Startup Carriers And The Aftermarket

Flyr Boeing 737-800
Norwegian airline Flyr is one of several startup carriers launching in 2021.
Credit: Flyr

The rise of low-cost carriers—pioneered by the likes of Southwest Airlines in the USA and then industrialized by Ryanair and easyJet in Europe—was a watershed moment for airlines and their aftermarket. 

The next major inflection point for airlines may well turn out to be the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already created unprecedented disruption for commercial air travel, but will the maintenance market experience a similar shake-up?

In the 1990s and early 2000s, changes included the move of elements of C checks into a work package equivalent to an overnight A check. At the same time, OEMs sought to extend maintenance intervals and eliminate unnecessary tasks.

For example, A320 A check intervals have gone from 350 hr. at entry into service to 1,000 hr. for the equivalent check, while C check intervals have gone from 15 months to 36. 

The other major change was a shift toward outsourcing, but, with that now an established strategy and maintenance programs now operating at a high level of efficiency, there may be less room for aftermarket revolution than in the past.

“At first there will be no major impact, but over time, yes,” contends Abdol Moabery, chief executive of Florida-based maintenance, parts and leasing specialist GA Telesis. “There is just not a material startup that will emerge in the short-term that is large enough to make an impact.

The market saw some super-sized startups in the last cycle that did not fare well, even before the pandemic, so the market will take note and perhaps be a little more cautious with startups.” 

Frank Berweger, Lufthansa Technik’s vice-president sales for the Americas, does not believe that the proliferation of startup carriers will drive “significant” changes in maintenance products, although he observes that they might accelerate the transition from older to newer generation equipment.

“And we may finally see an accelerating trend of digitalization and outsourcing,” he says, adding: “The strong focus on cost will remain.”

For further discussion of how the launch of new airlines around the world may affect the aftermarket, see the next issue of Inside MRO.

Alex Derber

Alex Derber, a UK-based aviation journalist, is editor of the Engine Yearbook and a contributor to Aviation Week and Inside MRO.