, with or without some seats removed).

Our data visual today shows the proportions of passenger jet family fleets that were tracked making at least one flight in the seven days up to and including 4th May. For this analysis we include only aircraft that we consider to have in-service or in-storage status, and which have also been observed making at least one flight since 1st January 2020. It again highlights the extent to which the active fleets of the largest passenger types (Airbus A380 and Boeing 747) have been impacted as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

 

Source: Cirium Core, Tracked Utilization 6 May 2020
Source: Cirium Core, Tracked Utilization 6 May 2020

There has been no material change in the overall proportion of global passenger jets with in-storage status (61%) since yesterday’s (5th May) update.

 

Hibernation phase fleet & utilization update – 05/05/20

A sixth consecutive day of increase in scheduled flights flown by passenger jets – using the ‘seventh day prior’ metric – was recorded for Sunday 3rd May, lending more weight to the hypothesis that the industry’s operational low point may be behind it.

The data also shows there was a 7% increase in passenger jet flights for week 18 of 2020, compared with week 17.

Cirium’s tracking sources indicate an increase of over 8% in operated flights for 3rd May, compared with Sunday 26th April, and over 2% more aircraft were active and more than 5% additional flight hours were flown. These seventh-day-prior metrics have remained in positive territory since and including 28th April.

 

Source: Cirium Core, Tracked Utilization, 5 May 2020

 

Source: Cirium Core, Tracked Utilization 5 May 2020

It is important to compare equivalent days of the week for this type of analysis to obtain a true picture of flight trends, as airline services typically follow a weekly pattern to reflect variations in passenger demand across the working week and weekends.

While the seventh-day-prior comparison remaining in positive territory for several days can be seen as an encouraging development – as some countries such as China begin to relax travel restrictions – globally operated scheduled flight cycles for 3rd May were nevertheless down nearly 83% compared with the equivalent day 364 days prior, reflecting the unprecedented crisis the aviation industry is facing.

Also, the number of flights operating does not necessarily reflect demand, with many services reported to be operating with extremely low load factors.

Meanwhile, Cirium’s researchers have determined that the in-service passenger jet fleet has grown by nearly 170 since yesterday’s (4th May) update, taking the global stored inventory down to just over 15,900 aircraft and below 61% of the total.

A net total of more than 50 Boeing widebodies rejoined the active fleet, alongside 30 Airbus twin-aisles and nearly 60 of the European manufacturer’s A320 Family models.

 

Hibernation phase fleet & utilization update – 04/05/20

Cirium’s researchers have transferred a net total of nearly 140 passenger jets to in-service status since Friday’s (1st May) update, taking the stored passenger jet fleet below 16,100. This means just over 61% of the global inventory of widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets is in storage – one percentage point lower than we reported on Friday.

These aircraft are stored at 876 airports around the world, with more than 2,000 spread amongst the top 10 locations. The ranks of inactive aircraft continue to grow steeply at Roswell International Air Center and Marana Pinal Airpark in the USA (currently ranked numbers one and three respectively).

 

Source: Cirium Core, Fleets Analyzer, 4 May 2020

 

As reported on the Cirium Dashboard, renowned investor Warren Buffet revealed on 2nd May his decision to sell his investment company Berkshire Hathaway’s holdings in US majors American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines.

“We like those airlines. But the world has changed for the airlines,” he said. “I hope it corrects itself in a reasonably prompt way.”

Cirium’s tracking sources show the severe impact the Coronavirus crisis has had on total flight counts for these four carriers up to 2nd May, with little immediate respite in sight. However significantly greater numbers of flights continue to be flown within the US market compared with Europe, where an almost complete shutdown of scheduled flight operations has occurred.

 

Source: Cirium Core, Tracked Utilization 4 May 2020

 

Hibernation phase fleet & utilization update – 01/05/20

Cirium tracking data has provided further tentative evidence that the global passenger jet fleet may have passed the nadir of scheduled flight activity in recent days. Wednesday 29th April marked the second consecutive day of increases in active aircraft, cycles and flight hours using the ‘seventh day prior’ metric (ie by comparison with Wednesday 22nd April). However overall flight cycles remained nearly 83% down compared with a year ago.

The Asia-Pacific region – driven predominantly by Chinese operators – saw roughly 1,000 net additional flight cycles by passenger widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets on Wednesday, compared with the same day a week earlier, while the active aircraft count was up by approximately 140.

