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Why Are Airlines Leasing More Aircraft?

runway at dawn
Jan 25, 2018

Globally, airlines operate a fleet of more than 27,000 commercial jet aircraft valued at over $696 billion (active and parked aircraft). Airlines rely heavily on third-party debt and equity to finance these capital-intensive assets. Third-party equity to finance the aircraft has increasingly been provided to the airline industry by aircraft operating lessors which acquire and lease aircraft to airlines as their lessees.

Today, over 13,300 commercial jet aircraft, valued at approximately $331 billion, are owned by operating lessors and leased on this basis to the global airlines, representing more than 49% of the fleet by value.

With demand for travel still growing at a strong pace, relatively low fuel prices, low inflation, and manufacturers’ healthy backlog, the role of operating leases in the airlines’ financing strategy will only accelerate. Over the next five years, ICF expects the value of jet aircraft deliveries to average more than $135 billion per annum, split approximately evenly between narrowbody and widebody jets, with regional jets taking a small share.

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