Asian MROs Adapt As Airlines Decide Against Bringing Bookings Forward

Credit: China Aircraft Services Ltd

SINGAPORE—MRO providers in Asia are not seeing customers move their maintenance bookings forward, despite fleets being largely grounded because of the pandemic.

As such, smaller providers that do not offer alternative solutions—like conversions and heavy maintenance—are using this period to digitalize and react flexibly to customers’ needs. 

Speaking on a virtual panel at Aviation Week’s MRO Asia-Pacific on Sept. 23, China Aircraft Services Ltd (CASL) CEO Andreas Meisel said that as the Hong Kong-based company does not have access to the recovering market in neighboring China, one of the ways it can survive is to stay agile and be close to the customer. 

“Being flexible can be an advantage and as a smaller company, we should look at ways to improve processes to be faster and quicker. Having a digital strategy will help too,” Meisel said. CASL is in the process of digitizing its MRO functions that will go live in 2021, deploying mobile applications and interfaces for customers like the Cathay Pacific group. 

Cathay’s LCC unit, HK Express, currently has around half of its fleet in active storage and the other half in long-term storage. HK Express maintenance and engineering GM Alan Tang said the carrier would consider bringing heavy maintenance checks forward only in the event that it plans to take an aircraft offsite to a long-term storage facility, as these locations usually do not have MRO facilities.   

HK Express is also on a digitalization journey to prevent repetition of work and improve cost efficiencies, although Tang highlighted that the airline wants to remove the large amount of paperwork required when dealing with lessors and hopes the industry can move towards a new standard soon. 

In India, Air Works turned to e-learning for its employees during an eight-week lockdown to enhance their skills. It used the lull period to upgrade inventory management with radio-frequency identification (RFID) and started implementing automated timesheets to track work and manpower movements across its 26 locations. 

Air Works MD and CEO Anand Bhaskar added that his company is eyeing the return of numerous Indian engineers, who are being let go from ailing operators in the Middle East, to expand Air Work’s new segments like components and interior overhaul.

Chen Chuanren

Chen Chuanren is the Southeast Asia and China Editor for the Aviation Week Network’s (AWN) Air Transport World (ATW) and the Asia-Pacific Defense Correspondent for AWN, joining the team in 2017.