Europe also recorded an increase in flights compared with the seventh day prior, but from a far lower base (tracked flight cycles were down 95% compared with the equivalent day last year).

 

 

Cirium’s researchers have meanwhile returned 70 passenger jets to in-service status since yesterday’s (30th April ) update. The proportion of widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets in storage globally remains at approximately 62%.

There has been in a net increase in the in-service fleet of over 600 aircraft over the past four days. We consider an aircraft to have returned to service following observed flight activity on at least three of the preceding seven days, or five of the preceding 14.

 

Hibernation phase fleet & utilization update – 30/04/2020

The first evidence of a potential bottoming-out of the global slump in commercial passenger jet flights due to coronavirus has emerged from analysis by Cirium using its 600-plus sources of tracking data.

A 4% increase in scheduled passenger flights flown was recorded for Tuesday 28th April when compared with Tuesday 21st April, marking the first positive value for this ‘seventh-day-prior’ rolling indicator since 5th March. It is important to compare equivalent days of the week for this type of analysis as airline flights typically follow a weekly pattern to reflect variations in passenger demand across the working week and weekends.

While the seventh-day-prior comparison moving back into positive territory can be seen as an encouraging development – as some countries such as China begin to relax travel restrictions – global scheduled flight cycles for 28th April were nevertheless down nearly 84% compared with the equivalent day 364 days prior, reflecting the unprecedented crisis the aviation industry is facing.

Meanwhile, Cirium has added just over 130 passenger jets (widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets) to the active global fleet since yesterday’s (29th April update), taking the overall proportion of stored aircraft down to approximately 62%, or 16,300. This figure is two percentage points (or approximately 600 aircraft) lower than the peak recorded in mid-April.

 

 

We transfer stored aircraft to in-service status after observing flight activity on at least three of the prior seven days, or five of the prior 14.

 

Hibernation phase fleet & utilization update – 29/04/2020

The global stored passenger jet fleet has remained stable since yesterday’s update, at approximately 63% of total inventory.

A major news development this week – reported extensively by Cirium Dashboard – has been the collapse of the proposed joint venture between Boeing and Embraer. We therefore take this opportunity to look in more detail at the impact of the Coronavirus on the regional jet market.

Cirium classifies nearly 850 of the roughly 1,500 E170/175 and E190/195 twinjets as being in storage, alongside more than 450 of the approximately 700 remaining ERJ-135/140/145s.

Meanwhile about half of the approximately 1,500-strong fleet of Bombardier CRJs is currently in storage.

In terms of tracked aircraft the CRJ and E-Jet families both saw around 450 aircraft fly on Monday 27th April. Prior to the onset of the crisis a typical day saw more than 1,200 active E-Jets and around 1,000 CRJs. The number of smaller ERJs active daily has declined from around 400 to closer to 120.

As of 27th April, daily tracked flight cycles for all three families were down about 80% compared with 29th April 2019, with no immediate signs of recovery.

 

 

 

Hibernation phase fleet & utilization update – 28/04/2020

Cirium has recorded a net reduction in the global stored passenger jet fleet of just over 400 aircraft since yesterday’s (27th April) update. This coincided with the implementation of our decision announced last week to slightly revise our classification criteria to reflect the industry’s entry into the ‘hibernation phase’ of the Coronavirus crisis.

Notable developments in our latest update included a net increase in the in-service Airbus narrowbody fleet of A319/A320/A321s of more than 110, while the active inventory of Boeing 717s, 737s and 757s was up by over 80. On the widebody side we have classified about 100 additional 767s, 777s and 787s as having returned to service, alongside roughly 50 A330s, A340s and A350s.

The situation continued to improve in China, where we have returned over 100 passenger jets to in-service status during the past week.

Cirium’s researchers now require 14 days of observed inactivity to classify an aircraft as having entered storage, up from seven days previously.  To be returned to in-service status an aircraft must fly on at least three of the previous seven days, or five of the previous 14.

We now put the global stored fleet of passenger widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets at below 16,500 aircraft or just under 63% of the total inventory, down from the peak of approximately 16,800 (64%) which persisted for approximately two weeks.

Cirium continues to deploy its more than 600 sources of flight status and tracking data to monitor daily hours and cycles utilisation trends. Flying hours are a key driver of demand for aftermarket products and services and associated revenues, and so today we look at slowly recovering utilisation levels for scheduled services by Chinese operators for four widely used types.

