Analysis: Fleet Strength Should Recover To 2019 Levels In 2021

Commercial in-service or active fleet strengths have grown at 2.9% CAGR since 2015, but the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic created a precipitous drop that will linger into the future. 

The active in-service fleet, which counts parked but not stored aircraft, is expected to fall to 27,370 aircraft, just below 2015 levels. By the end of 2020, 3,200 aircraft would have been lost from year-end 2019 to 2020.

In 2020, Boeing’s 737 family is expected to shrink to 6,300 active aircraft while Airbus’ A320 is expected to shrink to 7,500 aircraft. 


As recovery takes hold, deliveries combined with aircraft returning from storage should combine to increase fleet strength to 2019 levels in 2021.  By the end of 2030, narrowbodies lead the charge: the 737 family rises to more than 10,000 while the A320 reaches almost 12,000 in service, exhibiting a 3.7% CAGR for each, even after a projected 28% reduction in new deliveries from previous estimates. Fleet strength is expected to claw back at a subdued 2.4% CAGR led primarily by narrowbody resilience but hampered by high retirement rates.

The vast majority of aircraft that are expected to be reactivated over the next decade is expected to return in 2021 with nearly 500 returning to the fleet by the end of 2022. Twin aisle aircraft are expected to experience the slowest return to service due to the persistent constraints on long distance, international travel.


1 Comment
Is this based on the arrival of an effective Coronavirus vaccine? Does the US government continue to shovel cash to US airlines? What global growth rate is assumed? What load factor is presumed and will this be enough for the airlines to at least break even? And, with the permanent retirement by many airlines of many aircraft types, where will all the new hulls come from?

None of your other articles have forecast such a rapid return of the airline industry. Why does this one take an opposite tack?