Jan. 8, 2015: Engines on the aging fleet of Boeing 757s are a key reason operating costs of this rather unique airplane are between 20% and 30% more than a Boeing 737-9 or an Airbus A321neo.
“The thing to worry about most for the 757 engines is the cost to overhaul,” says an industry official who trades in 757s. “The cost of producing life limited parts is crippling the marketplace.”
Total costs and the direct operating costs are being directly affect by the engine costs, the person says, who doesn’t want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic.
Overhaul costs by Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce, whose engines power the 757, are considered very high because the two companies control the MRO market and parts.
“When we see $4.5m, $5m engine overhauls, something is wrong with this market place. It’s unsustainable,” the industry trader says. “Airlines don’t want to invest too much money on their wings in the form of high value engines.”
The maintenance programs by PW and RR are considered quite pricey, but third party MRO companies don’t have access to the parts inventory necessary to provide complete overhauls.
The 757 is predominately used by US carriers and a few in Europe. American, Delta, United airlines and US Airways use winglet-equipped 757s on long, thin trans-Atlantic routes. The field performance and range makes the airplane unique for some operations. Finding a “true” replacement for the 757 has been vexing Airbus and Boeing; the market is limited and doesn’t justify an entirely new airplane. The 737-9 and its predecessor, the 737-900ER, and the A321ceo and A321neo can’t match the range. The A321neoLR comes closest to becoming a true replacement, but it carries between 5-15 fewer passengers, depending on the airline’s configuration.
Airlines are retiring the 757s that don’t require the long range in favor of the less capable 737-900ER, MAX 9, A321ceo and A321neo which are nonetheless sufficient for most 757 operations. UBS, the investment bank, lists 163 757s with an average age of 23 years as stored last month, 15.5% of the total production run. A few have been lost in accidents.