On Monday 26th April 2020 Chinese A320 and 737 family operators logged more than 50% fewer flying hours compared with Monday 28th April 2019, although this represented a marked recovery from the mid-February 2020 low point where figures were over 80% down for each of these types.

 

 

Chinese-operated 787s meanwhile posted nearly 75% fewer scheduled flying hours than a year ago, while demand for A330/A340 Family flight hours appeared to be recovering more slowly, likely a reflection of the international travel restrictions that remain in place.

 

Hibernation phase fleet & utilization update – 27/04/2020

The global stored passenger jet fleet has remained stable at approximately 16,800 aircraft, equivalent to 64% of total inventory. There has been no significant change in this figure for approximately two weeks.

Today we use Cirium’s flight tracking sources to highlight the impact of Coronavirus on operations by Vietnam-based carriers, and to show potentially the first evidence of the very early stages of recovery in the country. As reported on Cirium Dashboard earlier today, Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar Pacific have begun reinstating domestic services on the key trunk route between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as the nation begins to emerge from lock-down.

Encouragingly, our data shows Vietnamese carriers operated a total of 35 scheduled passenger jet flights using 17 aircraft on Saturday 25th April, compared to just eight flights on Saturday 18th April with six aircraft (the majority operated by Vietnam Airlines). However this nevertheless represents a 96% reduction in flights – and 90% fewer active aircraft – compared with Saturday 27th April 2019.

 

 

 

Hibernation phase fleet & utilization update – 24/04/2020

We remain firmly in the hibernation phase of this crisis with 16,800 passenger jets (64% of the total fleet) classified as stored. There has been no material change in the net figure since yesterday, and the global total has remained more or less stable for the past 10 days now.

All eyes are on China as a potential leading indicator of the shape of the recovery that could be expected as and when other national travel restrictions are eventually lifted. Cirium’s tracking data recorded a low point of around 1,000 passenger jets being flown daily by Chinese airlines by mid-February, but this recovered to nearly 2,000 for the bulk of March and has remained around this level so far in April (see graphic). However we are still consistently seeing approximately 1,000 (36%) fewer active aircraft per day compared with a year prior.

Average daily flight hours per active aircraft also remains well down on pre-crisis levels, having been around 9.5 hours at the onset of the crisis but still hovering at around 5.5 as of 22nd April. This is partly a reflection of the fact that domestic operations continue to be proportionally less badly impacted than international services. Total daily tracked flight cycles and flight hours for Chinese-operated passenger jets remain down nearly 60% compared with a year earlier.

 

 

As we approach the beginning of May we will be watching closely to see whether more optimistic capacity scheduling by Chinese operators translates into increased passenger demand, and therefore fewer flight cancellations and ultimately increased utilisation of the Chinese passenger jet fleet.

 

Hibernation phase fleet & utilization update – 23/04/2020

Welcome to the first of our daily updates in which we track the operational status of the global passenger jet fleet during this unprecedented ‘hibernation’ period, following the spread of the Coronavirus and implementation of government-imposed travel restrictions.

During the course of the past several days we have seen the overall stored inventory of widebodies, narrowbodies and regional jets stabilise at approximately 16,700 aircraft, or 64% of the total fleet. However this net figure masks the significant churn that is occurring on a daily basis as hundreds of aircraft either enter or leave a period of storage.

In order for Cirium to be able to provide the most accurate and up to date picture of the stored fleet during the hibernation phase, we will be slightly modifying the criteria our researchers apply to determine the status of an individual aircraft, effective Monday 27th April.

From this date we will extend the period of observed inactivity required to classify an aircraft as stored, from the current seven consecutive days to 14. This is the criteria we applied prior to the start of the highly dynamic mass storage phase which characterised the past few weeks.

For an aircraft to return from stored status to in-service, we will continue to require flight activity on at least three of the preceding seven days, but in addition we will also accept five out of the preceding 14 days in recognition that a significant proportion of the fleet is seeing regular but highly sporadic utilisation.

We will meanwhile continue to include in this report insights drawn from Cirium’s more than 600 sources of flight status and tracking data. Today we show for the world’s largest carriers the proportion of their passenger jet fleets that have been tracked making at least one scheduled flight during the past seven days (data up is to and including Tuesday 21st April).

 

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